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.  

COGNITIVE OBJECTIVES 

  • 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.

PRACTICAL OBJECTIVE

  • 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.

PROCEDURE

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 www.lakotalands.net/prlis
  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 http://www.iltf.org/resources/individual-trust-interest-report. 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 http://lakotalands.net/?page_id=35

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 http://www.iltf.org/sites/default/files/pine_ridge_map_book.pdf

 

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 http://webhelp.esri.com/arcgisdesktop/9.3/index.cfm?TopicName=Creating_a_map_series

Here’s an overview of how to create mapbooks using the EasyPrint Plugin for Quantum GIS. http://darrencope.com/2011/11/22/map-books-in-qgis/

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

http://www.lakotalands.net/prlis/ 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.

Village Earth Contributes to Latest National Geographic on Lakota

Village Earth is proud to announce the release of the August 2012 of the edition of National Geographic magazine profiling culture, life, politics and history of the Pine Ridge Reservation. Village Earth is credited on the article for our contribution to the maps and fact checking for this edition. Titled, “In the Spirit of Crazy Horse: Rebirth of the Sioux Nation” includes photography by Aaron Huey who has also published his photos from his journeys on Pine Ridge in in the New York Times “Lens” blog. He later teamed up with artists Ernesto Yerena and Shepard Fairey (Fairey is best known for his iconic blue and red Obama posters) on a nationwide billboard campaign to raise awareness about the shameful legacy of America’s broken treaties with Native Americans. Village Earth was asked to participate on the project because of our decade long experience working on the Pine Ridge Reservation, in particular, our knowledge and experience working on land issues on the Reservation. Most recently, this work culminated into the launch of the Pine Ridge Land Information System an online resource based on open source mapping technology designed to assist Lakota land owners to access information about their lands. While the print edition should be on shelves in the coming weeks, National Geographic has launched pieces of it on its website. You can access articles, maps and resources not available in the print edition, including audio from a community storytelling project on Pine Ridge sponsored by NGS.

Three New Layers Added to Pine Ridge Land Information System

The Lakota Lands Recovery project is happy to announce the addition of three new layers to its Pine Ridge Land Information System. They are a layer with a three mile buffer around the major towns on Pine Ridge,  a layer of water quality data from wells tested by the USGS, and a map of the original ownership in the Badlands Bombing Range.  The Pine Ridge Land Information System (PRLIS) is a web-based land information system designed to assist members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe to access information about their lands and resources. The PRLIS was developed in partnership with the Oglala Sioux Tribe Land Office and made possible with support from the Indian Land Tenure Foundation. The new layers are part of the LLRP’s commitment to continually improving the PRLIS to be a resource for residents of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation to assist them with land research and planning. Description of the three layers are below.

Badlands Bombing Range Ownership Map

This is layer with boundaries and original ownership of allotted lands located in the Badlands Bombing Range. Names of the original land owners are positioned inside each parcel when zoomed to a map scale of 1:54K  The following is an exert about the history of this land from a 2010 blog post on our site researched and written by Jamie Way.

“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 given that they were to have well under two weeks (approximately ten days) to evacuate their land.

The new layer lists the names of the original owners of the different parcels in Badlands Bombing Range.

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.s 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.”

Water Quality Data from Wells Tested by the USGS between 1992-1997

This layer uses water quality and well location data from a report published in 2000 by the USGS. According to the USGS:

“Discharge and water-quality data were collected during 1992-97 for 14 contact springs located in the northwestern part of the Reservation. Data were collected to evaluate potential alternative sources of water supply for the village of Red Shirt, which currently obtains water of marginal quality from a well completed in the Inyan Kara aquifer. During 1995-97, water-quality data also were collected for 44 public-supply wells that serve about one-half of the Reservation’s population. Quality-assurance sampling was used to evaluate the precision and accuracy of environmental samples.”

The layer positions an icon at the approximate location of each well tested in this study. Water quality data can be viewed for each well by clicking on the icon which will bring up a table with the Well ID Number used in the reportWell Location, Date it was Tested, Depth of the Well, Type of Water Source (well or spring) and the recorded levels of Uranium, Ecoli, All Bacteria, Arsenic, and the Contaminant of Concern for each well.

Clicking on the well opens a data table with information on the well and and the results of the USGS testing.

Below is a summary of the results from this testing from the USGS.

“Of the 44 public-supply wells sampled, 42 are completed in the Arikaree aquifer, one is completed in an alluvial aquifer, and one is completed in the Inyan Kara aquifer. Water from the alluvial well is a sodium bicarbonate water type, water from Arikaree aquifer ranges from calcium bicarbonate to sodium bicarbonate types, and water from the Inyan Kara well is a calcium sulfate bicarbonate type. Of the 44 wells sampled, 28 (64 percent) tested positive for indicator bacteria in presumptive tests. Because these were single samples that generally were collected upstream from chemical treatment feeders, positive detections do not necessarily constitute exceedances of drinking-water standards.

A single sample from an Arikaree well exceeded the MCL for arsenic of 50 µg/L. Arsenic exceeded 10 µg/L for six additional Arikaree wells and for the alluvial well and the Inyan Kara well, which could be problematic if the current MCL is lowered. The alluvial well also exceeded the secondary maximum contaminant level (SMCL) for dissolved solids, which is non-enforceable, and the action level for lead. The Inyan Kara well exceeded the SMCL’s for iron and for manganese and the MCL of 5 pCi/L for radium-226 and 228 combined. Several Arikaree wells exceeded SMCL’s for either pH, sulfate, dissolved solids, iron, or manganese. One Arikaree well exceeded the MCL of 4.0 mg/L for fluoride and another exceeded the MCL of 10 mg/L for nitrite plus nitrate.

Ten Arikaree wells equalled or exceeded 15 pCi/L for gross alpha; however, these values do not necessarily constitute exceedances of the MCL, which excludes radioactivity contributed by uranium and radon. Additional sampling using different analysis techniques would be needed to conclusively determine if any samples exceeded this MCL.

Eight wells, all from the Arikaree aquifer, equalled or exceeded the proposed MCL of 20 µg/L for uranium and 33 wells (75 percent) equalled or exceeded one-half of the proposed MCL. Although this standard has only been proposed, additional information regarding the extent of elevated uranium concentrations in the Arikaree aquifer, and the geochemical processes involved, may be beneficial. It was determined from analyses of uranium isotope data for five wells that the source of elevated uranium concentrations is naturally occurring, rather than anthropogenic.”

 3-Mile Growth Buffer Around the Major Towns on the Reservation

Layer with 3-mile buffer around the major villages on Pine Ridge. Used for determining the availability of Tribal lands for consolidation.

This layer displays a green 3-mile buffer around the center point of each of the largest towns on the Pine Ridge Reservation. This layer is important for people interested in exchanging their undivided lands for a contiguous tract of tribal lands, a opportunity made possible by Oglala Sioux Tribe Resolution 77-11.  Tribal Ordinance 85-17 lists the criteria for “set-asides” which include:

  1. Lands surrounding the townsite of Pine Ridge and the established villages within a radius of 3 miles of such settlements.
  2. Commercial and industrial areas
  3. Park and Recreation Areas
  4. Historical and Religious Sites
  5. Archaeological Sites
  6. Potential tourist attractions sites
  7. Timber reserve lands
  8. Class 1 & 2 farmlands
  9. Large consolidated tracts.

To view this layer turn it on by clicking on the “check-box” in the layers menu at the left-hand side of the screen. The layer only appears at the 1:55K map scale so you’ll need to zoom in from the default map scale. You can adjust it’s transparency by clicking on the layer’s label and adjusting the “transparency slider control.”

The Pine Ridge Land Information System can be accessed at http://www.lakotalands.net/prlis/

For more information about these layers or to suggest other layers to add to the PRLIS, please contact David Bartecchi or 970-237-3002 Ext. 504

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 [email protected]

Update from Mila Yatan Pika Pte Oyate Okolakiciye (Knife Chief Buffalo Nation Organization)

Greetings from the Knife Chief Buffalo Nation organization in Pahin Sinte (Porcupine), SD! It is beautiful and green in the buffalo pasture and the sight of buffalo keeping a close eye on their new calves brings to mind the teaching to always look out for our young. As a volunteer organization, our goals include preserving and implementing the teachings from the buffalo nation so that our children and future generations will always have a connection to our relatives the buffalo. This is an update on our activities in the past couple of months and a forecast of our future activities.

On April 7, 2012, we co-sponsored an event, Sunkawakan Ta Woonspe (Teachings from the Horse Nation) which was held at the Knife Chief Buffalo Pasture on April 7, 2012. This was a healing event designed to connect and reconnect the community with the healing powers of the horse nation. We began the event with a Wocekiye (opening blessing) by our esteemed Spiritual Leader, Hmuya Mani (Walking with a Roaring – Richard Two Dogs) and a presentation on the sacredness of horses with an emphasis on our relationship with them as relatives. Historically, horses were and still are used for healing based on the belief that that they are a mirror ourselves as the humans or two-legged. Also, Lakota people believe that they can take physical and mental and emotional illness from us as humans.

After the presentation, a naming ceremony was held for one of the horses who carried the spirit of our great Warrior and Spiritual Leader, Tunkasila Tasunke Witko (Grandfather Crazy Horse) during the Crazy Horse Ride that happens every June in Pine Ridge, SD, to honor his leadership, and great feats in the battles and wars to protect his people and fight for their rights. The horse was covered with a beautiful star quilt as part of the naming ceremony.

Natan Hinapa (Comes Charging, Bamm Brewer), who is an organizer for the Crazy Horse Ride recounted how knowing that the spirit of Grandfather Crazy Horse rides with them every year has strengthened the riders and how it has impacted him spiritually. Natan Hinapa presented a beautiful horse mask to Hmuya Mani as a gift, the mask was worn by one of Natan Hinapa’s horses in the Crazy Horse Ride and also in the Sunkawakan Ta Woonspe event (see photo 1).

Oglala Hanska (Percy White Plume), of the Wacinhin Ska Tiospaye (White Plume Family) and Nata Hinapa brought their horses to bless the people. The people gathered in a circle and the horses were led in while the drum group sang songs in their honor. While the horses were led around the inside of the circle of people, everyone raised their hands to receive the blessings from them (see photo). There were about 75 people present and it was a beautiful day in the Knife Chief Buffalo pasture. The event ended with a great meal, buffalo soup that was cooked by one of our great outdoor chefs – Anthony Bush of Porcupine, SD, an Elder and Vietnam Veteran. Many other people donated food and supplies for the meal, great thanks to all of them. Tasunke Wakan Okolakiciye (Medicine Horse Society) assisted with securing donations for the portable out houses, which were a necessity given the remoteness of the Knife Chief Buffalo Pasture (several miles out in the beautiful rolling hills east of Porcupine, SD).

Other News

Mahpiya Maza (Iron Cloud), one of our Buffalo caretakers, secured and hauled posts that will be used for the hay yard and sorting pen for the buffalo. He was assisted by relative and community member, William Locke. This project will continue as we move toward gathering resources to fence the additional acreage leased by Knife Chief Buffalo Nation Organization.

 

Upcoming Events/Activities

We are in the process of preparing two young men for a Wanasa Pi (buffalo hunt) which is the traditional Lakota way to mark the rite of passage into manhood. The young men go through four days of purification in the Inipi (purification lodge); commonly known as the Sweat lodge. As in all important ceremonies, a four day purification process is observed. Offerings are made to the spiritual entities for a successful hunt, to ask forgiveness for taking the buffalo’s life and to make a connection with the spirit of the buffalo so that the people will receive nourishment, both physically and spiritually. During the four day preparation period, the young men are given guidance by the older men and through spiritual guidance, the importance of the Wanasa Pi ceremony is stressed and teachings on the role of the Lakota man are also provided. The ceremony will be held at the Knife Chief Buffalo Pasture on May 18, 2012.

We are also preparing for our two annual Sundance ceremonies, one of which is held at the Knife Chief Buffalo pasture. Two years ago, at sunrise on the first day of the Sundance ceremony, the buffalo came to the top of the hill on the east side as the Sundancers were making their prayers to the east and gave them a blessing. We hope to be blessed by them again at this year’s Sundance ceremony.

Knife Chief Buffalo Nation organization is also co-sponsoring a Wakanyeja Wicoti (children’s camp) that will be held the week of July 16-20, 2012 in Porcupine, SD. This camp will focus on the needs of Lakota children who have experienced grief, loss and trauma. We are in the process of securing additional sponsorship and partnerships to assist with this much needed camp. There are people that have committed to volunteering their time at this camp and we have received word that a most generous person is assisting with securing camp supplies. The people of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation have a very high death rate from illness and accidents and many families are under severe stress from this as well as from living in poverty and/or living with violence and/or addiction. These stressors can cause children to have needs related to grief, loss and trauma and this camp is one small effort that Knife Chief Buffalo Nation Organization can help with to address some of the needs of our Wakanyeja – a Lakota term for “sacred beings”.

Thank you for your support of the Mila Yatan Pika Pte Oyate Okolakiciye (Knife Chief Buffalo Nation Organization) and we look forward to sharing future updates with you all. For more information about anything in this article, contact Ethleen, [email protected]. Lila Pila Unyapi Ye (We thank you very much).


Earth Tipi to host Affordable Natural Homes Workshop on Pine Ridge

Earth Tipi has teamed up with the University of Wisconsin ~ Madison and Design Coalition to offer a 5 day Affordable Natural Homes workshop!

Lou Host-Jablonski, renowned architect, has developed an innovative design that incorporates all of the benefits of natural home building (straw and clay) into an integrated plan that can easily fit into any urban/suburban setting. The concept also overcomes building codes and permitting that would certainly be an issue in a typical neighborhood. This concept is completely scalable for large projects and has been already implemented in suburban neighborhoods!

Participants will gain hands-on experience using natural materials including walls made from clay and straw, a clay floor and natural plasters. The course will be taught by renowned Lou Host-Jablonski. Important details about planning, designing and building a home will be included in the course. All who attend will leave with a full set of architectural plans that will allow them to build their own home or start a business!

Cost to attend is $850, there is a $100 discount for registering before June 1, 2012. For more information or to register at designcoalition.org. Our goal is to offer full scholarships to Lakota tribal members. If you can’t join us, please consider donating $25-$100 so that someone in need can attend!

 

 

For more information contact Shannon Freed, [email protected]

Cottonwood Seedlings Delivered to Pine Ridge Reservation

Today, 250 cottonwood seedlings were delivered to the Oglala Sioux Tribe Natural Resource Regulatory Agency. The trees will planted by children from the different schools across the reservation in the coming weeks. This project will help to ensure that the sacred trees will be available for future generations of Lakotas for Sundance ceremonies, one of the seven sacred rites for the Lakota people. The practice of the Sundance has been on the rise in recent years and is viewed as a positive sign of Lakota cultural resurgence. This is taking place despite over 100 years of religious suppression by the Federal Government and Christian mission schools that broke apart families and exacted unspeakable physical, sexual and emotional violence upon its students.

Black Elk tells why the Cottonwood is a sacred tree: “Long ago it was the cottonwood who taught us how to make our tipis, for the leaf of the tree is an exact pattern of the tipi, and this was learned when som of our old men were watching little children making play houses from the leaves. This too is a good example of how much grown men may learn from very little cihldren, for the hearts of the children are pure, and therefore the Great Spirit may show to them many things which older people miss. Another reason why we choose the cottonwood tree to be a the center of our lodge is that the Great Spirit has shown to us that, if you cut an upper limb of this tree crosswise, there you will see in the grain a perfect five pointed star, which, to us, represents the presence of the Great Spirit. Also perhaps you have noticed that even in the very slightest breeze you can hear the voice of the cottonwood tree; this we understand is its prayer to the Great Spirit, for not only men, but all things and all beings pray to Him continually in different ways.”

The project is a collaboration between the Calvin White Butterfly of the Wounded Knee Tiyospaye Project (An affiliate of Village Earth), Dennis Yellow Thunder of the Oglala Sioux Tribe Natural Resources Regulatory Agency and Dr. Kurt Mackes, Colorado State Forester. After learning about the need for the trees, Dr. Mackes applied for a small grant from the Colorado State Forest Service to purchase the trees. Village Earth also provided a small grant to the Wounded Knee Tiyospaye project to assist with the coordination of the project among the various schools on the Reservation.

 

 

Spring Update from Earth Tipi

Vermiculture workshop sponsored by Earth Tipi on the Pine Ridge Reservation

By Shannon Freed, Director of Earth Tipi

Spring has sprung and Earth Tipi has been making plans for the coming season all winter! First some exciting updates on current news. In November Earth Tipi hosted a Lakota language immersion experience for children at the Lakota Dakota Nakota Language Summit in Rapid City. Children experienced the Lakota language through story telling, computer interactive games and a video corner that featured the Lakota Bears (Berenstein Bears in the Lakota language). In January I teamed up with Arlo Iron Cloud of KILI Radio in Porcupine to do an early morning radio show about foods that heal. Each week a different food is featured and its medical properties are discussed. Information shared includes meal preparation uses and cooking recipes. Also new to Earth Tipi programming are school presentations. I have been making regular visits to the Lakota Waldorf School where the children learn about different food ingredients, where they come from and then they create something from the ingredients. Playdough and Granola were both big hits with these kindergarteners. This month we featured Vermiculturist John Victor Anderson “The Colorado Worm Man” of Fort Collins. John visited both the Little Wound High School, Lakota Waldorf and did a community presentation in Wounded Knee. At Little Wound, Automotive and Carpentry students learned how to transform an old refrigerator into a worm bin. Two bins were made using non functioning refrigerators that would have otherwise gone to the dump. The following day John presented to 9th and 10th graders in Biology and Physical Science classes. These classes will be responsible for raising the worms using food collected from cafeteria waste. In April, students from the Art class will decorate the bins.

This summer we will turn our existing fruit tree orchard into a food forest. We plan to expand our gardens and are in the process of implementing new permaculture techniques including a “hugelkultur” which will help store water so that we can work to eliminate the need for irrigation in our garden. We will also be repeating our collaboration with the William Penn House of Washington D.C. to take three youth from our reservation to Washington D.C. for one week following a visit from D.C. area high school students. One intern position will be offered to a local youth and it is hoped that funds can be raised to pay a small stipend for this position.

We will be very busy this summer as we work to complete the gazebo project we started last summer as well as construct an outdoor kitchen which will feature a cob oven, solar oven and bengali pit stove. If funds are raised we will also construct a greenhouse, root cellar and a home office for Earth Tipi made from light straw clay. We are currently in the process for raising funds for all of these projects and will need to raise $150,000 by August. If you are interested in supporting Earth Tipi in these endeavors please visit http://earthtipi.org/support to make an online contribution. Pilamaya, Shannon Freed, Director Earth Tipi

 

March 1st Deadline Nearing for Public Comment on 1.9 Billion Interior Plan to Buy Indian Lands

Recently, the U.S. Department of Interior released its draft proposal for utilizing the $1.9 billion from the Cobell settlement allocated for consolidating Indian Lands. According to John Dossett, the general counsel for the Native Congress of American Indians, cited in an article by the Associated Press, “the general counsel for the Native Congress of American Indians, said the draft proposal appears to address most of the tribes’ major concerns. Of particular importance was that the tribes be involved in implementing and administering the land consolidation program through cooperative agreements, which are addressed in the draft plan. While the plan may have support from Tribal Governments, it does not address the concerns of many individual land owners who feel that programs like this take advantage of people’s desperation, forever divesting them of their lands for a small one-time payment, and transferring them to the control of Tribal Governments who may not use them for the benefit of their people as a whole.  Of course, the impact of transferring large amounts of land from individual to tribal management will depend upon the particular tribe.

The alternative to this strategy has been to support individuals to consolidate their lands on their own through estate planning, tribal land exchange programs, partitions, and gift deeds. Despite their proven success, funding for these programs have been cut dramatically in the past few years, leaving little help and few options for Indian land owners to protect their lands. Not only is the government not sufficiently supporting these strategies, their appraisal process is backlogged, creating on of the biggest hurdles in the process to consolidate their lands.  According to a study by Village Earth of the Pine Ridge Reservation, the average time for a land exchange application to be processed is nearly 5 years!  Yet, if you want to sell your lands through programs like Indian Lands Consolidation Act (ILCA), the process can take a matter of weeks. Furthermore, in more than one instance, we have noted BIA workers providing incorrect information about the options available to land owners and then advising them to sell her land through ILCA. While we do not oppose solutions like the one proposed by the Department of Interior, advocating on behalf of Individual land owners, we feel strongly that equivalent support should be made available to programs that support individuals and families wanting to consolidate and utilize their lands or prevent further fractionation through estate planning.

If you’re concerned about draft proposal please send your comments before March 1st, 2012 to the designated contact at the Department of Interior  –  [email protected]

Knife Chief Delivers Bison Meat to Elders on Pine Ridge

On Wednesday, January 18, 2012, the Village Earth Affiliate, Knife Chief Buffalo Nation delivered 200 lbs of grassfed and field-harvested bison meat to Cohen Memorial Home, an Elderly program in Pine Ridge and 300 lbs of meat to Meals for Elderly, a Reservation-wide program that will distribute the meat to elders across the Reservation. The delivery was made through Tatanka Talo Fund, a donor advised fund of the Lakota Lands Recovery project. The goal of the project is to help distribute Lakota raised bison meat to elders on the Pine Ridge Reservation. This delivery was made possible by from a single donor who covered the cost of the animal, processing, packing and delivery. Grassfed bison meat is a great low-fat and high-protein alternative to beef, making it perfect for elderly and/or people with diabetes. Plus, this project helps to support local Native-run bison caretakers on the Pine Ridge Reservation. If you would like to donate to this program, please click on the “Help Fund This Project” button on the right.

Vision of Women Gathering – Lakota Pine Ridge Territory – 15 January 2012


Reposted from: Owe Aku International Justice Project

PRESS RELEASE: January 6, 2012

“Winyan Ituwan”, (Vision of the Women), will be held on January 15, 2012 beginning at 1pm and ending with an evening meal at the Pahin Sinte School in Porcupine, South Dakota. Topics include Mother Earth and water, mining issues facing the people living on the great plains of the United States, and roles and responsibilities of Native women. Speakers will share their experiences in frontline activism work around these issues.

Tantoo Cardinal, a First Nations Cree actor and activist will speak on the tarsands oil mine and its impacts in her homelands of Ft McMurray, Canada. Ms Cardinal was recently inducted as a Member into the Order of Canada for her contributions. Famous for her roles in movies such as Smoke Signals, Legends of the Fall, Black Robe, and Dances with Wolves, Ms. Cardinal is also a founding member of the Saskatchewan Native Theatre Company, which works with and to inspire First Nations youth in the performing arts.

Debra White Plume, Oglala Lakota from Pine Ridge, will speak on the tarsands oil mine, the Keystone XL Oil pipeline planned to cross the plains from Montana to Texas. She will share updates as the lead plantiff in the case against Cameco, Inc. in its attempt to mine uranium near the reservation, and the PowerTech, Inc. plan to mine uranium in the Black Hills. White Plume is co-founder of Bring Back the Way, a grassroots nongovernmental organization dedicated to the preservation of the Lakota Way of Life and Treaty Rights.

Kandi Mosset, Mandan/Arikaree from New Town, ND, works on the tarsands oil mine and xl keystone pipeline campaign with the Indigenous Environmental Network. Ms. Mosset recently returned from the UN Climate Convention in Durban, South Africa. She will speak on these issues and on oil mining impacts on her Mandan/Hidotsa/Arikaree community in North Dakota.

White Plume, Cardinal, and Mosset were part of the 1200 people arrested at the White House in a mass civil disobedience to bring awareness to the American people and President Obama regarding opposition to the XL Keystone pipeline permit.

A panel of Oglala Lakota women will include Regina Brave, who will speak of her experiences at Wounded Knee Occupation for 71 days in 1973; Marilyn Charging Crow, Vivian Locust and Arlette Loud Hawk. Loud Hawk will speak as the Whip Bearer for the Tokala KitFox Warrior Society. Special guest speakers include Marie Randall and Lily Mae Red Eagle.

A slideshow of the tarsands oil mine in Canada will be shared, and a 10 minute video short of the documentary Crying Earth Rise Up! about uranium mining in Lakota Territory by Prairie Dust Films will be shown. There will be an open microphone for women to express themselves and offer words of wisdom to the young generations. Tiana Spotted Thunder of Independence Through Music, and the group Scatter Their Own will share their songs and music. Pte San Win will serve as the MC.

Winyan Ituwan is a collective effort to bring women together to share experiences, vision, and wisdom. There will be many door prizes including fire wood, propane, jewelry, much more. All women are encouraged to attend, the gathering is open to the men who want to hear the voice, vision and wisdom of the women. Winyan Ituwan is the first of four women’s gatherings, with one set for spring, summer and fall. People can call 605-899-1419 or connect at Winyan Ituwan on Face Book for more information. ####

 

Owe Aku Bring Back the Way Owe Aku Internaitonal Justice Project
PO Box 325 720 W. 173rd St, Apt 59
Manderson, SD 57756 New York, NY 10032
605-455-2155 646-233-4406
[email protected] [email protected]
www.bringbacktheway.com www.oweakuinternaitonal.org

Response to: “Why Are Indian Reservations So Poor? A Look At The Bottom 1%”

Below is my response to an article in today’s online edition of Forbes magazine titled “Why Are Indian Reservations So Poor? A Look At The Bottom 1%.” by John Koppisch. Click here for the original article.

Writing as a European settler who works alongside Native Americans on land tenure issues, I find Mr. Koppisch’s article raises awareness of some of the current challenges in the way of Native Americans from benefiting from their resources, but feel it is an overly simplistic, ahistorical analysis of poverty on reservations today. In fact, it is based on the same ethnocentric premise that was behind the creation of the Dawes Act in the first place. Namely, that all people are individual selfish utility-maximizes and the biggest thing in the way to “progress” for Native Americans is their collective utilization of natural resources. Thus, the problem, from Mr. Koppisch’s perspective, is that there hasn’t been ENOUGH privatization. To fully tease apart your argument you have to examine two central questions. 1. Is your basic premise correct, are Native American’s selfish-utility maximizes and do they share the same notion of “progress” as European settlers? And 2. Considering that western notions of progress were forced upon them through the Reservation system and policies such as the The General Allotment Act (Dawes Act) – was/is the poverty we see today really because there hasn’t been enough privatization. I challenge this notion and argue there might other, more obvious factors?

For some perspective into the first question, we can look at how Native Americans were organized prior to being forced onto ever smaller pieces of land by an invading army of settlers. Were Native American’s victims of their own communal use of natural resources, a self-created tragedy of the commons? While we can always find instances of resource destruction and conflict in the Archaeological record, but the fact remains, Native American’s thrived on this continent for thousands of years prior to the arrival of European settlers. And believe it not, this happened without privatization, individual allotments, and a centralized state to create laws and enforce contracts. Now, it would be equally false to assume that Native American’s, by definition, are communal and anti-capitalist, that’s just not true, in fact, the Lakota and other tribes were renowned for their role in the fur trade, controlling and manipulating markets around the globe. And in fact, there were internal struggles among Native American leaders over what direction to take. Lakota Chief Red Cloud believed that there was no stopping the influx of settlers and so tried to convince his people to assimilate. Crazy Horse, on the other hand, sought to protect the traditional way of life that extended beyond the boundaries of the Reservations. The point here is that the history of Native American’s extends thousands of years prior to the creation of Reservations. Pretty much none of that history included privatization. Rather, they were forced onto Reservations by an invading colonial army and were forced to participate in a western system of land tenure and agricultural production. But, history doesn’t end there. It’s not as if they were forced onto reservations, and then became equal participants in American society.

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 unpartitioned 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. This was done primarily through forced leases. Leased which, to this day, the government has failed to fully pay. in fact, according to Judge Robertson of the District Court of Columbia, Native American’s were shorted roughly 47 billion dollars in income collected by the government over the last 120 years.
  • 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.
  • 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 unequal land-use patterns seen on reservations today is a direct outcome of discriminatory lending practices, land fractionation and specifically, Federal policies over the last century that have excluded native land owners from the ability to utilize their lands while at the same time opening it up to non-native farmers and ranchers. Discriminatory lending practices, as argued in court cases such as the pending Keepseagle vs. Vilsack, claim that Native Americans have been denied roughly 3 billion in credit.

With the above facts in mind, is it really accurate to say that the poverty on Native American reservations is a result of “not enough privatization” or should we also consider the 120+ years of discrimination and abuse by the United States Government? My point here is not to argue against reforming the land tenure system on reservations. Rather, I believe tribes should have total control over their resources as guaranteed to them by their respective Treaties but also in a contested nature, that goes beyond the legal context of the 1800s but one rooted in UN Declaration of the rights of Indigenous People and their aboriginal claim. But beyond that, they should receive equal protection under the law which means investigating claims to lands illegally seized and unpaid lease contracts by the U.S. Government. But also, reparations for the damages caused by the violence and sexual abuse rampant in boarding schools.

I find it ironic how academics and journalists try to come up with new theories to explain poverty on reservations but fail to take into account the obvious. The government owes Native Americans at least 45 Billion dollars yet, in the settlement offered by the Obama administration, they are being compensated for less that .06% of that. And this hardly makes the news! Who else could be treated like this? How is this not a factor? How is the history of broken treaties and land theft not a factor? Until we as a American settlers take off our blinders and recognize how some people in this country have been and continue to this day to be denied their rights, we will never move beyond the racist legacy of this country.

Current Global Affiliates 2011 accomplishments

Lakota Lands Recovery Projects, Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota:  Assisted with forest management plans; provided outreach and mapping support for home weatherization initiatives; adopted seven buffalo, sold 600 lbs of bison meat at Winter Markets and distributed another 600 lbs of meat to the elderly plus taught programs to dozens of youth about the spiritual connection with the buffalo.

Earth Tipi: Built a house using reclaimed pallets and petitioned Congress to maintain funding for tribal housing; planted a fruit orchard of 30 trees.

Peruvian Amazon Indigenous Support Network: Initiated petition to Maple Energy to address multiple oil spills and inadequate clean-up in two Shipibo communities; supported flood relief efforts (thousands of Shipibo families experienced losses of homes and crops); supported land demarcation projects; partnered with Engineers Without Borders on clean water/renewable energy project.

Empowering Youth Cambodia: operated three schools serving 350 children from slum communities in Phnom Penh; provided medical and dental care and 33 scholarships (19 at university,14 in high school).

Sarada Group of Development Initiatives in West Bengal, India: grew 10 women-owned micro-enterprises, involved 5 women groups in plantation projects on barren lands, assisted with 100 children attending school, saw attendance in literacy campaign increase by 50%, provided health and nutrition training for women and families.

Currently, we are planning to expand our support to Maloca, working in Ecuador with indigenous peoples in Amazon basin on strategies for defending cultural rights to land in the face of oil and gas extraction; Village Care Initiatives in Sierra Leone, dedicated to caring for widows and orphans with the resources they have on hand; Living Roots, Baja working to protect the endangered Ranchero culture of Baja California Sur, and Jenzera in Colombia and Dineh Voices of the People, both groups advocating for civil and human rights and protecting cultural self-determination.

Sign petition urging congress to address housing crisis throughout Indian Country.

Join the National American Indian Housing Council in their efforts to get Congress to address the housing crisis across Indian Country. On November 1st, the House and Senate will resume negotiations to approve a final FY 2012 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) funding bill. According to the NAIHC, “Substantial differences remain between both the House and Senate versions and the National American Indian Housing Council (NAIHC) strongly urges its membership to contact their Congressional leaders and voice support for the Senate THUD funding bill. The Senate version allocates higher funding amounts and does not include a provision that would require IHBG recipients to expend their FY2012 dollars within three years, or face losing the unspent funding.”

Sign the NAIHC petition below and we will add your name to the letter being sent to Congress.  The deadline to be added to the list is October 31st. Please help us get the word out! After you sign the petition, you will be given the opportunity to share it on Facebook and Twitter. 

[emailpetition id=”1″]

Earth Tipi Supports Sustainability on Pine Ridge Reservation

Shannon Freed was first invited to the Pine Ridge Reservation in the spring of 2006. That summer she witnessed abject poverty, but also saw opportunity and hope for change.

When Freed looked around, she was inspired by the many natural and potentially recyclable resources around her. She wanted to show people that a solid home could be made from these materials. She hoped that this might inspire others to see things around them in a new light. Freed “…wanted for people to look at  things around them that had been waste and start to see them as assets” she said.

Many projects for natural buildings had been tried and failed, but in 2008 she got her chance. She called Coenraad Rogmans of House Alive. He agreed to come build a house in the summer of 2010 if she first organized the building of the home’s foundation in 2009. At the time, it was just a family project. Gerald Weasel, Freed’s father in law, her husband Adam and brother in law Luke did most of the labor while she did the organizing. Freed found materials and had them brought to the site.

Their first success was in finding a pile of concrete from an old building that had long since been demolished. It was sourced just 2.5 miles from the build site and was delivered by a local construction crew free of charge. Freed used funds that had been donated to purchase three sledge hammers. The majority of the summer was spent crushing 25-year-old concrete by hand. By the end of the summer the foundation was complete. That fall she was invited by Bryan Deans of Oglala Lakota Cultural and Economic Revitalization Initiative to join their permaculture certification course. With her new found skill she was inspired to turn a family project into a grassroots organization. The group is now known as Earth Tipi, and is a Village Earth affiliate project.

The original home site is now being developed as a sustainable homestead model. Two large gardens, which highlight permaculture techniques, and will soon incorporate Lakota spiritual gardening practices, fed this summers volunteers as well as at least six local families. They have incorporated a beehive and hope to harvest honey next year. They were also able to build a home for another family this summer using shipping pallets through a collaboration with Texas Natural Builders. The home is still under construction due to some unanticipated set backs, however, it is well on its way to completion. Currently, just finish work remains, and it is scheduled to be completed by the end of October.

Earth Tipi is excited to announce their upcoming projects which include a hosting a Children’s Room in November at the Lakota Nakota Dakota Language Summit hosted by Tusweca Tiyospaye and a garden to table program for children made possible by a fellowship which was recently awarded through Together Green. The program will entail taking youth into the field to collect garden and wild foods then into the kitchen to learn how to prepare them into tasty meals. The project will also include a documentation aspect where the children will be given cameras to document the process and make cook books that can be shared digitally or printed to take home. There are currently discussions with GLOBIO to collaborate on the documentation aspect so that the children of Pine Ridge might provide and add content to their already extensive database of information for kids around the world. It is the goal of Earth Tipi to create profitable businesses that will support their projects so that they will be self-sustaining in every sense of the term, both growing their own food and using local resources to build houses, as well as generating a revenue stream to support all not-for-profit projects. Earth Tipi is seeking interns to help with project planning and implementation, if interested please contact Shannon Freed at [email protected] You can also read more about this project and make donations here.

Henry Red Cloud wins 2011 Glynwood Harvest Award

Henry Red Cloud, Buffalo Hump Sanctuary

Village Earth is proud to announce that our long-time partner, Henry Red Cloud, has won the 2011 Glynwood Harvest Award for Connecting Communities, Farmers and Food, and in particular, for his work restoring buffalo for families on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Henry’s bison project, “Buffalo Hump Sanctuary” is an affiliate of Village Earth.

Glynwood is an agricultural non-profit whose mission is to save farming, has announced the winners of its annual Harvest Awards.  The Harvest Awards were created by Glynwood in order to highlight innovative work being done on a community level to increase access to fresh, locally-produced food and to recognize leaders across the country whose exemplary work support their regional food systems.

This year the winners will participate in a panel discussion open to the public to take place on Monday, October 24 at the 92YTRIBECA in downtown Manhattan.  Moderated by Glynwood President Judith LaBelle, the winners will discuss their work, their challenges and the models they’ve created to increase their community’s access to locally produced foods.

Buffalo Hump Sanctuary is the result of Henry Red Cloud’s father’s vision of reclaiming the land of their Lakota tribe (which for generations had been leased out to non-indigenous people and businesses), and building a successful bison ranching operation that would better support their family economically and culturally.  The work was started in 2000, beginning with the complex process of identifying and reclaiming the land, then restoring the overgrazed land to fertility.  With the help of Village Earth, an organization that helps communities reconnect with resources that promote human well-being through empowerment and community self-reliance, Henry implemented an “Adopt a Buffalo” program; this enabled the release of over 100 head of buffalo onto the reservation, helping native bison ranchers to start or expand their ranching operations.  By 2005 Henry, along with two other families on the reservation, formed the Lakota Buffalo Caretakers Cooperative, composed of Lakota ranchers who agree to comply with strict ethical standards for the care of the animals. Participating producers are then able to market their meat under the Coop’s label.  To further assist in distributing the Coop’s pasture-raised and field-harvested bison, Henry and Village Earth partnered with a local entrepreneur who markets the products online and sells throughout northern Colorado.  Today, even the smallest producer can find a market for their meat through the Cooperative.

The financial and cultural implications of this work for the Lakota families cannot be underestimated.  About two-thirds of the reservation’s lands have been leased for generations, stripping the families of their connection to their land as well as economic opportunity – leasing the land brings only one-third of the potential profit that working the land can offer.  Additionally, the reservation has been identified as “food insecure,” with little access to fresh, healthy food and a history of related medical issues that result. The production of fresh bison meat has given members of the Lakota access to nutritious protein. To further the goal of supplying fresh healthy food to its community, the Lakota Buffalo Caretakers Cooperative recently created the Tatanka Talo project to help the elderly members of the reservation by distributing fresh meat to them.

Earth Tipi Wins Fruit Orchard for Pine Ridge!

I would like to thank everyone who supported the campaign to win a Fruit Orchard from the Fruit Tree Planting Foundation for the White Horse Creek Community on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. The Fruit Orchard is a project of Village Earth affiliate “Earth Tipi” (formerly Sustainable Homestead Designs). With your help, the campaign generated nearly 30,000 votes bringing Earth Tipi into third place among dozens of other communities (to win, you had to make it to the top five). This is a small step towards building a more local food economy on the Pine Ridge Reservation, a place where 70% of the adult population is suffering from dietary diseases.

If you were part of this campaign and would like to stay connected to Earth Tipi and the Fruit Orchard project, you can sign up for their mailing list at www.earthtipi.org.

Help Build a Youth Center on Pine Ridge!

Help the Wounded Knee Community Development Corporation (WKCDC) employ youth to renovate this old one-room schoolhouse into their own youth center! They need to raise $5000  by June 30th to purchase the remaining supplies for the project.

Pine Ridge youth want to renovate this old one-room school house into their own youth center.

The Wounded Knee CDC has been approved to administer funding from the Federal Job Training Partnership Act, enough to pay approximately 40 youth (ages 14-22) from the district to transform an old one-room school-house into the Wounded Knee Youth Programs Facility. However, the funding does not cover the entire amount needed for materials and supplies.

They Need Your Help! Your donation will not only help create a youth center, it will also provide valuable job training for youth in one of the poorest counties in the United States.

Village Earth has created a special fund to receive donations for their project.  All donations received through this fund are 100% tax-deductible. 90% of the funds will go directly to purchase materials and supplies for the project, the remaining 10% will cover transactions feeds, administration and promotional expenses of Village Earth. For the long-term, the Youth Center will be managed and maintained by the Wounded Knee CDC.

To support this project, donate and join our fundraising team at Crowdrise.com

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