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Public support saves sacred land

Posted: Tuesday, Jan 22nd, 2013

For the past several months, members of The Great Sioux Nation throughout the region have been attempting to raise a large sum of money to purchase nearly 2,000 acres of sacred land in the Black Hills.

Leonard and Margaret Reynolds, the previous owners of the 1,942-acre property, had previously cancelled a public auction for the land after tribal members expressed their outrage. The couple agreed to sell the land to the Sioux people for $9 million if they could raise it by November 30th. The tribes were going to kick in over $6 million dollars and were looking to find the other 2-3 million dollars from outside sources.

Members of the Great Sioux Nation gather at Pe’ Sla or “old baldy” every year to perform rituals, and the site plays a key role in the tribes’ creation story. Members feared that any other owner would develop the land because of how close it sits to Mount Rushmore.

The Great Sioux Nation, which includes tribes in fives states and Canada, raised the nine million dollars by the deadline - but they couldn’t do it alone. Celebrities from all over poured in their support and dollars to help raise the money. People such as P. Diddy and Bette Midler took to ‘twitter’ to try and help spread the word on the project. Immediately after P. Diddy tweeted “Help save the Sioux Nation!...” $6,000 dollars came pouring into the online fund.

Actor Ezra Miller and music producer Sol Guy flew to South Dakota in October to make a nine-minute documentary video about the land and its significance to the Sioux People. The two used that video as a way to campaign for funds online.

After several months of hard work by countless people across the country, $9 million was raised and the deal was set to be finalized in the beginning of December.

The United States Government set aside the land for the Sioux in an 1868 treaty but was then seized in 1877 when gold was discovered. In 1980, the U.S Supreme Court made a ruling that awarded more than $100 million to the Sioux tribes for the Black Hills, but the tribes have refused to accept the money, saying the land has never been for sale.

Although all members of the Great Sioux Nation are happy to have gained back the land, not all of them were willing to allocate any money towards the purchase. The Oglala Sioux Tribe decided not to contribute money to the cause because they didn’t feel they should have to pay for something they already own. In a statement to the Associated Press, Bryan Brewer, the President-elect of the Oglala Sioux Tribe said, “I’m still against buying something we own, but I’m thrilled the tribes’ are buying it. I’m very happy about it.”

The documentary video created by Miller and Guy can be seen at www.lastrealindians.com as well as several other websites online.

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