PBS: Sioux Tribes nearing plan for return of Black Hills

If the plan outlined in this PBS NewsHour report comes together, it will mean some fundamental shifts in South Dakota’s political, cultural and economic dynamics. I see several hurdles, but I also see several that have already apparently been cleared.

Rapid City attorney Mario Gonzalez tells PBS that South Dakota’s 9 tribes are nearing an agreement amongst themselves on how a return of federally owned land in the Black Hills to native peoples/tribes would be handled. If they can come to an agreement – which he expects by year’s end – the next stop would be a meeting with President Obama and a bill in Congress.

Says Gonzalez:

The tribes are trying to be realistic. When the Sioux tribes are asking that all the federal lands be returned to them, that doesn’t include Mount Rushmore, post offices, or any property that is being used by the government for government purposes.

It also should be noted that this would not include privately owned property but rather a whole lot of federally owned land. The report did not detail any geographic confines for this, but western South Dakota has more than it’s share of land owned by the feds.

The $105 million awarded to the Sioux for the unlawful taking of their land, under the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty, has ballooned to more than $1 billion as they have steadfastly refused to take the money. The land, they collectively say, was never for sale.

 Reports PBS:

(W)hat Gonzalez and the Sioux are asking for does have precedent. President Nixon returned nearly 50,000 acres of federal lands in the Carson National Forest in New Mexico to the Taos Pueblo tribe in 1970.

I encourage you to click on the image above to watch the entire report. This would be such an important and historic event that its difficult to fully contemplate it in a short time.