New Resource for Lakota Land Owners

Today, Village Earth’s Lakota Lands Recovery Project is proud to announce the launch of a new resource for Lakota lands owners on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. The Pine Ridge Land Information System (PRLIS), is online mapping tool that allows members of the Tribe to locate their allotted lands and view other data about land use and management. The resource was developed by Village Earth with support from the Indian Land Tenure Foundation. Village Earth also developed a companion website to house the tool an other related information at www.lakotalands.net.

The Pine Ridge Reservation encompasses 2,788,047 acres including all of Shannon, Jackson and Bennett Counties in South Dakota and a portion of Sheridan County, NE. This land is divided into 20,507 different parcels, 44% of which are owned in-part or in-whole by individual Tribal Members, a total of 1,067,877 acres. These are lands that were allotted to individual tribal members as a result of the General Allotment Act of 1887 (also known as the Dawes Severalty Act) and have been passed down to each subsequent generation. Most of these lands however, are not being managed by the land owners. Rather, a century of discriminatory policies enacted by the Federal Government have functioned to alienate the original allottees and their heirs from their lands to make them available for lease by non-tribal members for a fraction of their fair market value. Few people realize that on Pine Ridge and on Reservations across the country, these policies have meant that the Indian land owners 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’re located, how they’re being used, who they share ownership with, etc. This has had devastating impacts on the ability of land owners to benefit from their land-based resources – economically or culturally. According to the USDA 2007 Census of Agriculture for American Indian Reservations, the market value of agriculture commodities produced on the Pine Ridge Reservation in 2007 totaled $54,541,000. Yet, less than 1/3 ($17,835,000) of that income went to Native American producers. Despite the widespread leasing, over 70% families on Pine Ridge would like to live on and utilize their lands. This is according to survey data collected by Colorado State University.

Short Video about the PRLIS

Village Earth’s Lakota Lands Recovery Project was started out of this expressed desire from the residents of the Pine Ridge Reservation. Since 2003, the Lakota Lands Recovery Project has worked alongside tribal members moving in this direction. Our approach has been to provide direct support to Lakota families who are utilizing Reservation lands, providing fiscal sponsorship, small grants, loans, and releasing over 100 head of buffalo onto Lakota family ranchers. Our other complimentary approach has been to provide advocacy, information and tools to those who would like to begin to move in that direction. In 2008, with support from the Indian Land Tenure Foundation we developed the Pine Ridge Strategic Land Planning Map Book and distributed it through Strategic Land Planning Workshops held in each of the Nine Districts on the Reservation. The map book, addressed a particular challenge expressed by tribal members, accessing information about their lands and the options available to them. This is a common problem across Indian Country and is a serious obstacle for Native American’s wanting to utilize their lands. According 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 lased 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.

To begin to address this need, Village Earth’s Stategic Land Planning Map Book provide full color aerial photos with parcel information for the entire reservation, sample forms and step-by-step procedures for doing land exchanges, partitions, gift deeds, and other tools that Tribal land owners can use to gain greater control over their lands. It was very well received across the Reservation but it was costly to print and distribute. Furthermore, land owners could only get a limited view of their lands. This new tool supports both of these strategic directions while making it more accessible and dynamic.

Using the PRLIS, tribal members can:

  • Search for individually allotted and Tribal owned trust lands using the Tract ID found on their government land reports.
  • 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 today and as defined in the 1851 and 1868 Treaties.
  • We plan to soon add other demographic, cultural, political information to the PRLIS.

Village Earth has developed this as a demonstration and is open to consult with other Tribes interested in developing their own low-cost online land information systems. For more information about the Pine Ridge Land Information System or the Lakota Lands Recovery Project contact David Bartecchi at david@villageearth.org

Village Earth Director to speak on Food Security and Sovereignty with Winona LaDuke and Rick Garcia for Earth Day

Winona LaDuke

Village Earth Director, David Bartecchi, is scheduled to speak on a panel on Food Security and Sovereignty with Winona LaDuke and Rick Garcia this Saturday, April 4th  at the Woodbine Ecology Center in Denver, Colorado. The panel is part of the Woodbine Ecology Center’s three-day conference “Honoring Mother Earth Everyday: Indigenous Models and Practices for Sustainable Communities.”

The participatory conference will focus on principles and practices, sustainable communities, food security and sovereignty, land struggles, reclaiming and regenerating our common environment, ecological health and healing, and more.

Guest Panelists include (full schedule below):

  • Winona LaDuke, Anishinaabekwe (Ojibwe) of the Mississippi Band Anishinaabeg who lives and works on the White Earth Reservation in Minnesota, author, founder of White Earth Land Recovery Project, and the Indigenous Women’s Network.
  • Debra Harry, Kooyooee Dukaddo (Northern Paiute) from the Pyramid Lake Reservation in Nevada, Executive Director, Indigenous Peoples Council on Biocolonialism, and Co-Coordinator, North American Indigenous Peoples Caucus to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.
  • Louise Benally, Dine’ traditional activist from Big Mountain and health educator.
  • David Bartecchi, Executive Director of Village Earth, program director for Lakota Lands Recovery Project, trainer, organizer.
  • Rick Garcia, manager of The Urban Farm in Denver CO.
  • Mary O’ Brien, herbalist, permaculturist, and educator.
  • The Community Conversation will be co-facilitated by staff from Civic Canopy, a Denver-based inclusive network of partners working together to build stronger neighborhoods, healthier communities, and a more civil society. Furthermore, Civic Canopy will be working with WEC to hold several follow-up sessions with attendees and the general public around the greater Denver-Metro area throughout the year.

For more information and to register visit the Woodbine Ecology Center conference webpage.

Help Win an Orchard for Pine Ridge

Village Earth affiliate, Sustainable Homestead Designs, based on the Pine Ridge Reservation has entered a contest to win an orchard from Dreyer’s Fruit Bars brand and the Fruit Tree Planting Foundation. In order to win, they need the most votes for their project.

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You can vote once per day (please do), here’s how!

  1. Go to www.communitiestakeroot.com
  2. Find “Manderson: Sustainable Homestead Designs” by clicking on the “List by State” tab and select South Dakota.
  3. Cast your vote.

Sustainable Homestead Designs is a project whose mission is to create sustainable housing and food sovereignty on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Home to the Oglala band of Lakota Sioux, Pine Ridge Reservation is one of the poorest reservations in the poorest county in the country. Rate of diabetes are staggeringly high in part due to lack of access to healthy food. Our homestead model site is located in the middle of the reservation in the White Horse Creek community, close to the community of Manderson that includes about 1000 residents. The closest shopping is 35 miles away in the town of Pine Ridge. The local grocery store does offer a small selection of fresh produce but supply is often limited and the quality poor. Organic produce is not available anywhere on the reservation. For organic produce and greater selection residents must travel 90 miles to Rapid City, a trip that is prohibitively expensive for most families. A fruit tree orchard in this location would offer a great resource to the people of Manderson and White Horse Creek by creating access to fresh organic produce as well as educational opportunities through workshops and classes that will be hosted on site. Further, it will create a wonderful launch pad from which we can initiate more orchards throughout the community and the reservation so that an even greater population can be served.

For more information please visit: www.sustainablehomesteaddesigns.org.

Two Listening/Talking Meetings Scheduled for May

The Oyate Omniciye | Oglala Lakota planning team will be hosting two meetings with the same agenda at two different locations:

WEDNESDAY, MAY 4, 2011
12:00 noon – 4:00 pm
Su Ann Big Crow Boys & Girls Club
Pine Ridge

THURSDAY, MAY 5, 2011
5:00 pm – 8:30 pm
Pahin Sinte Owayawa School
Porcupine

RSVP

Please RSVP at www.oglalalakotaplan.org/rsvp

Child care available on site

Meal provided per accurate head count

QUESTIONS?

Please direct questions to:

Nick Tilsen at 605-455-2700 ~ nick@thundervalley.org

Julie Two Eagle at 605-454-0377 ~ julie@thundervalley.org

or Scott Moore at 505-280-4840 ~ scott@thundervalley.org

The Fate of the Badlands South Unit and a Forgotten History

By Jamie Way

The future of the land that now comprises the Southern Unit of Badlands National Park is once again uncertain. Today, the dispute over this land is somewhat more relaxed as the tension of war is no longer looming, but the stakes may be just as high as ever. In the fall of 2008, the National Park Service (NPS) began receiving public input on the creation of a new general management plan for the Badlands National Monument’s Southern Unit, (the Northern portion of the Pine Ridge Oglala Sioux reservation in South Dakota). The NPS is accepting public input on their proposed options until November 1st, whereupon the fate of this land will once more be determined by someone other than the Lakota.

The Southern Unit has a long history, riddled with controversy and violence. Originally, this land belonged to the Lakota. In 1890, after the Lakota along with their Cheyenne and Arapahoe allies, were massacred by the 7th Cavalry in the battle of Wounded Knee, the survivors fled to what is now the Southern Unit. They took shelter in the natural fortress formed by a butte surrounded by cliffs. The area served as a refuge for those who escaped the cavalry. For this reason, and because Lakota Ghost Dancers were buried in this location, the land came to be considered sacred.

The land could not serve as a refuge forever. Throughout time, the reservation was created and the Oglala inhabited the Southern Unit. Unfortunately, however, right before World War II began, things changed drastically yet again for the inhabitants of the Southern Unit. On July 20, 1942 the War Department advised the Commissioner of Indian Affairs that they would be taking over an area of 40×15 miles across the northern portion of the reservation. While a small portion of this land lay within what was then Badlands National Monument (337 acres), the vast majority of the land was located within the boundaries of the Pine Ridge Reservation (nps.gov). The dispossession would impact some 125 Oglala families. And while the dispossessed families were to be supplied with some relocation compensation, assistance and supplies, actual accounts vary as to how much the families received if any at all.

The displacement was messy and created a major crisis on the reservation. While officially, the families would have had 40 days to leave if they were given notice on the same day as the Bureau of Indian affairs (which seems not to be the case most of the time), most believed that they needed to evacuate almost immediately. In fact, archival data reveals that Mr. McDowell, an employee of the land acquisition division of the War Department, had stated that the War Department was taking possession of the land and shooting was to start on August 1st (Roberts 7/7/42).This is even more shocking when you take into account that the Commissioner of Indian Affairs was only officially notified of the dispossession twelve days prior. Myrtle Gross, who was displaced during the event, reported that “the Farmer Office” sent a man to tell her to “[g]et out now because the Japs aren’t going to wait!” She said they were then given 30 days to leave, (Archives Search Report 1999, Interview 5). Similarly, Ida Bullman recalls finding out about the evacuation after reading a poster that was displayed at the local store. The store owner told her, “Pack up and leave. They’re going to start shooting at you.” Thus, by the time the information reached the population the impression was given that they were to have well under two weeks (approximately ten days) to evacuate their land.

Until 1958, the land was utilized for bombing and gunnery practice by what was then the Army Air Force. Even past this date, the South Dakota National Guard retained a small portion of the land for training purposes. When they left, the land’s future was far from resolved. Moreover, they left behind them dangerous ordnance and never fully lived up to their responsibility of cleaning the land. To this day, unexploded ordnance can be found on the site.

Due to many families’ attachment to the land, Ellen Janis represented her neighbors’ interests and fought for reparations or the return of their land in a series of trips to D.C. to see public officials. During this time, Congressman Francis Case, who had lobbied for the bombing range, acknowledged that the evacuation had created an incredibly difficult situation for many of his constituents, admitting that “[t]he injustice that was done to the people of Pine Ridge is almost beyond comprehension” (Francis Case as represented in Nichols 1960). In 1968, Public Law 90-468 was finally passed, and lands declared excess by the Air Force were to be transferred to the Department of Interior. The law afforded those displaced (whether their land was held in trust or in fee) the possibility of repurchasing the land that had been taken from them if they filed an application with the Secretary of Interior to purchase the tract. This application needed to be filed within a one year window from the date a notice was published in the Federal Register that the tract had been transferred to the jurisdiction of the Secretary. Needless to say, the displaced were not properly notified of this option in many cases, in part due to their geographical dispersion. The law also stated that the original inhabitants that wished to repurchase their land were to pay the price the U.S. government had paid for the land, plus interest. Thus, those that decided to repurchase their land explained that they paid much higher prices for the land than they had originally been paid for it when the government confiscated it.

According to Jim Igoe’s BRIDGE report, “By the end of the early 1960s it was clear that Department of the Interior bureaucrats intended that the area should be taken over by a Department of the Interior Agency, and not returned to the Tribe.” The Park Service promised the tribe that by creating the park, they would invigorate the reservation economy through tourism, while the a Senate committee simultaneously strong-armed the tribe threatening to “dispose of the land in question under surplus property agreements if the Tribe refused to lease land,” (Igoe 2004).

The topic was controversial on the reservation, as traditionalists refused to turn over the land. In 1976, the Tribal Council under Chairman Dick Wilson, whose questionable leadership during the AIM struggle on Pine Ridge has solidified his legacy as a harsh and corrupt leader, signed a Memorandum of Agreement with the National Park Service. The Stronghold District of the Badlands National Park, which includes 133,300 acres of land, from this point on has been held by the National Park Service in conjunction with the Oglala Sioux Tribe.

Over the next 25 years, the relationship between the NPS and some tribal members remained strained. In 2002, relations between the NPS and some tribal members degenerated to the point where a grassroots movement of Lakota defending the burial place of Ghost Dancers, called the Keepers of the Stronghold Dream, felt it necessary to physically occupy the land, guarding it from the invasion of hikers, park visitors and fossil poachers in an attempt to reclaim it (Igoe 2002). Unfortunately, this confrontation settled nothing and the issue remains unresolved to this day.

Currently, the NPS and the tribe both have complaints about how the area is being managed. The NPS complains that they have not been given proper access to manage the site as needed. The tribe feels as though the NPS has not lived up to its promises in the 1976 MOA including filling NPS jobs at the site with tribal members and reintroducing buffalo into the area. Moreover, they are still concerned with fossil poaching and environmental destruction of the region by outsiders. For this reason, many would like to see the land pulled out of the park system entirely.

As is evident in this history, the land was never properly returned to its original owners. While none of the NPS options include returning land to those that were displaced prior to WWII nor giving the land back to the tribe with no obligations, the options do include giving the tribe more control over this portion of their land. Option 2, considered the “preferred option” by the NPS, would have the NPS and the tribe create a “National Tribal Park.” Option 7 would give even greater control (but may create financial issues or have other drawbacks) to the tribe. It would allow the tribe to create and operate an Oglala Sioux Tribal Park. The NPS claims that both Option 2 and Option 7 would require Congressional approval. The reasoning behind this, however, remains unclear. In the original 1976 MOA (which has since been modified), section 21 states that “Any part or parts of this Agreement, including any appendix, may be amended or modified by mutual written consent (between the NPS and tribe) at any time.”

The NPS is currently in the final phase of public meetings and accepting comments. The comment period for this topic will close on November 1, 2010. Please consider this history while attending meetings on this topic or giving your feedback. You can read more about the options at: http://parkplanning.nps.gov/document.cfm?parkID=117&projectID;=17543&documentID;=35882 and comment at: http://parkplanning.nps.gov/commentForm.cfm?parkID=117&projectID;=17543&documentID;=35882

www.villageearth.org

Support this Appeal for the Creation of the First Ever Tribal Park in the United States!

The message below was sent to Village Earth by Oglala Lakota Tribal Member, Doris Respect Nothing.
“Dear my friends and family, 

The Badlands National Park has developed a 20-year general management plan (GNP) for the South Unit. Within the GNP, there are seven alternative plans currently proposed. The comment period is now open until October 19th to the public. It is important for the public to review the alternatives and pick one which will help the Lakota people with the current status.

The South Unit is located in our reservation and has been a part of Oglala Lakota history. However, This area was leased to the war department during the WWII for the bombing practice. After the land was turned over to the National Park Service after the war in 1968. Since then, the National Park Service has given permits for the fossil excavation without a proper consultation with the tribal government.
In my opinion, the best alternative is Option 7: Oglala Sioux Tribal Park. This option allows us to protect our cultural and natural resources and restore our relationship with the buffalo nation on our own. With this option, it will guarantee protection of the South Unit from becoming the public lands (Option 1 to 5) as well as possible uranium mining and other threats of development by the tribe (Option 6: deauthorization). 

Please help us establish our own tribal park by making a comment today. If you agree with the Option 7, you could use the sample comment below. Simply copy and paste tin the comment page.

Thank you so much for your support on this matter. Please spread the word by forwarding this email to your friends and family.

Sincerely,
Doris
Sample comment here:  you can copy and paste this sentence to the comment page at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/commentForm.cfm?documentID=35882.  Feel free to personalize the comment if you would like.
Dear Badlands National Park,
I would like to support Option 7: Oglala Sioux Tribal Park from the proposed alternatives of the park general management plan. This option allows Oglala Lakota nation to protect their cultural and natural resources and restore their relationship with the buffalo nation. With this option, it will guarantee protection of the South Unit from becoming public lands, which help the nation to fully regain their access to the South Unit. This option also prevents the possible uranium mining and other threats of development in the South Unit. I like to support Lakota nation’s sovereign right to manage the South Unit as a tribal park. This will create many opportunities for the Oglala Lakota people within park management, business and all other aspects of a tribal park. It is important to create a hope for the Oglala Lakota people, especially for the youth who deserve to regain their own identity as Oglala Lakota. Option 7 will serve the best to these purposes, in my opinion.
Thank you.



The Tipi House Project

The Tipi House Project is an alternative housing project in the Wounded Knee District on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Developed by Chris Cuny, lifetime resident of the Pine Ridge Reservation, the Tipi House Project is intended to be a low-cost alternative housing option for residents of the Pine Ridge Reservation or for anyone in the world looking for an alternative to square, stick-built housing. Currently, the Pine Ridge Reservation is experiencing a shortage of several thousand houses and Village Earth seeks to support local solutions to solving this dilemma. The Tipi House is one such effort!
If you would like to support this project, please contact Chris Cuny, P.O. Box 268, Manderson, SD. 57756. Ph. 605-441-3876. Email. commonman87@hotmail.com.

 

High Country News Features Village Earth’s Work on Pine Ridge

Read about Village Earth’s work on the Pine Ridge Reservation in Aug 31, 2009 edition High Country News, the award winning news magazine that covers the American West’s public lands, water, natural resources, grazing, wilderness, wildlife, logging, politics, communities, growth and other issues now changing the face of the West. From the Northern Rockies to the desert Southwest, from the Great Plains to the West Coast, High Country News’ coverage spans 11 Western states and is the leading source for regional environmental news, analysis and commentary, making it an essential resource for those who care about the West.
The article (above) written by Josh Zaffos, profiles some of the Lakota families that Village Earth has been working with for several years to utilize and protect the remaining lands on the reservation. The article does an excellent job of describing the challenges faced by tribal members and they struggle to utilize their own lands. According to research done by Zaffos, “more than 19,000 members of the Oglala Sioux tribe have claims to more than 203,000 properties.” The article describes some of the history behind this situation.

Under the Dawes Act of 1887, the federal government doled out 160 acres of land to the head of each Indian family at Pine Ridge and other reservations. Congress could sell off any un-allotted lands, while the Bureau of Indian Affairs would maintain a tribal trust fund of revenues from mineral, oil, timber and grazing leases. (That trust fund is the subject of the ongoing lawsuit brought by Blackfeet tribal member Elouise Cobell in 1996.)

Then, in 1906, Congress passed the Burke Act, which allowed the BIA to measure Native Americans’ “competence” to handle their homestead lands, based on ancestry, cultural assimilation — even the length of a person’s hair. The assessments at Pine Ridge underscored official prejudice: By 1915, government agents had classified 56 percent of the Oglala Lakota living on the reservation as “incompetent,” and 700,000 additional acres were sold off before the practice ceased in 1934. Other parcels allotted to “incompetent” Indians were shifted into the leasing system, which has served mostly non-Native ranchers. But “competent” Indians didn’t make out much better, since they were forced to pay taxes on their allotments. Ninety-five percent of these lands were eventually sold to non-Natives for a fraction of their real value.

And the allotment system had lasting cultural impact: By chopping up the land base, it effectively ended communal hunting practices. As the original allottees died and their children inherited the land, parcels were fractionated among dozens — sometimes hundreds — of heirs.

To read the entire article go to http://www.hcn.org/issues/41.15/a-new-land-grab

More Buffalo Delivered to Pine Ridge

This weekend, Village Earth delivered 7 more buffalo to the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. These buffalo were donated by the Danylchuck Buffalo Ranch in Rye, Colorado . This is the 5th year that the Danylchuck’s have donated buffalo to Lakota buffalo ranchers on Pine Ridge. We loaded the buffalo as soon as the sun rose Saturday morning and were quickly on the road, headed north to South Dakota. All the animals received the necessary vaccinations and certifications for interstate travel.

The Adopt-A-Buffalo program is part of Village Earth’s larger initiative to support Lakota families to recover their lands from the BIA leasing program and utilize them on their own. Currently, over 60% of the Pine Ridge Reservation is being leased out, oftentimes to non-tribal members for a fraction of their value while Lakota families struggle to find regular employment.

Pepper Creek Gardening Project


(Above: Pete rakes cut grass on his land for feed for goats and other animals he’s raising)

In the heart of Pine Ridge’s Wounded Knee District, a few miles up a dirt road west of Manderson lies Pepper Creek and the location of Pete Stand’s growing farm project. According to Pete, he’s just trying to make a better life for his kids and provide fresh vegetables to the local community. With a tractor recently purchased with a small grant from Village Earth, Pete is reclaiming old 1800’s farm implements used by his grandfather during a time before the relocation programs of the post WWII era and the HUD cluster housing projects of the 60’s and 70’s when families across the reservation lived on their allotted lands and grew much of their own food. Along with working seasonally for area ranchers, Pete is carving out his own niche by growing vegetables, raising goats, horses, and chickens and with the help of area extension agent Sean Burke, Pete plans to expand into raising pigs and ducks.


(Above: Pete adjusting the 1800’s era rake his grandfather used to use)

Pete is part of a growing movement of people on the Pine Ridge Reservation tired of living in the deteriorating housing projects with few options for work. A situation is compounded by the growing epidemic of diabetes on the reservation caused, in part, by the lack of access to fresh fruits and vegetables. It’s a terrible irony that the poorest communities in America often pay the most for food and that highly processed foods tend to be the cheapest source of raw calories. This certainly holds true for the Pine Ridge Reservation but people like Pete Stands and others across the reservation are working to create a more equitable and localized food-web.

Village Earth first learned about Pete’s project from Calvin White Butterfly who is working to mobilize Tiyospayes (traditional sub-communities comprised of extended families) within the Wounded Knee District to utlize their lands to develop projects that enhance local self-reliance and cultural self-determination. We would like to thank Honor the Earth and the support of our donors for making these projects possible.

For more information contact: david@villageearth.org