"It is a heroic, some might say unfathomable, act of defiance." That is what Paul Harris of The Observer said of the Oglala Lakota Sioux.
As I moved back I understand and learn more and more.
According to our creation stories...All our people come from the Black Hills. Not just the Oglala Lakota, but all Lakota people come from the Black Hills. I'm not getting into the creation story because I am not about to get attacked for my beliefs. But that is why we have such a strong spiritual connection with The Black Hills...or the Paha Sapa.
The U.S. government initially tried to prevent settlement of the Black Hills, having signed the 1851 Treaty of Ft. Laramie, which promised 60 million acres of the Black Hills “for the absolute and undisturbed use and occupancy of the Sioux.” Settlers knew not to try and settle in the Black Hills because so many ceremonies and vision quests happened.
Then a rumor started that there was gold in them thar hills.
The government began building posts on and around Indian land to protect the invading settlers and another treaty was drawn up in 1868. The 1868 Ft. Laramie Treaty. This reduced the Lakota land base to 20 million acres in the Black Hills.
In 1874 General Custer was sent into the Black Hills with miners, a direct violation of the 1868 Treaty.
When the Lakota refused to sell the remaining 20 million acres it was taken away in the 44th Act of Congress in 1877. Custer had already died a year earlier at the Battle of Little Big Horn.
This is where people get confused. In the 70's a federal judge reviewed the case and said “A more ripe and rank case of dishonorable dealing will never, in all probability, be found in our history.”
After a century of struggle to file claims in court against the illegality of the 1868 treaty, the Indian Claims Commission, the Court of Claims, and finally the Supreme Court in 1980 recognized the 8 Lakota Nations' rights to the part of the Black Hills specified in the1868 treaty. But instead of ordering the government to return the land, the Claims Commission awarded a financial sum equal to the land’s value in 1877 plus interest. This sum now totals $570 million—a considerable amount but still much smaller than the value of the natural resources which have been extracted from the Black Hills, estimated at $4 billion.
Now this is where I come in...I want to let you know...many of what you read above came from this wonderful website.
This is what I am trying to make my little brothers, sisters, and my children understand.
We don't want the money. Never will we take that money. It sits building double compound interest and the 8 Lakota tribes will never take it. It's not a matter of money. The Black Hills are sacred. And never were for sale. It's the principle of it all.
Yes, the 8 Lakota nations live below the poverty line. Probably my tribe and the Rosebud tribe at the lowest, yet we won't take the money. Because that's just how it is. The possibilty of the Black Hills being returned to us is ZERO...but that land was never for sale in the first place. To take the money would give someone the right to say they owned it, even though they own it now...they all own it illegally.
I even refuse to wear gold. Especially that tacky Black Hills gold.
So...is it an "unfathomable act of defiance?"
Sure...and I am damn proud of it. My children better be the same way.