Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A message from Wakanyeja Pawicayapi Inc. - Porcupine, SD

As a supporter of grassroots organizations on the Pine Ridge Reservation, Village Earth would like to highlight the work of Wakanyeja Pawicayapi, Inc. based out of the village of Porcupine. Wakanyeja Means Children. Wakanyeja has much deeper meaning; “Wakan” is sacred and “yeja” is translated to mean “a gift”  Pawicayapi: to put them first. We believe that the ‘Sacred Gift’ is at the center of the sacred hoop of life, and they must be protected and nurtured. They are our future and the most fragile. Wakanyeja Pawicayapi, Inc. (Children First) comes from the rebirth of the Lakota way of life and laws through education, healing, and collaboration. This holiday season, please consider donating directly to Wakanyeja Pawicayapi by going to their website at http://www.wakanyeja.org/

Please read the appeal below from Taoiye Wakan Win, S. Ramona White Plume, Executive Director, Wakanyeja Pawicayapi, Inc.

A message from Wakanyeja Pawicayapi Inc

As a Lakota culturally appropriate mental health resource for children/youth and families on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation since 1999, we do not receive federal funds for the services we provide. These services include primarily child/youth and family healing in the areas of trauma, suicide prevention, physical abuse and sexual abuse.

We respectfully ask for your support, both financially and spiritually. Your financial support will help us to purchase wood for the purification lodge ceremonies, purchase food to serve children/youth and families after the ceremonies and pay for general operating costs.

Your spiritual support in the form of appeals to the Creator on behalf of children/youth and families who continue to suffer from intergenerational grief, loss and trauma will strengthen the work that we do and will assist in the ongoing battle for our Lakota way of life and the future of our children and grandchildren. For more information contact Taoiye Wakan Win, S. Ramona White Plume, Executive Director, Wakanyeja Pawicayapi, Inc., P.O. Box 100, Porcupine, SD 57772, sonjar@wakanyeja.org, 605-455-1226. Wopila (thank you).
Bookmark and Share
posted by Village Earth at 0 Comments

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Range Units and the History of Leasing Lands on the Pine Ridge Reservation

Village Earth - Fort Collins, Co

Today, nearly 60% of the Pine Ridge Reservation is being leased out by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), often times to non-tribal members. Despite the fact that lands allotted to Lakotas have been in the federal leasing system for several generations, over 70% of families on the reservation would like to live on and utilize their allotted lands. According to 2007 USDA 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.  

The reason so few Lakota's are utilizing Reservation lands today can be traced back to a history of discriminatory policies enacted by Congress just a few years after the signing of the General Allotment Act that opened up Reservation lands to non-Native producers. These policies affected Native Americans nationwide. According to Village Earth's study of the USDA data, in total numbers, Native Americans represent only 1.6% of the farmers and ranchers operating on Reservation lands. Today, for most Native American Reservations in the United States, more than two-thirds of the farms and ranches are controlled by non-natives. As might be expected, this disparity in land use has had a dramatic impact on the ability of Native Americans to fully benefit from their natural resources. Statistics on income reveal that the total value of agricultural commodities produced on Native American Reservations in 2007 totaled over $2.1 Billion dollars, yet, only 16% of that income went to Native American farmers and ranchers. 

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.  Another significant obstacle is the high degree of fractionation of Reservation lands caused by the General Allotment Act (GAA) of 1887. Over a century of unplanned inheritance under the GAA has created a situation where reservation lands have become severely fractionated. Today, for a Native land owner to consolidate and utilize his or her allotted lands they may have to get the signed approval of dozens, hundreds or even thousands of separate land owners. As a result, most Indian land owners have few options besides leasing their lands out as part of the Federal Government's leasing program. Additionally, historical and racially-based policies by the Federal government have been designed to exclude Native American farmers and ranchers from utilizing their own lands, opening them up to non-natives for a fraction of their far market value.

The leasing of Indian Lands by the Federal Government dates back the the the Act of February 28, 1891 which amended the General Allotment Act to give the Secretary of the Interior the power to determine whether an Indian allottee had the “mental or physically qualifications” to enable him to cultivate his allotment. In such cases, the Superintendent was authorized to lease Indian lands to non-tribal members. In 1894, the annual Indian Appropriation Act increased the agricultural lease term to 5 years, 10 years for business and mining leases, and permitted forced leases for allottees who “suffered” from “inability to work their land.” Clearly designed to alienate lands from Native Americans, this act dramatically increased the number of leases issued across the country. For the Pine Ridge Reservation the practice was so widespread, that in a 1915 Government report, it was noted that over 56% of the adult males on the reservation were considered incapable of managing their lands and thus they were forcefully leased out. In 1920 the Government Superintendent for Pine Ridge wrote, “It has been my policy to insist upon the utilization of all these lands and the grass growing upon it and this has restricted members of the tribe owning stock to their own allotments, and such land adjoining that they have leased.” Not only were a great number of Native Americans denied the ability to utilize their allotted lands, many did not even receive the lease income collected by the Federal Government. Today, it is estimated that Native Americans are owed upwards of 47 billion dollars by the Federal Government for 120 years of oil, timber, agriculture, grazing and mining leases (See Cobell vs. Salazar).

According to Village Earth, the disparity in land use on Native American Reservations will only worsen with each new generation until Native Americans are given a fair chance at accessing the credit and other forms assistance available to non-natives. Additionally, the Government should honor its obligation as trustee and pay the over 47 billion dollars in revenue it has received for the leasing of Native American lands over the last 120 years. Lastly, the Department of Interior should place special emphasis on repairing the fractionation problem created by the General Allotment Act by providing information and support to individual allottees to consolidate and utilize their lands. In particular, speeding up the appraisal and survey process for which they are responsible.
Bookmark and Share
posted by Village Earth at 0 Comments

Thursday, October 14, 2010

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 40x15 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
Bookmark and Share
posted by Village Earth at 2 Comments

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

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.



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.

Bookmark and Share
posted by Village Earth at 0 Comments

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

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.

Bookmark and Share
posted by Village Earth at 0 Comments

Monday, July 26, 2010

Senate holds up Cobell Settlement Once Again!

Senate will approve 700 Billion to Wall Street in a matter of weeks but when it comes to settling-up with Native Americans for less than 7% of the money owed to them for oil, gas, timber and grazing leases, try 14 years.


Statement by Elouise Cobell
Lead Plaintiff
Cobell vs Salazar

    BROWNING, Mont., July 23 -- On July 1, 2010, the House of Representatives passed HR4899 – Disaster/War Supplemental Appropriations. It included legislation to approve the Cobell v. Salazar individual Indian trust settlement.  Late last night, however, the Senate stripped from HR 4899 all domestic spending provisions, including our settlement legislation, notwithstanding that the domestic spending provisions are fully paid for.  The stripped version of the bill returns to the House for further consideration.  This is the second time in two months that the Senate has failed to act on settlement legislation although it is fully paid-for and had been expected to pass if put to a vote.

As a result of Senate action, legislative approval of our settlement, once again, is in the capable hands of House leadership, which steadfastly has supported us since settlement with the government was reached on December 7, 2009.   We have great confidence in Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Hoyer and believe that they will continue to ensure that 500,000 individual Indians finally are provided justice that is long overdue.  We are depending on them.

Bookmark and Share
posted by Village Earth at 0 Comments

Friday, July 16, 2010


It’s hard to believe that it has been nearly 7 years since the start of the Lakota Lands Recovery Project (LLRP). Regular reflection is a cental component to Village Earth’s praxis approach to community empowerment. In the spirit of Paulo Freire, the term praxis refers to an ongoing cycle of analysis, action, and reflection that has the power to reveal the root causes of oppression as well as the path out. The LLRP itself was launched after nearly two years of facilitating meetings across the reservation where we asked community groups about their vision for the future. By in large, this vision was about getting out of the overcrowded and deteriorating government housing projects and back onto their lands. Guided by this vision, the LLRP was formed, serving as a grassroots support organization to grassroots initiatives to recover, protect and utilize their lands on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Allied in praxis with people across the reservation we’ve learned many things about the tangled web of history, policy, bureaucracy, and trauma that Residents of the Pine Ridge Reservation and reservations across this country face on a day to day basis. This has evolved into three central pillars of our strategy; 1. Supporting Lakota’s who are already utilizing their lands, 2. Providing education and outreach on land-recovery, land-use, and 3. Advocating for the rights of Native Americans across the nation to utilize their own lands. Below I’ll try to briefly update you on the ways we are supporting each pillar.

The focus of our efforts for the first pillar has been in supporting the development of the Lakota Buffalo Caretakers Cooperative (LBCC), a cooperative we helped establish in 2008 to market and distribute grassfed and field harvested buffalo meat raised by Lakota families on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Shortly after it’s incorporation in the State of South Dakota, we helped to form a regional distributor for Northern Colorado Allied Natural Meats (ANM), Ltd. For the past two years, ANM has been buying buffalo raised by the LBCC and distributing throughout Northern Colorado which is helping to generate income for these small producers on the Reservation to cover their expenses and grow their herds. It can also be purchased online at www.lakotabuffalocaretakers.org. We’ve continued our yearly donations of Buffalo in partnership with the Danylchuck Buffalo Ranch in Rye, Colorado. We’ve also been working with a private donor and the Oglala Sioux Tribe Elderly Assistance Program to distribute buffalo meat raised by the LBCC to elders across the reservation. We are happy to announce the re-organization and re-birth of the Lone Buffalo Project. It is now in the control of Henry Red Cloud and his Tiwahe. We are excited that this reorganization will breathe new life and energy into this project. Also, we are looking forward to assisting Virgil Bush to start up a new buffalo ranch on the reservation this fall. Virgil has been a long-time supporter of Buffalo reintroduction on Pine Ridge and after our recent fundraising tour in Germany and Switzerland, we are looking forward to helping him establish a herd of his own.

For the second pillar of our approach, we have recently completed a project in partnership with the Indian Land Tenure Foundation (ILTF) to simplify the maze of bureaucracy, forms, and applications necessary for Native land-recovery and use across Indian country. This work will be appearing in a forthcoming edition of the “Message Runner,” the ILTF’s newsletter. We also continue our work answering questions and distributing information to Lakota’s interested in consolidating and utilizing their lands. In fact, we have run out of copies of our highly popular strategic land planning manual/atlas. We are currently looking for funding to update and print more copies. This fall, we are also planning on developing an online course in Native Strategic Land Planning to be offered to make this information available to Indian allottees across the country.

Lastly, for the third pillar, we continue to weigh in on the debate regarding Native American land-use, in particular putting pressure on the government to honor their trust responsibility by processing appraisals and land exchange applications in a timely manner, a process that now takes nearly 4 years! We are happy to announce that because of our research, the Head of the BIA acknowledged that the land application “system is broken” at a major conference on Native American Agriculture. We plan to continue raising awareness of the general public and putting pressure on policy makers to lower the barriers for Native Americans to live on and utilize their own lands!
Bookmark and Share
posted by Village Earth at 0 Comments