Native Village
Youth and Education news
Volume 1  March, 2011

Saying No to $1 Billion
Why the impoverished Sioux Nation won’t take federal money
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Condensed by Native Village

South Dakota: Mario Gonzalez is Oglala Sioux and Mexican. As a tribal lawyer for the Sioux, he's devoted much of his career in the 100-year-long fight for the Black Hills of South Dakota.

More than 30 years ago, the U.S. awarded the Sioux $102,000,000 for taking the Black Hills from them. But the Sioux didn’t want the money -- they wanted their land back.

So the money was held in trust accounts and earned interest. Today, it has grown to $1,000,000,000 but remains untouched by some of the poorest people in the country. The still want their land back.

These days, Gonzalez is hopeful.  Barack Obama has indicated that he's open to innovative solutions. Gonzalez and a group ofSioux are working on a proposal to put in front of the president.




The issue is agonizing; the statistics are abysmal:

The Sioux have 17 scattered reservations in Montana, the Dakotas, and Minnesota.]

On the Oglala Sioux's Pine Ridge reservation, more than
80% of the people are unemployed.

Rape is pandemic.

50% of Oglala Sioux over 40 have diabetes.
 Life expectancies for men it is
48. For women, it's 52.

Tribe members insist that an 1877 act of Congress is invalid. In the first place, the land was never for sale, so why would the Sioux accept  money for it?

In the second place, the Congressional act that moved the Sioux from their sacred Black Hills wasn’t agreed to by enough tribal members.

But in 1980, the Supreme Court affirmed the original award of $102 000,000.

"There was some jubilation among some of the tribal members," Gonzales said.  "But there were a lot of younger people, including me, who felt that the Indian Claims Commission process, as it applied to the Sioux land claims, was a sham, and we should not participate.”

Yet the federal courts consider the ownership matter settled.

“The courthouse doors have been slammed in our face,” Gonzalez says. “Congress and the president are the only viable branches of government that can really resolve these issues.”

For the Sioux who want the money, Gonzales and other tell them: "Our grandfathers and great-grandparents spilled a lot of blood so future generations could have a homeland that included the Black Hills. [When our] money is all gone three years from now, that’s when the Sioux will become a defeated people. That’s when you will see them walking around in shame with their heads hanging.”

Some Sioux suggest letting Congress keep the principal, but accept the interest for much needed services or to
purchase other lands in the Black Hills.

Others lack confidence in the Sioux's ability to put these ideas into practice. They believe the Sioux need new leaders who can get past territory histories and jealousies to effectively manage the money. Otherwise, the money could actually tear the Sioux apart—a greater risk than the poverty they face today.

Gonzalez sees only one way forward: the Reparations Alliance. He Sapa, (which means “Black Hills” in Lakota,) was established by the Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association in 2009. He Sapa would educate the Sioux about their land claim.

He Sapa would also write a proposal suggesting the Sioux and U.S. share ownership and management of 1,300,000 acres of federal lands within the Black Hills. This would not include entities like post offices, Mount Rushmore, or other such places.

The Sioux see Obama as the first president in a long time to understand their problems.  The President has kept his promises to hire Indians throughout the federal government. He also signed an Indian-affairs bills that settled long-standing issues like law enforcement, water rights, and Indian trust accounting.

Gonzalez is pressing for a solution to the Black Hills issue during the next two years.

“You have to be persistent,” he said. “You get that energy from patriotism. We feel that this is our country, too; we have a duty to try to resolve this issue in an honorable manner.”

 Volume 1
On Day Dedicated to Native Americans, A Move to Honor Hopi Tribe's Code Talkers
New Office to Serve as Advocates for Tribal Veterans 
Metis Livid About Proposed Status System
Saying NO to $1 Billion Dollars
New Images of Remote Brazil Tribe
Amazonian Indians More Advanced Than We Knew
Australia's Aborigines to Launch Political Party
Irish Travellers to Shed Light on Indigenous Research

Volume 2
Berenstain Bears to Speak Lakota
Students Tell Saanich Myths Through Computer Animation  
Children's Book Exhibit Depicts Native Path to Diabetes Prevention
Mentoring Program Coming to Kodiak
100% Knights to Create Career Pathways for Aboriginal Students
Arizona Culinary School Recruits American Indians, Now Available for Federal Financial Aid
Book Lets Great Lakes American Indians Tell Their Own Story
Volume 3
UN Declares 2011 the "International Year of Forests"
Think the Super Bowl Battle was Big? Fight Over Conservation Funding Looms Larger
Limit Set for Native Polar Bear Hunters Under International Treaty
White House: Tribes Fare Well in 2012 Budget
Ziebach County South Dakota: America's Poorest County
Top 5 Obama Regulations that American Businesses Hate Most
The Top 11 Corporate Cash Hoarders
Volume 4
Donna Karan Collaborates With an Indigenous Artist as Part of "Nomad Two Worlds" Art Exhibit
Alligator Wrestling and the Men Who Do It
Custer Flag to Be Sold by DIA
Museums Work to Credit the Individuals Behind Native American Artwork
All My Relations Gallery Showcase for Native Art
Grammy Winner Helps Locals Build, Understand Flutes
German TV Crew Films Program About Nokota Horses

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