SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — The planned auction of nearly 2,000 acres of land in South Dakota's picturesque Black Hills that is considered sacred by American Indian tribes has been cancelled, though it wasn't immediately clear why.
Brock Auction Company planned to auction five tracts of land owned by Leonard and Margaret Reynolds on Saturday. But a message on the auction house's website Thursday said it has been cancelled at the land owners' direction. The auction house and Margaret Reynolds declined comment.
Tribes of the Great Sioux Nation consider the site key to their creation story and are trying to purchase it because they fear new owners would develop the land, which they call Pe' Sla. The property, which spans about 1,942 acres of pristine prairie grass, is the only sacred site on private land currently outside Sioux control.
Rosebud Sioux Tribe spokesman Alfred Walking Bull said he didn't know the auction had been cancelled when contacted Thursday. His tribe, whose reservation is among the closest to the land, had agreed to allocate $1.3 million toward trying purchasing the property, though tribal officials have said they feared the selling price could be between $6 million and $10 million.
Ruth Hopkins, who helps run a website where about 5,000 people have donated more than $250,000 to help the tribes purchase the land, said she didn't know why the auction was called off. U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs spokeswoman Nedra Darling said she also was not aware the auction had been cancelled and had no comment.
A United Nations fact finder had urged the federal government, and local and state officials in South Dakota to consult with American Indians ahead of the auction.
Roughly 20 tribes make up the Great Sioux Nation, which was fragmented when American Indians were pushed to reservations and the tribes now span several states including Montana, Wyoming, the Dakotas and Minnesota, and Canada.
The tribes believe the Sioux people were created from the Black Hills. According to part of their spiritual tradition, Pe' Sla is where the Morning Star fell to Earth, killing seven beings that killed seven women. The Morning Star placed the souls of the women into the night sky as "The Seven Sisters," also known as the Pleiades constellation.
Tribal members hold ceremonies and rituals on the land.