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

According to Rangel, it should have been baked into the cake of baseline budgeting in several departments. “What is astounding to me is that the public law is really clear that this is a congressionally authorized project, and yet it never received appropriations in the traditional sense that a public law should get appropriations,” said Rangel. “In other words, it should be a line item under the Secretary of the Interior, and a line item under Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and a line item in the Department of Justice (DOJ) in their annual budgets.

“But it never made it into the budget process. Not in the President’s budget, nor in the final budget adopted by Congress – which is very rare. It never got there because Daschle went another way. Back then, earmarks were still a way of getting funding for hometown projects. In this instance, Daschle introduced earmarks by way of HUD in the form of grants to be issued to Wakpa Sica Historical Society.

Earmarks became anathema for politically sensitive politicians running for re-election and a hot potato in Congress. But since the ribbon and groundbreaking ceremonies, along with the speechifying for Wakpa Sica had already been recorded and photographed, little, if any, political juice remained to be claimed from Wakpa Sica. Politicians, as politicians often do, moved on to fresher clamors. Today, Wakpa Sica is stuck in a financial cul-de-sac.

Since 2011, Rangel has worked patiently with the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Association (GPTCA) to resurrect the multi-million dollar project. A year ago, the contractor sent out copies of the Public Law with a detailed description of everything that has been done since the law was enacted, broken down by fiscal year since the beginning of the earmarks up to the present: what got accomplished, how much was spent, everything. “It’s an interesting read,” said Rangel.

A meeting with GPTCA took place on April 17, 2015. Because it had been so long since Wakpa Sica had received any tribal consideration, Rangel supplied a power point introduction to the project. “How many tribal administrations have come and gone since 2003?” he reasoned. “I was facing people, some of which did not know Wakpa even existed.”

Unfortunately, he was right to be concerned. The realities of tribal politics and the nature of the two year cycle between tribal elections dictated the agenda. Rangel was only allotted 10 minutes to make the case for Wakpa Sica. This, after several phone calls and trips to various tribal offices. Yet he took a philosophic view. He had crossed a bridge; most of the stakeholders had been in a room to hear his admittedly truncated pitch. He would continue to reestablish relationships and build interest in the project.

“The approach was, basically, reintroducing Wakpa, showing the status of it, and the promise of it that still remains,” Rangel said. Next, in consultation with the tribes, the businessman drafted a resolution of support for Wakpa Sica to be signed by every tribal chairmen and presented to South Dakota’s congressional delegation. Last June, the resolution was approved and sent to South Dakota’s two Senators and one Congresswoman. Of the three, only now Senator John Thune’s office replied, and that was to express surprise that anyone was still interested in Wakpa Sica.

There have been small victories. Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Chairman Harold Frazier has expressed real support for reinvigorating the project. The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal government has also committed to paying for the ongoing utilities, expenses and maintenance of the buildings. Finally, a tribal gathering to discuss the problems of methamphetamine and other drug use among Native children was held in the Cultural Center in December.

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