Archives for August 2012

Knife Chief Buffalo Nation Hosts Children’s Camps on Pine Ridge

The most natural place for a young Lakota boy to be – on the back of the Sunka Wakan (horse)!

By Ethleen Iron Cloud

The summer has been extremely busy with two cultural spiritual camps that were held in June and July and a children’s cultural camp that was held in July also. Two young men went through the Wicasa Ihuni (Becoming a Man) ceremony at the first part of June. The purpose of the ceremony is for the young men to receive traditional teachings on becoming a man and more specifically, becoming a Lakota man. The young men go through four consecutive nights of Inipi (purification lodge ceremony) with other men who provide teachings, guidance and assist with the preparation for the buffalo hunt they do on the fifth day. During the preparation period, they are asked to make relatives with the spirit of the buffalo they are going to kill so that there will be a spiritual bond between them. The buffalo provides nourishment; sustenance and spiritual teachings for the young man to emulate and these teachings are intended to provide a path for the young man. For example, the Pte Oyate (buffalo nation0 protect their young by placing them in the middle of the herd when danger is imminent. Likewise, the young man is taught that when he has children, he must protect them at all costs. This is a very important teaching given contemporary times and situations where the father is absent is too common.

Covering the Arbor with pine boughs, a neighbor donated the pine boughs from his arbor, so we didn’t have to cut or kill any more trees! The arbor is where some activities took place and where the naming ceremony for the children took place.

The children’s camp was a great success! There were 22 children and their parent/guardians for a total of 45 people participating in the camp on July 17-20, 2012. The children’s camp focused on the ages of 7-10 and those who experienced grief, trauma and major loss. 19 of the children experienced the “wopakinte” (spiritual purification) by Elders, the intent of the ceremony is to provide an opportunity for the children‘s spirit to be wiped with sage which represents medicine for the spiritual wound they carry from the trauma, grief and loss they experienced. The Lakota belief is that only sage and eagle feathers can wipe away the spiritual residue left from the trauma; in this case sage was used. 9 children received a Lakota spirit name which is an important milestone in their lives as the Lakota people believe that the Lakota spiritual name anchors one more solidly to the earth and strengthens the cultural and personal identity. Another healing activity for them was the horseback riding provided by Bamm Brewer who did an excellent presentation and was very patient and kind while teaching the children who did not know how to ride. It was extremely hot during the camp, the temperature exceeded 100 degrees every day. Thankfully, there was a swimming pool for the children and one day Dr. Mark Butterbrodt treated them to the water slides in Rapid City. This camp would not have been possible without the prayers and hard work by all the volunteers as well as the people who donated to this camp. Lila Wopila Tanka (thank you very much)!! The children and their parent/guardian wrote such beautiful words about the camp and that they hope there will be another; one little girl said she had prayed for a camp where “ we sleep in tipis, where everyone loved each other, where we had good food , ride horses and where we went swimming and my prayers were answered”. She seemed amazed that her prayers were answered; her mother commented that the camp was a blessing for her family. It is hoped that we can offer another opportunity like this; we received a request from a neighboring Tribe to have a similar camp for their community. Unfortunately, we do not have the resources to offer such a camp on a regular basis. The ideal situation would be to offer a camp like this on a quarterly basis so that the children can stay connected to an important resource. With the suicide attempts and completions among our young people (there were 2 completed suicides of young men, both age 22 on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in the first two weeks of August!); a regular and ongoing camp would be an important suicide prevention resource.

Setting up the tipis. Each tipi pole represents a Lakota value or virtue and the cover represents the womb of our mother.

One of the Tipis that the campers stayed in. Ti Ikciye is the proper Lakota term for tipi

The adults participating in the camp also benefited, they participated in Talking Circles, participated in the Inipi (purification lodge) ceremony with their children and had Dr. Larry Burke share his Emotional Freedom Tapping (EFT) approach with them as a response to depression, diabetes management and obesity prevention/intervention. Hmuya Mani (Richard Two Dogs), Lakota Traditional Healer, provided immeasurable help not only in conducting the spiritual ceremonies for the children but he and Tony Bush, a local Porcupine community member and Vietnam Veteran made sure the arbor was covered with pine boughs. Gene Kolaczkowski, Psychotherapist from Gunderson Lutheran in Wisconsin provided great therapeutic activities for the children and Dr. Elizabeth Warson from George Washington University brought some Art students and did art therapy with the children. The volunteers were exceptional – Gina Good Crow, Susan Hawk, Savannah Jensen, Tamara Red Owl, Johnnie Big Crow, Dawn Frank, Jolene Martin, Wilma Kills In Water, Bev Tuttle, Mary Iron Cloud, Santee Baird, Chris Valandra, Brice Valandra, Elder Isaac Last Horse, Stella Iron Cloud, Laura Wilcox, Cindy Giago, Forrest Calhoun, Eugene Giago Jr., Bamm Brewer, Mark Butterbrodt, Yamni Frank, Ed Iron Cloud, Eileen Iron Cloud, Ramona White Plume, Tilda Long Soldier , Elizabeth, the Art Students, Uma, Peter, Gene, Larry and the ladies and gentleman from Gunderson Lutheran who helped with the sewing of the Inipi dresses for the little girls – all truly amazing in their caring and hard work!. I hope I did not forget anyone! All in all, it was a great experience for many; this quote from one of the volunteers says it all:

I will never forget this experience. All of the children were/are so special and unique in their own little way. I saw them experience unconditional love from family, Grandparents, Aunties, Uncles and Community Members. I also saw that for the children whom did not have a sense of identity, they left with a stronger sense of self and who and where they come from.”  

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 Future Events

We hope to start the fencing of the additional pasture so that the buffalo will have more land to graze and roam; and so that the current pasture does not get overgrazed. We hope to be working with Wild Idea Buffalo and their affiliates on this project. 7-8 miles need to be fenced and it will take about a mile a week to complete so the entire project should take about 7-8 weeks. We are also planning an Ista mni Wicakici Pakinta Pi (Wiping of Tears) ceremony for the Porcupine community on Saturday, September 1, 2012. There have been many deaths in the community over the past year and this ceremony is a way to acknowledge the loss, provide comfort through prayer, song, words of encouragement and food. The Lakota belief is that this signifies a way to strengthen fellow community members as they adjust to the absence of their loved one but does not mean it is the end of the mourning period or grieving. Traditionally, Lakota people have a dinner and giveaway upon the one year anniversary of their loved one’s passing. The Wiping of Tears ceremony is the Lakota way of saying “we know you are hurting, here are some encouraging words, food and prayers to help you on your journey without your loved one here on earth”.


Wopila (thank you) to all the people who have contributed to Knife Chief Buffalo Nation Organization, your generosity is most appreciated and have made it possible to continue with our work!

Monitoring Tribal Lands With Landsat : A Tool for Community-Based Conservation

In this brief article, we will discuss potential for using freely available Landsat imagery to assess and monitor reservation lands. We also provide step-by-step instructions as well as links to instructional videos on their use. We present this problem/solution in the context of Native North American’s but the same principles apply to anyone or any group interested in assessing and monitoring natural resources at low cost.

Above: Landsat imagery is updated monthly and can be downloaded for free from the USGS.

Monitoring Natural Resources on Native American Reservations

Today, the US Department of Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) holds 56.2 million acres of lands in trust for various Indian tribes and individuals. Approximately 46 million acres (81%) of this land is used for farming and grazing by livestock and game animals, yet Native American’s have not been the primary beneficiaries of these resources. According to the 2007 USDA Census of Agriculture, more than two-thirds of the farms and ranches on the Reservation lands, approximately 9 million acres, are leased by the Bureau of Indian Affairs to non-natives. The leasing of Indian Lands by the Federal Government dates back the the the Act of February 28, 1891 which amended the General Allotment Act to give the Secretary of the Interior the power to determine whether an Indian allottee had the “mental or physically qualifications” to enable him to cultivate his allotment. In such cases, the Superintendent was authorized to lease their lands to non-tribal members. In 1894, the annual Indian Appropriation Act increased the agricultural lease term to 5 years, 10 years for business and mining leases, and permitted forced leases for allottees who “suffered” from “inability to work their land,” and dramatically increased the number of leases issued across the country (Source: LLRP).

These policies have meant that the Indian landowners across the country have been separated from their allotted lands, in many cases, for generations. In fact, many Tribal land owners know very little about their lands; where they are located, how they are being used, who they share ownership with, etc. This has had devastating impacts on the ability of landowners to manage and benefit from their land-based resources – economically or culturally. Furthermore, the combination of fractionated land ownership, indirect management of short-term leases by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and insufficient monitoring and enforcement of the terms of leases has created a veritable tragedy of the commons where the lessees are able to over exploit tribal lands with little if any consequence. At a recent 2011 Working Session for Bureau of Indian Affairs Employees participants noted “that some trespassers run their cattle for months for free, “stealing the asset,” before a BIA agent notices.” Tribal members often accuse the BIA of failing to protect their lands, according to one resident of the Pine Ridge Reservation, quoted in Stromberg (2010), “The Bureau of Indian Affairs allowed a rancher to seriously overgraze that land. We got out there, there was nothing but cow poop, barren land. There was no grass, no wildlife, nothing. And we signed an affidavit, a complaint against him, and about 2 weeks later…he lost his lease.”

Despite the fact that the BIA manages the leasing of Indian Lands, the agency is not a party to the lease and thus leave it up to the Native landowners and Tribal Governments to monitor lessees. This responsibility was affirmed through the American Indian Agriculture Resource Management Act of 1993 which “provide[s] for the establishment of a viable system for the management and administration of Indian owned agricultural lands; to enhance the capability of Indian ranchers and farmers to produce crops and products from such lands; to affirm the authority of the Indian tribal governments in the management and regulation of Indian agricultural lands; and to enhance the educational opportunities for Indian students in the management of Indian natural resources.” Yet, despite this authority, many tribes and Individual Indian landowners lack sufficient resources to adequately monitor their lands and the BIA leasing system. According to the Indian Land Working Group:

“Over the past 100 years, the government has implemented their “highest and best use” management policy by leasing Indian Land to non-Indians. This continues today, as is evidenced by the fact that of the 9 million acres of trust land classified as agricultural, 6 million is leased to non-Indians. A leasing cartel has been created because Indian landowners have had limited access to information and resources necessary to use and manage allotted trust lands.” (Excerpt from the ILWG Native Strategic Land Planning Workbook, 2005).

In recent years, advances in open source geographic information system (GIS) software and low-cost remote sensing now make it possible for Tribes and Individual Indian Landowners to monitor leasing on their lands more effectively and at lower cost. This document provides a brief overview of these tools, how they might be utilized to empower Indian landowners, as well as step-by-step instructions.

Monitoring Land Use on Native American Reservation Using LANDSAT Satellite Technology

The Landsat program is a series of earth orbiting satellites developed and maintained by the United States Government to collect high resolution imagery of the earth for use by scientists, government and industry. The Landsat program has been in operation since 1972 creating one of the largest and most accessible satellite archives in the world with new images updated approximately every month. In 2008, the U.S. Geological Survey opened up this archive, making it free of charge to the public on the website

Landsat images have an advantage over conventional aerial or satellite photographs because the images can be broken into their respective spectral bands of light (some not even visible to the human eye). Adjusting these bands can highlight light reflected from different types of vegetation, geology, and moisture (see below). This makes it possible to very quickly identify areas of concern and compare images across time. 

Band Combination 7,4,2. Healthy vegetation will be a bright green and can saturate in seasons of heavy growth, grasslands will appear green, pink areas represent barren soil, oranges and browns represent sparsely vegetated areas.Dry vegetation will be orange and water will be blue. Sands, soils and minerals are highlighted in a multitude of colors

Band Combination 4,5,1. Healthy vegetation appears in shades of reds, browns, oranges and yellows. Soils may be in greens and browns, urban features are white, cyan and gray, bright blue areas represent recently clearcut areas and reddish areas show new vegetation growth, probably sparse grasslands. Source:

Landsat can be a powerful tool for tribal natural resource programs, land and realty offices, environmental protection programs and advocates for the protection of tribal natural resources.

Possible uses include:

  • Identify potential overgrazing on rangelands.
  • Determine if and when agriculture fields are plowed and/or harvested.
  • Map the boundaries of prairie dog colonies
  • Monitor the incursion of invasive species.
  • Monitor forests for illegal logging
  • Monitor the effects of drought
  • Planning for land use management and zoning.
  • Monitor erosion and desertification

Accessing and using Landsat Images

Landsat images can be accessed and utilized by anyone with a computer and internet connection. This tutorial will explain procedures for locating and accessing Landsat imagery using nothing more than a web browser to more advanced procedures using a Geographic Information System (GIS).

 A. Locating Landsat Images for Your Region sidebar search tools

LANDSAT satellites circles the earth from the North Pole to the South Pole every 103 minutes continuously collecting images along the way. It captures the Earth from East to West as as the earth rotates beneath it. To see a live feed of from the Landsat 8 satellite go to Each Landsat images covers a region of approximately 113 x 115 miles on the ground. Images are indexed by their geographic coordinates or by its specific “Path” and “Row” number. To find the path and row for a specific region you can enter the geographic coordinates for a certain place into the “Lat/Long” search boxes at Using geographic coordinates is a more accurate method of finding a specific location.

If you don’t know the geographic coordinates for your location, you can look in the gazetteer of almost any atlas. If your town or feature does not appear in your atlas, look for the coordinates of a large city in close proximity to your site and use its coordinates. The U.S. Census Bureau offers an online U.S. Gazetteer for locations within the United States. When you enter geographic coordinates into Glovis, remember locations in the southern hemisphere need to have a minus sign in front of their latitude and locations in the western hemisphere need a minus sign in front of their longitude.

You can also locate imagery by clicking your mouse on the desired location on the map just above the Path/Row search boxes. However, the map is very small which makes it difficult to locate a specific location. You can use the arrows to move to adjacent images. Once you have identified the right path and row, write it down for future reference.

You can filter your results by date, image type and the maximum amount of cloud cover (using the “Max Cloud” dropdown).

B. Accessing LandsatLook Images

The easiest way to access Landsat imagery is by downloading LandsatLook Images. LandsatLook images are full resolution ready-made Landsat images in JPEG format. LandsatLook images are very useful if you want a full-resolution image, but do not want to download the full data set and make a composite RGB image yourself. To get started, you first need to create a free account on You can do so here:

  1. To download the LandsatLook image make sure the image that you want is selected within the yellow highlighted box then find and click Add at the lower left hand corner of the window.
  2. Next click Send to Cart. This will pop-up a new window with the scene info, to continue downloading click the green arrow hard drive graphic. Another pop-up will appear with some selections, if all you require is a natural color image (one that looks like you might take it from a simple camera out in space), select the LandsatLook “Natural Color” Image.
  3. Select Download Option (this options gives you a pseudo-natural color image using TM/ETM+ bands 5, 4, and 3 or MSS bands 2, 4, 1, all less than 12 Mb). See Below. The image can be viewed in a standard web browser or basic photo or graphics program.

Below is a video tutorial on how to download and view LandsatLook images using the free Quantum GIS software. 

C. Georeferenced Landsat Images

Identifying specific locations within a standard LandsatLook image can be difficult because it lacks labels and because of its low resolution it makes it difficult to identify features like roads and towns. This is one reason it helpful to view these images using a geographic information system (GIS) where you can add layers on top of the Landsat Image like roads, towns, rivers, etc. This next section will discuss how to open and process Landsat images using the freely available Quantum GIS and the more common but relatively expensive ArcMap by ESRI. Landsat images can also be viewed in the free but much more limited ArcGIS Explorer.

Georefencing is a process where information about the geographic location of the image is included with image. When you open a georeferenced image in a Geographic Information System (GIS) program, that image, like a puzzle piece, is automatically positioned at the correct geographic location relative to other images and layers like roads, towns, etc.

Opening Georefenced Landsat Images using Quantum GIS

Quantum GIS (QGIS) is powerful but user-friendly GIS software that runs on Windows, Mac OSX, Linux, and Unix. QGIS is freely available and open source with an extensive user and developer community. To download the latest version of QGIS go to Once installed, make sure the GDAL and GRASS plugins are activated using the plugin manager found under the Plugins menu: Plugins> Manage Plugins> (Check the boxes to select plugins or use Select All).

Here we will show you how to view Landsat TM4-5 and Landsat ETM SLC and SLC-off images. Note that SLC-off images are images produced after a device called the “Scan Line Corrector” malfunctioned which leaves lines of blank data across each image. It is possible to correct these images using data from adjacent pixels and/or other dates but for sake if simplicity, it is recommended that you stick to using the Landsat TM4-5 images.

To acquire the images, use the procedure above but instead of downloading the LandsatLook images, you’ll want to select “Level 1 Product Geotiff. This will be a rather large file, approximately 170 Mb. Note: The file will appear with a name something similar to “LE70330342003106EDC00.tar.gz.” The file will come in a compressed folder. To decompress it, you’ll need to a free file decompression software such as WinZip. The decompressed folder will contain several separate files, including 7 separate “TIF” files. Each of the 7 files represents a different band of light. They can be viewed individually as grey-scale images or composited into a single image. Compositing makes it easier to analyze and compare images by comparing differences in composited colors. Below is a brief silent tutorial on how to use the free QGIS software to composite, display and change the color bands of Landsat TM images.

Below is a video tutorial on how to download, process and view Landsat GeoTiff images using the free Quantum GIS Software.

Below is a video tutorial on how to download, process and view Landsat GeoTiff images using ESRI’s ArcMap 10. 

If you have questions, comments or suggestions regarding this tutorial, please contact David Bartecchi

This article was made possible by the Indian Land Tenure Foundation.

Learning About Our Lands: A Lesson Plan for Youth on The Pine Ridge Reservation

The Pine Ridge Land Information System is a free web-based land information resource for the Pine Ridge Reservation.

This lesson plan, designed for middle and high-school students living on the Pine Ridge Reservation, provides teachers with ideas and procedures for engaging students in learning about their lands using the free web-based Pine Ridge Land Information System (PRLIS). The PRLIS, developed by Village Earth and the Oglala Sioux Tribe Land office with support from the Indian Land Tenure Foundation, is an easy to use tool for Lakota land owners to access information about their lands and resources.

The PRLIS makes it possible for anyone with an internet connection to:

  • Search for individually allotted and Tribal owned trust lands using the Tract ID.
  • See a map of the individual 1887 Allotments
  • View, print and share a web link for the boundaries of specific land tracts.
  • View Pine Ridge lands with various base layers including Google and Bing aerial photography, Google and Bing roads, Google and Bing Hybrid, and terrain.
  • View a Landsat TM Image which can be used to assess the management and of lands on Pine Ridge.
  • View a map of the Range Units that are leased across Pine Ridge.
  • View the  Boundaries of the Reservation as defined in the 1851 and 1868 Treaties.

While this lesson plan can be taught on its own, it is recommended that it be used to complement the free “Lessons of Our Land” curriculum developed by the Indian Land Tenure Foundation, which focuses more on the history, culture and current issues pertaining to Indian land. Note: This lesson plan encourages students to research their family’s lands on Pine Ridge. However, for privacy reasons, students should not be required to make information about their family’s land available to the teacher or other students. If students or parents are uncomfortable with this then teachers can assign allotment names and tract ID numbers from the PRLIS for students to use for these assignments so they can still learn how to use the PRLIS.  Later, if they choose, they can use this procedure to research their family’s lands.  


  • Enhanced appreciation for the knowledge held by their elders.
  • Greater sense of hope for one-day being able utilize their lands.
  • Enhanced confidence when talking about their rights and resources.


  • Greater knowledge about lands allotted to their ancestors, the history of those lands, the interests that may or may not remain today and how they are currently being used.
  • Collect oral histories from elders in their family to identify the original allottees and the histories of their lands.
  • Locate and print a map of the original allotments using the Pine Ridge Land Information System (PRLIS)
  • Learn how to request and read a Trust Interest Report
  • Learn how to search for their lands on the PRLIS using the Tract ID numbers located on their Interest Report.
  • Print-out maps of their family’s original allotment and current land holdings.
  • Use the PRLIS to identify how their lands are being used.
  • Go and see their lands in-person to confirm land-use.
  • Understand their rights for accessing and utilizing the lands.
  • Request a chain of title report from the BIA.


Begin with a brief introductory discussion about reservation lands. Below is a sample discussion but feel free to create your own questions? The purpose is to focus attention and engage the students in the topic and issues.

Opening: “Today, we are going to start some exercises that will help us gain a better understanding of our lands here on the Pine Ridge Reservation and introduce us to some tools that will enable us to locate and print out maps of those lands.” However, I would like to learn a more about what you already know when it comes to our lands.

Question 1: “Please raise your hand if your family has an interest in some land here on the reservation?” “How many students don’t know if your family has lands or not?”

Question 2: “Those of you who know you have land, does anyone know where your family’s land is located and what it is being used for?”

Question 3: “Does anyone know what law back in 1887 divided our lands into allotments?” Answer: The General Allotment Act (GAA) also known as the Dawes Severalty Act.

Closing: Over the next couple of weeks, we will learn more about the Dawes Act and the history of the lands that were allotted to our families.

Lesson 1: Researching Our Original Allotments

For this exercise students will research the names of their ancestors who were originally allotted lands on the Pine Ridge Reservation. They will then use the PRLIS to locate and print-out a map of their original allotments.

  1. Instruct students to talk to family members to create a family tree to identify who in their family were originally allotted land under the GAA. Students should do this even if their family doesn’t have any remaining interests of land on the Reservation.  Students should also ask their relatives where the original allotments were located. An approximate  location (“out near Slim Buttes” or “by Wanblee”) is sufficient. Depending on the grade level, they could either return this information as a simple list or formatted written report.
  2. In the computer lab, show students how to use the PRLIS to locate their family’s original allotments.
  3. Go to
  4. Turn on the Original Allotments layer under the “Historical Maps” folder. Note: The layer is only visible when zoomed in at 1:217K or higher.
  5. Have students search the map until they find their family’s allotments. Once found, have them print-out a map using the print button on the PRLIS.

 Discussion Questions

Question 1: Ask students to raise their hands if they were able to locate their family’s original allotments (or one assigned to them).

Question 2: How many of you already knew where these lands were located?

Question 3: How does if feel to see a map of these lands, maybe for the first time?

Question 4: What questions does this raise for you about these lands? (The teacher doesn’t have to know the answer but write these down as possible class research projects).

Future Research Projects

Lesson 2: Researching Our Existing Lands

In this exercise we will learn how to read a Individual Trust Interest ITI Report, locate the Tract ID #’s for our lands, the interest we own in a particular tract of land and then locate them using the PRLIS.

  1. Teachers should download a sample ITI Report from the Indian Land Tenure Foundation’s website at If teachers have access to a LCD projector they can display the report as well as the dynamic pop-up descriptions for each section of the report.
  2. Teachers should walk students through each section of the ITI report. (It’s recommended that teachers familiarize themselves with this document prior presenting it in class).
  3. Pass out copies of the ITI Report in class and have students circle where the Tract ID # is located, where to find the size in acres of that tract, and how to calculate the total number of acres they are allotted using the “FRACTION OF TRACT AS ACQUIRED” (Example: 1/90 x 160 acres = 1.7 acres).
  4. Invite students to request a copy of their ITI Report from their relatives. If their relatives don’t have a copy of their report, they can request one for free from the Office of Special Trustee Toll free (888) 678-6836. Note: The report usually takes 1 to 2 weeks to be delivered.
  5. If students are unable or unwilling to provide a report, teachers should assign tract ID number to them.
  6. In the computer lab, have students search for their Tract ID’s in the PRLIS. Be sure that the “Parcels” layers is turned on. Note: Parcels layer is only visible when zoomed-in at 1:54k or higher. Once found, have them print-out a map using the print button on the PRLIS.
  7. Ask students to report on how the lands are currently being used. The PRLIS provides other layers for researching this. For more information go to

Question 1: Ask students to raise their hands if they were able to locate their family’s current interests (or one assigned to them).

Question 2: How many of you already knew where these lands were located?

Question 3: How many of you are currently living on or utilizing one or more of these lands?

Question 3: How does if feel to see a map of these lands, maybe for the first time?

Question 4: What questions does this raise for you about these lands? (The teacher doesn’t have to know the answer but write these down as possible class research projects).

Future Research Projects

Students can learn about the various options for their lands in the Pine Ridge Strategic Land Planning Map Book at


Making Reservation GIS Information Accessible With Map Books

Today, of the total 56 million acres of Native American lands in the United States, nearly 11 million acres are held in trust for individuals. However, very few of the nearly 300,000 land owners directly utilize or manage their lands. In fact, most of these lands are being leased-out by the Federal Bureau of Indian Affairs to non-native farmers and ranchers, oftentimes for a fraction of their fair market value. This is the outcome of a century of racist and exclusionary policies designed to alienate Native American land owners from their lands to make them available to white farmers and ranchers. These policies have also created a severe problem of undivided ownership and fractionation across Indian County, creating a massive barrier for Native American land owners wanting reclaim and utilize their lands. For example it is common for Native American land owners to own undivided interests in dozens of tracts of land with hundreds of different land owners in each tract. In order to utilize their lands they are required to get the permission from at least 51% of the land owners. The US Government’s solution to this problem is to buy up individual interests, lease them out for a period of time to recoup the purchase price and then transfer them to the ownership of the respective Tribal Government. However, the Federal government provides no resources or support for individual land owners seeking to make their lands viable again by consolidating their fractionated interests on their own. The situation is so dire that many feel their only option is to sell their lands.

Pine Ridge Strategic Land Planning Map Book

Since 2003, Village Earth has been working alongside individual Native American landowners providing technical support, information and resources to reclaim and utilize their lands. We have learned that one of the biggest obstacles for Native American land owners is accessing information about their lands and the various tools and resources available to them. In an attempt to remedy this situation on the Pine Ridge Reservation, and with support form the Oglala Sioux Tribe Land Office and the Indian Land Tenure Foundation, we developed the Pine Ridge Strategic Land Planning Map Book. The idea was pretty simple, create a low-cost resource where individual land owners on Pine Ridge could easily locate their lands. Like at atlas, the map book breaks a high-resolution map of the reservation into a series of tiles, each page represents a tile. The individual parcels or tracts of land on Pine Ridge are listed in the back in a numerical index listed with its corresponding page number. The book also includes a glossary of land-related terms, sample forms, and detailed instructions. A map book like this can be printed on a standard copier or distributed via the web in PDF format which is much cheaper than plat map of the same resolution.



Grid for the Pine Ridge Reservation generated in ArcMap 9 using the DS Mapbook. Note that the Grid starts numbering at 32. In this example, the map pages did not begin until page 32 of the book. DS Mapbook let’s you specify the start number. This example uses a scale of 1:80528

Below is a video tutorial on how to create map books using the Data Driven Pages tool in ArcMap 10.

Here’s an overview of how to create mapbooks using the DS Mapbook Plugin for ArcMap 9.0

Here’s an overview of how to create mapbooks using the EasyPrint Plugin for Quantum GIS.

If you have further questions or would like assistance creating a map book for your lands, contact David Bartecchi or by phone at 970-237-3002 Ext. 504

Village Earth Makes Allotment Map Accessible to Residents of Pine Ridge Allotment map is visible in the PRLIS at a map scale of 1:217K zoom or higher.

Today, Village Earth’s Lakota Lands Recovery Project (LLRP) with support from the Oglala Sioux Tribe Land Office added a map of the original 1887 Dawes Act allotments for the Pine Ridge Reservation to its online mapping system, the Pine Ridge Land Information System (PRLIS). The map contains the original allotments along with the names of the original allottees as well as hand drawn notes and color-coding to designate different classes of lands. Until now, this information was not available to members of the tribe and over the years, many people have asked us to try get this information for them so they can can begin to reconstruct the history of their lands, especially lands liquidated by the Federal Government through a process known as forced fee patenting. The creation and issuing of allotments began on the Pine Ridge Reservation in 1904, under Executive Order of July 29, 1904 and continued until 1923. During this period, government officials carved up the Reservation into parcels and issued them to Lakota families.

After the period of European settlement in North America between 1492-1887, Native Americans were left with reservations consisting of only 150 million acres. Recognized through treaties as sovereign nations, these lands were largely undivided and communally managed, a practice considered by the U.S. Government to be a non-productive and irrational use of resources. The Government’s solution was the General Allotment Act (GAA) of 1887, also known as the Dawes Severalty Act. The act partitioned reservation lands into 160 acre parcels for each head of family, 80 acre parcels to orphans, and 40 acres parcels to each child. After all the allotments were issued, the remaining reservation lands in the West was transferred to the Government who then made it available to white settlers free of charge as part of the Homestead Act. This amounted to a loss of over 60,000,000 acres, nearly 2/3rds of all Indian lands. Beyond the significant loss of lands, the GAA also created several challenges for the use and inheritance of the remaining lands that would have profound implications for future generations of Native Americans.

  • It broke apart communally managed lands into individually owned parcels, destroying the ability of many communities to be self sufficient on already limited and marginal lands.
  • It disrupted traditional residency patterns, forcing people to live on allotments sometimes far from their relatives, eroding traditional kinship practices across many reservations.
  • It destroyed communal control of lands, making it easier for private and government interests to gain access to the vast coal, oil, natural gas, agricultural, and grazing resources on Native American Reservations.
  • The GAA  never established an adequate system for how lands would be transfered from generation to generation. Since the practice of creating a Last Will and Testament before death was not common and in some cases was outright offensive to the traditional inheritance practices of some Native American cultures, these lands passed from one generation to the next without clear divisions of who owned what. Today, lands have become so fractionated that it is common to have several hundred or even thousands of landowners on one piece land. This has created a severe obstacle today for individuals and families wanting to utilize their lands as they need to get permission from the other land owners on decisions related to the land. With limited resources to deal with this situation, the only option for most families is to lease their undivided fractionated lands out – often times to non-natives.
  • Forced Fee Patenting, introduced with the 1906 Burke Act, amended the GAA to give the secretary of the interior the power to issue Indian Allottees determined to be “competent,” fee patents making their lands subject to taxation and sale. In other words, the government privatized indigenous lands. It as widely understood by government officials that lands, privatized under the Burke Act, would soon be liquidated. In 1922 the Government superintendent of the Pine Ride Reservation noted: “Careful observation of the results on the Pine Ridge reservation show that less than five percent of the Indians who receive patents retain their lands.” According to the Indian Land Tenure Foundation, between 1997 and 1934, nearly 27,000,000 acres of land was lost as a result of privatization.
  • Indian Allottees determined to be “incompetent, ” under the Burke Act, were not allowed to live on or utilize their allotment, instead it was leased out by the Federal Government to oil, timber, mineral, and grazing interests. In many cases, Allottees did not even receive the income from the leases. This practice was so widespread that a 1915 Department of the Interior, Annual Report of the Pine Ridge Agency, nearly 56% of its residents were deemed “incompetent.” The longterm affect of this practice was how it physically and psychologically alienated Indian Allottees from their lands. For example many families today own land but have never lived on it, used it, or oftentimes, even know where it is located.

Names of original allottees and hand-written notes visible on the new layer.

The various economic, social, and cultural disruptions created by the these acts over the last century is an underlying cause of poverty on many Native American Reservations today, negatively impacting housing construction, economic development, residency patterns, family and community cohesion, ecological health, cultural self-determination, and political sovereignty.
The original maps were part of a map-book from the early 1900’s that was used to track and record allotment information. The book contained approximately 150 pages with each page of the book representing a Township. Each page of this book was scanned, cropped, georeferenced and then tiled for display in the PRLIS. Tribal members researching the history of their lands can use the PRLIS to locate the location of the original allotments issued to their ancestors and compare them to the existing land parcel map, roads, high resolution aerial imagery and more. Click here to learn more about the PRLIS.