SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Native American tribes have received some celebrity support in their effort to raise $9 million by the end of the month to buy land in South Dakota that they consider sacred.
Ezra Miller, who stars in the recently released film “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” and hip-hop producer Sol Guy appear in a short documentary-style film with Standing Rock Sioux tribal member Chase Iron Eyes as part of an effort to raise the final $2 million needed for the land deal.
Tribes of the Great Sioux Nation hope to buy nearly 2,000 acres in the Black Hills that they call Pe’ Sla. The property is important to their creation story, and tribal members have long held ceremonies there. When the land was put up for sale, tribal members worried it would be developed because of its proximity to Mount Rushmore.
The 1,942 acres of pristine prairie grass is the only sacred site on private land currently outside Sioux control.
“I came out here with the intention of being an observer ... I felt kind of removed from the story. But now, it’s fairly clear to me that nobody is removed from this story,” Miller says in the film. A not-yet-completed mountain carving of the Lakota warrior Crazy Horse can be seen in the background. “This story is central to all of our history and this struggle also cannot be removed. We are all inherently involved in what is going on out here.”
Land owners Leonard and Margaret Reynolds cancelled a public auction of the property earlier this year after tribal members expressed outrage. The Reynolds then accepted the tribes’ bid to purchase the land for $9 million if they have the money by Nov. 30.
The couple has not spoken publicly about the land sale and did not return a message left Wednesday seeking comment.
Iron Eyes said the tribes have raised more than $7 million so far, and he hopes Miller’s and Sol Guy’s involvement will help bring in another $1 million or more through a new online campaign. An earlier online campaign raised more than $300,000.
“Last time, it was real grassroots, it just sort of grew on its own fire, its own energy,” Iron Eyes said. “But this time we’re adding some extra voices to broaden the network.”
The 9-minute film was shot over three days in Rapid City and other locations throughout the Black Hills. The film highlights the contentious relationship between the tribes and the area’s white settlers.
An 1868 treaty set aside the Black Hills and other land for the Sioux, but Congress passed a law in 1877 seizing the land following the discovery of gold in western South Dakota. A 1980 U.S. Supreme Court ruling awarded more than $100 million to the Sioux tribes for the Black Hills, but the tribes refused to accept the money, saying the land has never been for sale. There are Sioux tribes in the Dakotas, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska and Canada.