Funds Needed Immediately: Help Save Lakota Sioux Sacred Land!

The Pe’ Sla area of the Black Hills in South Dakota is sacred to the Lakota people, the indigenous inhabitants of that land. As a result of colonization, a non-Native family now privately owns this area and is planning on auctioning it off to the highest bidder. The Lakota people need this land to perform sacred ceremonies, but it is expected that the state of South Dakota will buy it to build a highway and develop industrially. To save their land from this irreparable “development,” the Lakota people are going through the only legal means at their disposal and attempting to buy back what is rightfully theirs — or at least as much as is possible. The full text from their Indiegogo page:

Pe’ Sla is an area in the Black Hills of South Dakota (just west of Rapid City) that is considered by the Lakota people to be the Center and heart of everything that is. It is part of our creation story. It is a sacred place. We perform certain ceremonies at Pe’ Sla which sustain the Lakota way of life and keep the universe in harmony. This area is currently owned by the Reynolds family. They plan to auction off almost 2,000 acres on August 25, 2012 to the highest bidder. It is likely that the state of South Dakota will put a road directly through Pe’ Sla and open up this sacred place for development. The seven bands of the Lakota/Dakota/Nakota Oyate (people) aka Oceti Sakowin (Great Sioux Nation) have a collective effort to buy as much of Pe’Sla as we can at this auction (although we also believe that the land cannot be owned and that our sacred places were illegally taken by the United States). Yet we are trying to work within the current U.S. laws to regain custody of our sacred sites and prevent future road and industrial development. Our sacred ways must be protected and passed on to our future generations so that our children may live. This area of the Paha Sapa (Black Hills) is also home to many plants and animals who should also be protected. In fact, many consider that the area should possibly be a historical site, which would also assist in protecting it from future development as well. As Lakota people, our ancestors prayed here, at Pe’ Sla, at certain times of year, when the stars aligned. We cannot go elsewhere to pray. We were meant to pray here. This is what they do not understand. Please help the Lakota people. “Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children.” Chief Sitting Bull, 1877 We have a group of young professional Native people that are dedicated to the promotion of education, health, leadership, and sovereignty among our indigenous Nations. Our goal is to assist in any way possible the purchase of Pe’ Sla by a collective effort of the seven bands of the Oceti Sakowin (Great Sioux Nation) – the Lakota/Dakota/Nakota people. All proceeds from this campaign will go towards that effort. This area would be open to tribal nations for ceremonial purposes. The plants, animals, water, and air in the area would be respected and honored. Please see… for more information. We thank you for your hope in the future.

We are hoping to buy as much of the land that is being put up for auction as possible. The total amount of land is 1,942.66 acres which is in 5 tracts (300 – 440 acres each).  It is difficult to say how much this land would be sold for as developers may increase the true western “value”.

The Rosebud Sioux Tribe has designated $50,000 for the purpose of purchasing Pe’ Sla land.  By contributing to the effort of all the Sioux Tribes, we aim to purchase at least some of the tracts, if not all.  Many of the Sioux Tribes continue to exist in poverty and do not have a thriving casino-based economy as the media may have portrayed.  Yet we continue to fight for what is sacred, because it matters!

A more general background as to why land and the spiritual ceremonies performed on it are so important to Native peoples can be found in Andrea Smith’s Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide (bold emphasis mine; italics are the author’s):

Native spiritualities are land based — they are tied to the landbase from which they originate. When Native peoples fight for cultural/spiritual preservation, they are ultimately fighting for the landbase which grounds their spirituality and culture. For this reason, Native religions are generally not proselytizing. They are typically seen by Native peoples as relevant only to the particular landbase from which they originate; they are not necessarily applicable to peoples coming from different landbases. In addition, as many scholars have noted, Native religions are practice centered rather than belief centered. That is, Christianity is defined by belief in a certain set of doctrinal principles about Jesus, the Bible, etc. Evangelical Christianity holds that one is “saved” when one professes belief in Jesus Christ as one’s Lord and Savior. But what is of primary important in Native religions is not being able to articulate belief in a certain set of doctrines, but being able to take part in the spiritual practice of one’s community. In fact, it may be more important that a ceremony be done correctly than it is for everyone in that ceremony to know exactly why everything must be done in a certain way. As Vine Deloria (Dakota) notes, from a Native context, religion is “a way of life” rather than “a matter of proper exposition of doctrines.” Even if Christians do not have access to church, they continue to be Christians as long as they believe in Jesus. Native spiritualities, by contrast, may die if the people do not practice the ceremonies, even if the people continue to believe in their power.

Native communities argue that Native peoples cannot be alienated from their land without committing cultural genocide. This argument underpins many sacred sites cases, although usually to no avail, before the courts. Most of the court rulings on sacred sites do not recognize this difference between belief-centered and practice-centered traditions or the significance of land-based spiritualities. For instance, in Fools Crow v. Gullet (1983), the Supreme Court ruled against the Lakota who were trying to halt the development of additional tourist facilities in the Black Hills. The Court ruled that this tourism was not an infringement on Indian religious freedom because, although it would hinder the ability of the Lakota to practice their beliefs, it did not force them to relinquish their beliefs. For the Lakota, however, stopping the practice of traditional beliefs destroys the belief systems themselves. Consequently, for the Lakota and Native nations in general, cultural genocide is the result when Native landbases are not protected.

There are only 3 days left to raise funds. Donations as low as $1 are being accepted. Please give as generously as you can and spread this information as widely as possible.

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