Sioux Lose the Black Hills, Again | Courthouse News Service
Wednesday, November 29, 2023
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Wednesday, November 29, 2023 | Back issues
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Sioux Lose the Black Hills, Again

PIERRE, S.D. (CN) - A South Dakota House committee this week unanimously rejected a proposal to return parts of the Black Hills to the Sioux Nation.

House Concurrent Resolution 1010 , sponsored by state Rep. Shawn Bordeaux, D-Mission, and state Sen. Jim Bradford, D-Pine Ridge, was rejected after debate by the House Affairs Committee.

The resolution called on the Legislature to honor the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie and "provide for a full and fair resolution of the Black Hills claims of the Sioux Nation tribes, including full and fair compensation consistent with the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, the return of select federal lands in the Black Hills National Forest, and a National Commission to meet with federal, tribal, and state officials to negotiate a full and fair resolution."

The Treaty of Fort Laramie, signed in 1868, set aside the Black Hills for the exclusive use of the Sioux Nation, who consider the land sacred.

But when gold was discovered six years later, miners protected by Gen. George Custer pushed the Sioux out, using any means necessary. The federal government confiscated the land in 1877, the year after Custer and his 7th Cavalry met their fate at the Little Bighorn.

The rejected resolution exempted privately owned land, federal parks, cultural sites such as Mt. Rushmore, and the Ellsworth Air Force Base.

Bordeaux acknowledged that the tribes are not ready to fully manage the Black Hills property and requested government partnership. He asked the state to work with the tribes to petition the federal government to return part of the Black Hills.

Bordeaux called it a good "stepping stone" toward reconciliation between the tribes and the state of South Dakota, whose relations have been fraught with problems since South Dakota joined the union in 1889.

Bordeaux said the land might be used for religious observances or a tribal Supreme Court. He also would like to set up sites where tourists could learn about the Native American story in the Black Hills.

House Minority Leader Spencer Hawley, D-Brookings, acknowledged that the state has a "bad history" with the tribes but called the proposal too "open-ended" to be effective. All 13 committee members present then voted it down.

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