David Rooks
The Wakpa Sica Reconciliation Place, the lofty aim of early adherents was for a place where all tribes of the Northern Plains could come together in a good way to celebrate their various cultures, and promote justice among their peoples and all others.

Wapka Sica: A Wounded Eagle of Tribal Unity Looking to Soar

David Rooks
3/22/16

A shell of nearly abandoned steel and concrete rises – like an eagle – above the Missouri River just outside Ft. Pierre, South Dakota. Owing its very existence to a long treasured dream of unity among the Tetonwan Oceti Sakowin (Seven Council Fires), for the past several years it has been left to private contributions to keep it warm enough to keep the pipes from freezing.

The lights are barely on.

Envisioned as the Wakpa Sica Reconciliation Place, the lofty aim of early adherents was for a place where all tribes of the Northern Plains could come together in a good way to celebrate their various cultures, and promote justice among their peoples and all others.

Richard Rangel, owner of RM Rangel Inc. of Rapid City, South Dakota, was lead project manager for the construction phase of the project. Rangel is thoroughly grounded in the dream, history and legislative language that began to be realized in the current structure of Wakpa Sica. At present, only the cultural half, the 39,000 square foot right wing of the structure’s shell, containing various offices and conference rooms, is partially completed.

It’s likely to remain that way.

Modeled on a graceful stylization of an eagle, construction on the left wing, meant to house a proposed 47,000 square foot peace and justice center, was never begun. Seen for miles from every direction, it stands forlorn and wounded over the landscape; a broken-winged eagle, still and helpless. What began as a project slated to cost $18.2 million dwindled precipitously when only $6 million scraped-together earmarks were all that was allotted.

Today, Wakpa Sica cannot get calls returned from anyone’s congressional delegation. Cost estimates for completing construction currently run as high as $30 million. Not long ago it was different, not long ago, the proposed center had the undivided support of one of the nation’s most powerful legislators: Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD).

The fledgling legislative effort for Wakpa Sica Reconciliation Place began in earnest in early 1999. This led to eventual passage of PL 106-568 in both houses of Congress in December, 2000. Soon after, signed into law by President Bill Clinton in January 2000, construction began in March 2003. “In a snapshot,” said Rangel, “that public law authorized construction ‘on behalf of the Great Sioux Nation’ – and it names 11 tribes.”

As a house bill, it was initially submitted by then South Dakota Rep. John Thune (R); the legislation was then taken up in the Senate by South Dakota’s two Senators, Majority Leader Daschle (D) and Sen. Tim Johnson (D). PL 106-568 passed both houses of Congress in December 2000. As sponsors of the initiative, South Dakota’s delegation vigorously promoted it until it was signed into law. Wakpa Sica Reconciliation Place was a legislative reality.

Apparently, in Washington, D.C. that’s considered enough.

A passionate aim of long time Lower Brule Tribal Chairman Mike Jandreau, it seemed his dream would be realized. With Jandreau now deceased, and no other tribal chairman that shares the depth of his commitment on the horizon, Wakpa Sica has been thrown on the heap of visions become victim to the sad fact that tribal governments fight a daily battle to find resources for more immediate needs involving, education, housing and law enforcement.

Still, proposed as a cultural and justice center for all the regions tribes, despite its descent into its present nominal existence, that remains the goal for those who would keep hope alive. Hope that still includes justice center plans for a mediation center, a tribal supreme court, and an economic development component where tribes can pool resources to create things like uniform commercial codes and inter-tribal calendars for seasonal cultural events. Another dream of the center was the repatriation of historical and cultural artifacts from the Smithsonian Institution and various other museums around the world.

Plans for these items and many others are stated in the language of PL 106-568, which, ultimately, was begun to reunite the traditional seven council fires of Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota peoples. So what went wrong? Why was funding, generally pro forma in the case of congressionally authorized public laws, never allocated?

Pages

You need to be logged in in order to post comments
Please use the log in option at the bottom of this page