The planned auction of nearly 2,000 acres of land in South Dakota's picturesque Black Hills that is considered sacred by American Indian tribes has been cancelled, though it wasn't immediately clear why.
By Kristi Eaton
Brock Auction Company planned to auction five tracts of land owned by local residents Leonard and Margaret Reynolds on Saturday. But a message on the auction house's website Thursday said it has been cancelled at the land owners' direction.
The auction house and Margaret Reynolds declined comment, and tribal officials were left wondering what had happened.
"There are a lot of things we don't know at this point," Rosebud Sioux Tribe spokesman Alfred Walking Bull said. "If there was a change of heart, we're definitely thankful for that. We're hoping for the best. We can take a breath right now."
Fight for Lakota's Sacred Pe' Sla Brings Miracles
By Georgianne Nienaber
Sarah Jumping Eagle, a pediatrician and member of Lastrealindians, wrote about the importance of the public campaign to raise $1,000,000. The total now stands at $234,000. Some of that was raised on reservations. The Turns Around Wacipi (pow-wow) Blanket Dance held at the home of the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes in Poplar, Montana, raised $150--money from the poorest of the poor, trying to buy back what was stolen from them.
International media is beginning to pick up on this story. You can read about it in the Guardian, the Associated Press, and on CBS and ABC news. In addition, the Lakota have gained a powerful ally in the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR), which issued a statement from Geneva yesterday.
The UN expert's position:
UN human rights expert calls on US to consult with indigenous people over land sale
Five tracts of land in the Black Hills area in South Dakota are scheduled to be auctioned on Saturday. The tracts lie within a site sacred to the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota peoples, known as Pe’ Sla, said the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, James Anaya, in a news release issued by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
According to Mr. Anaya, the indigenous communities are concerned that the sale of the land will result in restrictions to their access and the use of Pe’ Sla for ceremonial purposes. They are also concerned that it may lead to a road development project that would diminish the cultural and spiritual integrity of their sacred site.
“I call on all concerned parties to engage in a process of consultation to find ways in which to resolve these concerns,” Mr. Anaya said. “I believe such dialogue is necessary in order to help heal the historical injustices endured by the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota peoples and to allow them to maintain their cultures and traditional practices for future generations.”
Sale of the Sacred: How Pe’ Sla May Test Uncharted Waters of UNDRIP
By Lise Balk King
Neither the family nor the auction company has given a reason for the change, but one can offer a guess. Perhaps it was the thousands of tweets, the scores of news stories, and the hundreds of thousands of dollars raised in an unprecedented fundraising campaign to buy the land back for the tribes by LastRealIndians.com. Or the threat of sale day becoming a major media draw, complete with prayer circles and protesters both near and far.
But the final straw may have been yesterday’s announcement by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, strongly suggesting consultation with tribes on the impending sale.
On December 16, 2010, President Obama announced the United States’ support for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (the UNDRIP), an aspirational document adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2007. And in May of this year, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Prof. James Anaya, made his first official visits to Indian Country–the first of any UN special rapporteur. His tour included consultations in Arizona, Alaska, Oklahoma, Oregon, and South Dakota, where he visited the Black Hills and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. His official analysis and recommendations included restoring some land to Native American tribes, and he specifically suggested returning portions of the Black Hills. It was a prescient statement.
The UNDRIP has not yet been tested here in the United States, and the fight for Pe’ Sla may provide the first such opportunity. While it is true that US property laws make legal the land grab that created this country (aka Manifest Destiny), international human rights regimes recognize the inherent moral and legal obligations to the indigenous inhabitants.
For more on the subject, see Online Fundraising to Save Pe' Sla.