Black Hills Auction: Saving Pe' Sla

Ruth Hopkins

On August 25, 1,942.66 acres divided into five tracts of land located in the Black Hills of South Dakota, is slated to go up for auction. In 2012, such an event isn’t extraordinary; except in this case the land scheduled to be sold to the highest bidder is sacred to the Oceti Sakowin, The People of the Seven Council Fires—the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota people.

We are also referred to in mainstream circles as The Great Sioux Nation.

To the Oceti Sakowin, Pe’ Sla is The Heart of Everything. Not only does this sacred site play a key role in our creation story, it is said to be the place where The Morning Star plunged to earth, and saved the People from seven creatures who had killed seven women. The Lakota hero then placed those women in the night sky as ‘The Seven Sisters," called ‘The Pleiades’ by western astronomers.

Pe’ Sla, also called "Old Baldy," is vital to Oceti Sakowin star knowledge and provides evidence of our historical ties to the Black Hills as well. The Black Hills are a terrestrial mirror of the heavens above. Pe’ Sla, an open, rather bare expanse of land compared to its surroundings, corresponds to the Crab Nebula, a gaseous cloud remnant of a supernova explosion that happened in 1054 AD. It is no longer visible with the naked eye - but my people remember it.

Like many other Indigenous groups, our ceremonies are tied directly to the Universe and the natural cycles of Ina Maka (Mother Earth). Therefore, it only serves that Pe’ Sla, a location in the heart of the Black Hills that serves as a basis for our star maps, is also a sacred site where ceremonies must be observed each year.

According to our beliefs, these rituals must be performed to keep the Universe in harmony and preserve the well being of all, Native and non-Native alike. You see, to the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota, Pe’ Sla is not merely prairie. Its grounds are holy. It is our Church of the Holy Sepulchre. It is our Mecca. Pe’ Sla is our wailing wall, where we are meant to pray. The danger of the Oceti Sakowin losing Pe’ Sla is real, and imminent. Should Pe’ Sla pass into the hands of someone other than us, it’s highly likely that it will be developed.

The State of South Dakota has expressed that it wants to use eminent domain to build a road right through the heart of Pe’ Sla. Development of Pe’ Sla would effectively cut off our access to it, and spell its destruction as a sacred site. Worse yet, we only have 9 days left before auction day. After analyzing our legal options, it was understood that due to time constraints and the fact that Pe’ Sla is currently owned by a private party (the Reynolds family), our only viable option to ensure Pe’ Sla remains a sacred site for future generations of Oceti Sakowin, as well as other Tribes like the Cheyenne and Kiowa who hold similar beliefs and ceremonies, was to buy it.

The cost for Pe’ Sla at auction, also called "Reynold’s Prairie," is estimated to run anywhere from $6 to $10 million. Chase Iron Eyes, founder of Lastrealindians.com, Inc., spearheaded the effort to save Pe’ Sla. Rodney Bordeaux, President of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, took the initiative to bring his concerns about Pe’ Sla to the Rosebud council, who voted to act as a conduit to unite all Oceti Sakowin Tribes.

Within days, the collaborative effort to save Pe’ Sla spread far and wide across the Dakotas, and now, the nation. Grassroots efforts have mobilized Oceti Sakowin Tribal members who are working hard to find solutions, and raise awareness. Right now, in council chambers across The Sioux Empire of old, Tribal leaders are working, against all odds, to raise enough money to buy back land that was stolen from them by the U.S. government.

Remember, the Sioux never accepted the Black Hills Settlement as proposed by the United States Supreme Court- who held that the Black Hills were wrongfully taken from us. This effort, by the united Oceti Sakowin to save one of our sacred sites, is unprecedented. Unlike stereotypical portrayals, the majority of Sioux Tribes still struggle financially. Unemployment is high, and many Tribal members live in poverty. Yet there are traditional Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota who are prepared to give till it hurts to save Pe’ Sla.

Pe’ Sla is rightfully ours. It was passed down to us from our ancestors, who were here many millennia before European invaders arrived. Now we implore you; stand with us. We need your help. Pray for us and our efforts to save Pe’ Sla. Share this story. Contact your congressman and voice your concerns for Pe’ Sla, the Oceti Sakowin sacred site that’s on the auction block. Contribute to our cause to buy back Pe’ Sla. Donations may be made online with LastRealIndians here or through the Rosebud Sioux Tribe/Pe Sla, 11 Legion Ave., P.O. Box 430, Rosebud, SD 57570. All donations to the Tribe are tax-deductible and will only be used toward the purchase of Pe Sla.

We’ve drawn a line in the sand. This effort may take all we’ve got, but we won’t lose Pe’ Sla without a fight. We are doing it for our children, and yours.

Ruth Hopkins (Sisseton-Wahpeton/Mdewakanton/Hunkpapa) is a writer, speaker,former science professor and tribal attorney. She is a columnist for Indian Country Today Media Network and LastRealIndians.com.

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swrussel's picture
Totally agree with this, Ruth. I have a related question that my son asked me and I could not answer because I do not know either the acreage or the amount in the registry of the court. I told him the story of the Black Hills litigation and how the Great Sioux Nation has said "not for sale" and so the money sits unclaimed, but, in my understanding, in interest bearing accounts. He asked me if it would be doable financially for the federal government to acquire the most important parts of the Black Hills by eminent domain and have the tribes reimburse the feds out of the compensation funds in the registry of the Court? I understand fully that even if it's financially doable that does not make it politically doable, and if the people tried to pull it off without eminent domain authority they would get hosed by the people currently holding white man's title. But if it were financially doable we could work on the politically doable part.
wandabutler's picture
Unbelieveable! We need all peoples behind this! Please continue to save/ procure sacred lands
rezzdog's picture
Share this with all friends. This is a live or die situation.
rezzdog's picture
Rip it kids!!!! Email everyone who matters.
gsevalikova's picture
Wow! We had NO idea that the Black Hills were up for action. We will start campaigning for your Pe 'Sla ASAP. You should try to see about finding( coasttocoastam.com) in your area and find the station( 10 pm 24/7) as out here in LA(KFI 640 AM)since recently there was a program on there about the drive to take american land and hand it over to European elites-royal families/ heads of state over there. Dr. Robert Bowen wrote" They own it all" a book that details this. His website is:newpeopleorder.com. I hope this helps with this situation,and good luck with stopping such an outrage.
gsevalikova's picture
One more thing-try the LA Weekly, they may publish this shocker for you(laweekly.com) and for what it's worth, All over Russia the same is happening there in a different way. Putin has enrinmental activists designated as TERRORISTS a couple years ago, but that has not stopped people from speaking out there. if you want you can google "Khimki Forest to have road built gainst people's wishes, and you'll see that Vinci is a French company that contracted with the Kremlin to build this thing. Keep an eye out for Vinci. Europe is rapidly re-investing in former colonies,even as Russia& china plot war with Mareica-Israel may hit Iran before US elections.
gsevalikova's picture
Just an idea. Has anyone thought of contacting Tribes with casinos in California like Morongo? they advertise on tv out here a lot.