SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — A local tribe has raised more than $1 million to buy land it and other Native Americans consider sacred in South Dakota’s picturesque Black Hills, but it’s still far short of what tribal officials fear will be the winning bid during this weekend’s auction.
The site plays a key role in the creation story of the tribes making up the Great Sioux Nation, and members fear that new owners would develop the 1,942 acres of pristine prairie grass. The land, which the tribes call Pe’ Sla, is the only sacred site on private land outside Sioux control.
The Rosebud Sioux Tribe, whose reservation is among the closest to the land, initially promised $50,000 but is now agreeing to allocate $1.3 million, tribe spokesman Alfred Walking Bull told The Associated Press on Tuesday. Online donations bring the total to $1.4 million.
However, based on conversations with the auction house and others, Rosebud Sioux President Rodney Bordeaux estimates it could take between $6 million and $10 million to purchase the land.
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, which is owned by Leonard and Margaret Reynolds. The couple declined comment Tuesday.
Sara Jumping Eagle, a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, started a website where more than 3,500 people had donated more than $158,000 as of Tuesday. Her husband, Chase Iron Eyes, is the founder of Last Real Indians, a website that promotes indigenous writers and is trying to raise $1 million to help purchase the land. He’s also trying to spread the word through social media.
Iron Eyes said he wasn’t aware that the Rosebud Sioux Tribe has increased the amount allocated, but called it “amazing” news.
“That is extremely heartening for us to hear that,” he said.
Walking Bull said $800,000 will come from the Rosebud Sioux Tribal Land Enterprise, which was established to piece back together the tribe’s lands. The other $500,000 will come directly from the tribe, he said.
He also said Bordeaux was talking with leaders of other tribes to put in money, though he wouldn’t comment on details of those discussions. Roughly 20 tribes make up the Great Sioux Nation, which was fragmented when Native Americans were pushed to reservations and now spans several states including Montana, Wyoming, the Dakotas and Minnesota, and Canada.