August 17, 2012

Online fundraising to save Pe' Sla

This may be the biggest story in Indian country at the moment.

Sioux tribes take to the Internet to buy back sacred land

By Arturo GarciaMembers of the Sioux Nation are attempting to raise $1 million dollars to buy back a section of South Dakota land known in their culture as “the Center and heart of everything that is.”

About 2,000 acres of land in the state’s Black Hills is scheduled to go up for auction next week, including what’s known to the Sioux as Pe’ Sla. A local auction company posted that 1,942 acres of the land, known as Reynolds Prairie, after the family who owns it, is slated to go up for bid on Aug. 25.

The Rosebud Sioux Tribe has teamed up with the Native American blog Last Real Indians for an online fundraising campaign that began Monday, with an Aug. 23 deadline. As of Friday afternoon, the campaign had accrued just over $59,000.

“It’s not like a resistance movement or a militant thing,” Last Real Indians’ Chase Iron Eyes told Raw Story. “We have to protect these things. That’s what we’re on this Earth for.”
Black Hills Auction: The Auction of the Sacred

By Winona LaDukeAs Lakota scholar Chase Iron Eyes explains, “…Pe’Sla, to the Lakota, is the place where Morning Star, manifested as a meteor, fell to Earth to help the Lakota by killing a great bird which had taken the lives of seven women; Morning Star’s descent having created the wide open uncharacteristic bald spot in the middle of the forested Black Hills. (On American maps, this is called, Old Baldy) …The Morning Star placed the spirits of those seven women in the sky as the constellation “Pleiades” or “The Seven Sisters.”

This is, the “Center of the Heart of Everything that is… one of a small number of highly revered and geographically-cosmologically integral places on the entire planet….” Sacred places, recognized under federal judicial review, Presidential Executive Order (1996) and international law are to be protected.

On August 25, the Center of the Heart of Everything that is, will come up in on the auction block a Rapid City’s Ramkota Inn, destined to be diced into a set of 300 acre tracts, proposed for ranchettes, and a possible road through the heart, (and more divisions) of what has been, until now, a relatively un-desecrated sacred site. “We didn’t even know it was going to be sold,” Debra White Plume from Manderson tells me.” We heard nothing about it until we saw the auction announcement”.

The Brock Auction Company of Iowa and South Dakota in mid July announced, offering the Reynolds Ranch, noting, “This story begins in 1876 just 2 short years after General George Armstrong Custer led his historic expedition through the then almost unknown Black Hills in the Dakota Territory….In 1876 Joseph Reynolds filed his first claim & homesteaded … “Reynolds Prairie!” He was followed by 3 more generations …” Brock promotes the property noting, in some solace for potential buyers, “… As you sit in quiet solitude, with only the whispering of the wind gently easing through the pines, let your mind wander back in time & imagine the Native Americans, the Homesteaders & Pioneers who passed across this land that is now a part of yours & your families legacy forever!…” Some Lakota find this ironic, perhaps.
Exclusive Truthout Interview: Sioux Spiritual Leader Speaks Out on Land Sale at Sacred Site

By Jason Coppola"Our creation story comes from the Black Hills, from the heart of Mother Earth. We came up from the caves which are connected under our Black Hills, and we received several very sacred places to do ceremony," said Looking Horse.

"Pe' Sla is one of these central ceremonial places. This is where our existence comes from. Pe' Sla is where Morning Star came down to help the people, because we are star people," he said.

"Sundance happens at Pe' Sla," said Looking Horse. "Other ceremonies that our spiritual leaders must perform happen at Pe' Sla."

The Sundance ceremony, one of seven sacred ceremonies given to the Lakota by Pte San Win, is a closely guarded practice, but Iron Eyes explained that it is one of sacrifice and renewal: participants re-enact the sacrifice of a spirit, Inyan, who spun himself and sacrificed himself until his blood became water. The ceremony ensures that nature's process of renewal continues so that, for example, water, plants, and animals remain abundant.

"At Pe' Sla we give energy, as the whites call it; that is what our ceremonies do," said Looking Horse. "We humans have power, but we don't know it. We can send energy to the universe and it comes back to us. We can change the environment. People must understand that we have power, and if we are to live, we have to have faith and belief through our spiritual ways and our sites. All indigenous do this with energy."

"We need to come together to protect Pe' Sla," said Looking Horse. "All tribes, even though we went to war with each other at times, in our history. Yes, we went to battle with other tribes, but when either brought out spiritual bundles or was conducting ceremonies, nobody attacked. We actually worked together in spiritual ways because these were given by the Great Spirit to all his children here."
Comment:  I've been following this story, but I wasn't necessarily going to report on it. But once the tribes started raising fund on the Internet, I figure it became a pop-culture story.

At the very least, it shows the power of social media once again. This crusade started as a handful of postings on Last Real Indians and other blog sites--shared on Facebook. Then Indian Country Today and began posting stories on it with more reach. Then the major alternative press sites picked up, and finally it hit the mainstream media (the Associated Press).

Is there anything social media can't do? I'd love to see activists make a concerted effort to get rid of Chief Wahoo or the Washington Redskins. I bet we could shame them out of existence if we tried.

For more on sacred sites, see "Hunger Strike for the Peaks" and Weed Killer Sprayed on Indian Mound.

1 comment:

Rob said...

For more on the subject, see:

Tribes raise $1.4 million for land

Several Native American tribes have raised more than $1 million towards buying a prime piece of real estate in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Rosebud Sioux spokesman Alfred Walking Bull tells The Associated Press that the tribe is now allocating $1.3 million to purchase the privately owned land that they consider sacred. That's far more than the $50,000 initially promised. Online donations bring the total to $1.4 million.