Earlier this month we brought you the depressing story of how Anheuser-Busch is helping to destroy the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in southwestern South Dakota. Now I am happy to bring you some good news about the community.
The South Unit of the Badlands National Park, which is entirely within the Pine Ridge Reservation, could soon become the first ever tribally run National Park in the country.
The Park Service and the Tribe have “worked together” to manage the South Unit’s 133,000 acres for almost 40 years. If a tribal national park is enabled by Congress through legislation, the Oglala Sioux people could manage and operate their lands.
“Our National Park System is one of America’s greatest story tellers,” Secretary Salazar said in a prepared statement. “As we seek to tell a more inclusive story of America, a tribal national park would help celebrate and honor the history and culture of the Oglala Sioux people. Working closely with the Tribe, Congress, and the public, the Park Service will work to develop a legislative proposal to make the South Unit a tribal national park.”
The sentiments are nice, but how did this situation evolve?
Another Shameful Story Of The Treatment Of Native Americans
From National Parks Traveler:
The South Unit of Badlands National Park is an oddity, having been born of an administrative decision that incorporated a large tract of Indian-owned land into a national park in a rather heavy-handed manner. A gunnery and bombing range was established on OST land in 1942 shortly after America entered World War II. When the range was declared excess and closed in the 1960s, it was returned to the Oglala Sioux in the form of a government-held trust, and with the provision that it be part of the expanded Badlands National Monument.
Two years later, it became Badlands National Park, but the Oglala Sioux Tribe still had little say in the management of the land.
Better Days Ahead?
The agreement being worked on now keeps the Badlands National Park intact–but gives the tribe the full authority to manage its portion of the park and to also reap the benefits of visitor traffic and new jobs. And that could be a huge benefit.
The irony of the Oglala Sioux being “allowed” to take control of their own land should not be lost. But at least maybe this action could set a precedent for other tribes around the country. Let’s hope so.
Photo Credit: miss_distance