Thursday, March 24, 2016

Gonzalez: settlement of Black Hills Claim a 'sacred obligation'

It’s been 36 years since attorney Mario Gonzalez filed the federal court case stopping payment of the Black Hills Claim award to the Oglala Lakota Nation. He recently spoke with Rapid City-based Native Sun News.
President Richard Nixon in his July 8, 1970 message to Congress supported the return of federally held lands in the Kit Carson National Forest in New Mexico to the Taos Indians. Congress subsequently returned 50,000 acres to the Taos Indians. There is no reason why federally held lands in the Black Hills cannot likewise be returned to the Sioux tribes. In May, 2008, the Obama Campaign issued a policy statement that the Sioux tribes should not be forced to accept the $102 million Black Hills award, and that President Obama supported government-to-government collaborative talks between the parties to explore innovative solutions to resolve the Black Hills Claim. There will eventually be a bill drafted by the BIA that is introduced in Congress to distribute the Black Hills Claim money if the Sioux tribes fail to act. It’s a sacred obligation. [excerpt, Gonzalez]
Gonzales contends that the commission charged to make peace with tribes inserted language into the document signed in 1868 that Red Cloud had neither seen nor agreed to in negotiations.
A federal appeals court has revived an effort by a Native American community in northern New Mexico to reclaim the Valles Caldera National Preserve. Jemez Pueblo considers the nearly 140-square-mile swath of federally-managed public land as a spiritual sanctuary and part of its traditional homeland. The ruling comes as the National Park Service works to take over management of the preserve under legislation approved last December. While the agency hasn’t commented on the litigation, it says it has a good relationship with the pueblo. [Albuquerque Journal]
Ernestine Chasing Hawk sent this story to the Missoula-based Buffalo Post:
In 2008, during a campaign stop in Sioux Falls then Sen. Barak [sic] Obama gave Great Plains Indian tribes a ray of hope on the outcome of the century’s long legal battle over “theft of 48 million acres of their homeland.” However one of the key elements to resolving the issue is “bringing together all the different parties” and with each passing day their “window of opportunity” shrinks as time ticks away for the Obama-Biden administration.
Ms. Chasing Hawk goes on to say:
The 1851 Fort Laramie Treaty gave the Sioux 60 million acres of land west of the Missouri. Gonzalez points out that the Sioux were never militarily defeated by the U.S. and would never have signed the 1868 Treaty had they thought they were ceding any land to the U.S. Arriving at Fort Laramie via Cheyenne in November, the Commission under General W. T. Sherman was dismayed to find no Sioux to parley with as planned. Red Cloud refused to come in until the garrisons at Forts Reno, Phil Kearny and C. F. Smith were withdrawn. The Commission acceded and in March, 1868 the President ordered their abandonment.

The legal battle over what has been referred to as Docket 74-A which began in 1922 is based on the argument that the Sioux never gave up any land and that the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty was treaty of peace, not a treaty of cession. In 1980 Supreme Court said the Sioux were entitled to a mere $40 million dollars (Docket 74-A) for the “ceded land’ and na-cu (using a Lakota lexicon, na is and, cu is dew) the government wanted money back for the rations and other annuities they gave the Sioux in the 1800’s. This government action attests to the origin of the cliché, “Indian givers.” In 1980, the Supreme Court also awarded the tribe $106 million dollars (Docket 74-B) on the ground the U.S. had taken the Black Hills and paid no just compensation in violation of the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment. As a result, the tribe realized almost none of the vast mineral wealth yielded by their stolen land.
One paragraph really caught my eye:
And according to Edward Lazarus during his last days in office, Democratic “Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle did a neat little favor for one of his corporate constituents. As a rider to the defense appropriation bill, he attached a provision granting absolute immunity to the Barrick Gold Company of Toronto for any liability arising from the 125-year operation of its Homestake Mine, a gold-bearing gash in the Black Hills of South Dakota.”
Pe'Sla has been put into trust.

Of course, the South Dakota Democratic Party should urge President Obama to dissolve the Black Hills National Forest, move management of the land from the US Department of Agriculture into the Department of Interior; and, in cooperation with Bureau of Indian Affairs Division of Forestry and Wildfire Management, rename it Okawita Paha National Monument eventually becoming part of the Greater Missouri Basin National Wildlife Refuge. Mato Paha (Bear Butte), the associated national grasslands and the Sioux Ranger District of the Custer/Gallatin National Forest should be included in the move.

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