June 28, 2002
Tribe continues dig protest
By Kara Christensen, Journal Staff Writer
INTERIOR -- Members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe continue to protest a proposed fossil dig in the South Unit of Badlands National Park. Meanwhile, park and tribal leaders are waiting for the other side to act.
The mood on Stronghold Table is peaceful, like a family reunion, said Cecilia Lovey Two Bulls, whose family has given food and supplies to the approximately 25 protesters who camp overnight.
Its really a nice get-together, she said Friday. When you go up there, everybodys sitting around relaxing.
The protest began Tuesday on Stronghold Table, about nine miles west of the Rockyford Visitors Center on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The tribe technically owns the land, but there is confusion over its management because a memorandum of agreement signed in 1976 puts the land within National Park Service boundaries.
The park service planned a fossil dig for August, but some tribal members say it will interfere with sacred and cultural sites, including burial grounds. About 25 protesters vow to camp on Stronghold Table until the dig is canceled.
We have been keeping a very low profile and considering it a demonstration to express concerns that a group of people have raised with governments, tribal and ours, on the South Unit, William Supernaugh, Badlands National Park superintendent, said Friday.
Were simply allowing the demonstration to continue without any interference at this point, he said. The park service has received no official demands, Supernaugh said.
John Yellow Bird Steele, tribal president, voiced personal support for the protesters efforts Friday, but not as president. However, he said there is cooperation within the tribe for protecting the sites.
We need to take care of that stuff before any activity continues by any entity, whether from the park service or the tribe, he said. Show a little respect for the people that have been passed on to the spirit world.
Steele said he wants cooperation and details from the park service about the fossil dig. He said the park needs permission from the tribe before digging.
In our opinion, its supposed to be a dual-management, cooperative effort out there, he said.
He said he will not allow the excavating to begin. Ill stop it through the courts or physical confrontation, whatever they want, he said.
Supernaugh said he would be open to a reconciliation meeting and hopes to find a quick, peaceful solution. He said some surveys planned in the area have been postponed until the situation is less tense. He plans to lie low.
They know where we are and how to reach us if they want to send a message, he said. Their message will be cordially received.
Steele and Supernaugh have been corresponding about the dig since late April. They met June 21 on Pine Ridge to discuss it, although Steele said he did not have the legal advice at the meeting that he wanted.
We did have a few words, and hes sticking to his position, which is hes going to do what hes going to do without regard to the owners of the land, the tribe, Steele said of Supernaugh.
Supernaugh said he and Steele cordially agreed to disagree at the meeting.
Contact Christensen at 394-8458 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
August 04, 2002
Badlands fossil dig mired in history, opposing views
By Heidi Bell Gease, Journal Staff Writer
STRONGHOLD TABLE - The Badlands are never the same place twice.
Changing light and shadows constantly shift across the rocky buttes and spires, making them appear flat and white one minute and layered with color the next. At mid-day in summer, the parched soil is a barren, unforgiving wasteland. At twilight, the same landscape becomes a fairyland of pastel pinks and purples.
How you see the Badlands depends on timing and where you stand. And the same is true of the current conflict over the Badlands South Unit and whats called the Stronghold.
On its face, the issue looks simple. The National Park Service wants to dig ancient mammal fossils in the South Unit, which is technically Oglala Sioux tribal land but has been included in Badlands National Park boundaries since the late 1960s. A group of Oglala Lakota is camped near Stronghold Table in peaceful protest of the dig, and Tribal President John Steele has voiced support for them.
But as with most things in Indian Country, theres more here than meets the eye. The vastly different views of this area are a good place to start.
Treasures in the rock
Scientists look over the rocky rims of the South Unit and see buried treasure that could help explain life on Earth 35 million years ago. Its a treasure thats slowly disappearing because of the elements and illegal private collectors.
The Badlands are filled with fossils. Park officials say they chose to pursue this particular dig, their first in the South Unit, because it was being plundered by fossil hunters. In 1999, park officials found 18 holes where fossils had been removed from the dig site.
Under a memorandum of agreement with the tribe signed in 1976, the National Park Service is responsible for administering the South Unit and providing for the care, maintenance, preservation, and restoration of features of prehistoric, historic, scientific, or scenic interest on tribal lands.
The looted site prompted park officials to seek federal funding for the proposed dig, slated to begin the week of Aug. 12. The three-year project would remove remains of titanothere, a rhinoceros-like mammal with a forked horn. South Dakota School of Mines & Technology and the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology and the Denver Museum of Science and Nature would conduct the dig.
This is the only way we can protect these resources from fossil poachers and from the elements, said Brian Kenner, chief of resource management for Badlands National Park. Were not stealing these fossils. We dont sell them ... They remain tribal trust resources, just exactly as if they were still in the ground.
Kenner described the dig as a one-eighth acre excavation using shovels and trowels. Recovered fossils would probably be stored at Tech, which has an agreement with the tribe, but could be displayed at a Lakota cultural heritage center the park service plans to build in the South Unit next year.
Park Superintendent William Supernaugh informed Steele of the planned dig in a letter dated April 30, 2002.
Steele responded that tribal officials were surprised to read that you are assuming authority on Tribal lands. He wrote that although the tribe agrees cultural and archaeological sites need protection, the Tribe disagrees with the manner in which the NPS is attempting to locate these sites.
Steele also said the tribe would not allow any fossil excavation within the South Unit, by NPS or anyone else.
Supernaugh said the park service had consulted with the Oglala Sioux Parks and Recreation office and the Badlands Bombing Range Project Office, charged with removing unexploded ordnance from a former U.S. bombing range in the area.
NPS has also consulted with the Grey Eagle Society of tribal elders. Theyve never to my knowledge asked us to not do anything down there, Supernaugh said.
Park officials say the world benefits from fossils found in the Badlands. They can help scientists better understand climate, evolution, and more.
The federal government takes fossil theft seriously. Last spring, four Wisconsin residents were fined as much as $1,000 after pleading guilty in federal court to stealing government property from the Badlands.
A tribal member was convicted of violating the Archaeological Resource Protection Act for selling shell beads found near 800-year-old human remains in the South Unit. He was sentenced to six months in prison, probation and restitution.
Keepers of the stronghold dream
Many Lakota see more than rock and sky when they look out over the Badlands South Unit. They see a cemetery, a place where their ancestors died along with dreams of a better world. They see a site sanctified by the blood, bones and spirits of their people. They see their history.
Lovey Two Bulls, who has spearheaded the protest, said the proposed dig is near a human burial site. Her sons, Tony and Ernie, found human bones in the area a while back but left them undisturbed. When the fossil dig was announced, they had to speak out.
The brothers have spent weeks of this blistering hot summer hiking the area on foot, documenting some 100 sites they say are significant or sacred. Theyve found tipi rings, gravesites, cut firewood and the bones of babies and adults.
You go out there, and its almost like a drive-through museum, Tony said. A lot of people lived there at one time. A lot of people died out there, too.
Being there, he said, You felt them. You just get a feeling like theyre all around you.
The Two Bulls family and as many as 30 others have camped out at Stronghold Table since June 25. They call themselves the Keepers of the Stronghold Dream, in honor of their ancestors who danced and died here.
They had a vision for a better life, Lovey said. They danced and prayed for these things, but it became a nightmare for them.
To understand, you must look at history. For the Lakota, the arrival of white settlers brought the end of a nomadic lifestyle. As gold was discovered and more whites came west, there were repeated conflicts between whites and Indians.
The federal government made treaties promising large tracts of land, including the sacred Black Hills, to the Sioux then promptly broke those treaties. Little by little, Indians who had moved freely about the plains for centuries were forced onto reservations to depend on government handouts.
But in the late 1800s, the Paiute prophet Wovoka brought a vision of hope. If natives danced the Ghost Dance, he said, the Son of God would renew the earth and create a new world in its place. The dead would live again, the buffalo would return, and all would live happily together.
Many Lakota danced the Ghost Dance on the Stronghold, a grassy mesa surrounded by sheer cliffs. Connected to the mainland by one narrow ridge of rock, the Stronghold was easily defended.
The Wounded Knee Massacre on Dec. 29, 1890, marked the end of the Indian wars. The massacres wounded were brought to Stronghold. Todays protesters say another massacre happened there later. Theyve found human remains to prove it, they say, some left where they fell when shot by soldiers.
Margaret Lemley Warrens book, The Badlands Fox, illustrates how, at that time, men made sport of riling the Ghost Dancers.
We went in and stirred them up and a lot of our fellows laid in at the head of a gulch, her father, Pete Lemley, was quoted as saying. We kids went over to the Stronghold and got em after us and they chased us down Corral Draw. Riley Miller was at the head of it ... and he just killed them Indians as fast as he could shoot ... We killed about 75 of them.
Lemley said Miller and another man used pack horses to take out seven loads of guns, war bonnets, ghost shirts and other items. Riley took em to Chicago and started a museum, he said. He made a barrel of money out of it.
Descendants of those Ghost Dancers fear the same exploitation today. Though both things are illegal under federal law, they wonder if the park service is using fossils as an excuse to remove either zeolite, a useful mineral, or human remains from South Unit.
They also talk about being spied on and followed by helicopters and men on four-wheelers. Protester George Tall believes NPS is already removing things from the Badlands at night.
Park officials scoff at those claims, which sound far-fetched. But Marla Jean Big Boy, a Washington attorney, doesnt think theyre so unbelievable.
Big Boy has helped Indian tribes lobby for the return of ancient human remains through the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act and worked on the case of Kennewick Man, a 9,200-year-old skeleton found in Washington state. Government agencies and museums, including the Smithsonian, wanted to study the bones. Indians wanted to rebury them.
Theres a market for human remains, Big Boy said, telling how a small bone fragment from The Ancient One, as Kennewick Man was called, was lost and never found. We figure its over in Europe, sitting on somebodys coffee table.
Neither does Big Boy discount other motives for the dig. The possibilities are endless, what else they could be looking for, she told about 80 people meeting at the Stronghold Wednesday. We have to protect our ancestors.
The protesters claims frustrate Supernaugh, who described the planned excavation as seven miles from the Stronghold.
They keep talking about us having this dig on Stronghold Table and the sacredness of the Stronghold because of the Ghost Dance and the tradition of warriors that were killed and buried in that area, he said. We respect that, and people should realize that we would not do anything to infringe upon that highly relevant and highly sacred site.
But protesters say the entire area is sacred. In native belief systems, religion is connected to land, and sacred sites hold memories, energy and a portal to the spirit world.
Vine Deloria Jr., a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and a longtime professor of history and religious studies, has said that in contrast to Western religions, which are based on events of long ago, place-related sacred places provide an experience each time they are visited.
But theres another factor at work here: longstanding tension between Indians and the federal government. Conspiracy theories may sound paranoid, but this is the same U.S. government that recently created the Office of Strategic Influence to try to mold global news. Its the same U.S. government that broke treaties with Indian tribes. Its the same U.S. government said to have purposely introduced deadly smallpox to Indians 100 years ago through infected blankets.
Whether or not the smallpox part is true, the Indian people believe it is. That makes it real, and it still colors their dealings with the federal government.
A means of survival
A man with no job living in one of the nations poorest counties might look at the Badlands and see food for his children. To him, the petrified remains of an ancient sea creature are basically a rock, to be removed from acres of remaining rock and sold to a collector rich enough not to have seen hunger in his childrens eyes.
Most fossils may bring in $50 or less. But a story on the National Geographic News Web site states that 18 titanotheres skulls removed from the South Unit were worth $5,000 apiece.
Basically, theres a lot of fossils down there, theres a lot of unemployment, theres wealthy people who want fossils, and theres a lot of people down on the reservation who are willing to locate them and sell them, Brian Kenner, the Badlands chief of resource management, said. Theres a long history of fossil theft down there.
In fact, Kenner believes some Stronghold protesters have ulterior motives for keeping the park service out: protecting the fossil beds they themselves excavate for personal income.
Lovey Two Bulls said none of the protesters hunts fossils. But she knows others do, including past or present tribal council members, tribal employees and even tribal presidents.
Fossils are big money, she said. I dont care if they hunt fossils. I dont care. But go do it somewhere else. Dont do it around Stronghold.
If Oglala people are removing fossils, some might say, So what? The South Unit may be part of Badlands National Park, but its still tribal land, and the fossils still technically belong to the tribe.
Others point out that the fossils belong to the tribe as a whole, not individual members.
At any rate, protesters want the tribe to end its agreement with the park service and take back the South Unit. That would take an Act of Congress, Supernaugh said, and it would have some consequences.
Currently, the tribe receives 50 percent of gate receipts from visitors to Badlands National Park. Last year, that amounted to about $800,000, minus expenses. The money goes to the Oglala Sioux Tribal Parks and Recreation Authority, which uses it for administrative expenses and to run the tribes buffalo program.
The park service also provides excess wildlife to the tribe, and tribal members have preferential status when applying for park service jobs. All those benefits would end if the agreement ended as would plans for the tribally operated cultural heritage/visitors center.
The Lakota are known to be patient and tenacious, even when money that could help improve their lives is at stake. A federal judge granted the Sioux $106 million in 1980 in compensation for the governments taking the Black Hills. The tribes still havent accepted the money, which has grown to more than $500 million.
Between the park service and the Stronghold, theres a lot of gray area, which may be where most Oglalas opinions actually fall. Many say the protesters do not speak for the entire tribe, but few are willing to speak on the record.
Pinky Clifford serves on the parks committee. Asked how the funding loss would affect the tribe, she declined to comment. I have thoughts, but I have no public comment, she said.
Some members of the tribal council, land committee and others have met with park service officials to discuss how the management agreement could be amended to make it work for both parties.
Stronghold protesters say NPS has not honored its commitments under the memorandum. For instance, the promised visitor center still hasnt been built, and plans to develop interpretive and recreational programs havent materialized.
But others note that the tribe hasnt fulfilled its obligations, either.
Since that 76 agreement, weve never lived up to our part of it. NPS hasnt (either), said tribal Vice President Theresa Two Bulls.
She would like to see more communication and cooperation among tribal members to resolve the issues. If people work together, she said, the tribe could someday administer the South Unit.
But what plans do we have in place to manage that? she asked. It has to be a plan thats going to involve every tribal member. We have to look out for each and every one, not just certain people or certain groups.
Anita Ecoffey believes most people would like to see the tribe develop the South Unit. I believe we have our own people who could do this, she said. I still have a lot of faith in our people.
Park officials say they want to work with tribal leaders to settle the matter, but that Steele and others wont return phone calls. Steele could not be reached for comment for this story.
Tribal members say theyre upset NPS doesnt involve them in decision-making. The problem weve had, Kenner said, is that we invite them to all our planning meetings ... and theyve never showed.
For now, many tribal officials seem willing to avoid the issue. Tribal primary elections for all council seats and officers are coming up next month.
The tribal council did vote unanimously July 26 to request that Supernaugh resign or be transferred, however.
Meanwhile, the dig will go on, though this years work will involve more documentation than digging. Supernaugh says his job is to protect park resources, regardless of the tribes position.
Theres a requirement for us to consult with the tribe. That doesnt mean that they have a veto authority, he said. My attorneys tell me that theres nothing in the legislation or the MOA that subjects the federal government to the control of the tribe, particularly on lands that we are administering.
Despite a few confrontations between campers and park service rangers, the Stronghold protest remains peaceful. Camp Justice, the camp established near Whiteclay, Neb., to protest unsolved deaths of Indians, has temporarily joined the Stronghold protest.
Protesters plan to join hands and surround the dig site when the time comes. If necessary, Toby Big Boy said, they will be arrested.
As my grandma would say, you have to pray for people who are ignorant, Marla Big Boy said. I think what were dealing with is a different world view.
Journal staff writer Kara Christensen contributed to this report.
Comments or questions on this story? Contact reporter Heidi Bell Gease at 394-8419, or e-mail her at email@example.com.
RE: Rapid City Journal August 5, 2002
Badlands fossil dig mired in history, opposing views By Heidi Bell Gease, Journal Staff Writer
In the article on Stronghold Table, Brian Kenner is quoted making a very slanderous statement regarding his speculation on peoples motivation that are unknown to him. This guy, Brian Kenner, is extremely racist, just like the superintendent, Wild Bill Supernaugh. When I worked in Resource Mgmt. at BADL (Badlands National Park), Kenner was my boss' boss. The bigotry literally boils in him. Every inflammatory statement by Kenner in the previous article clearly shows typical Kenner attitude.
The article further discusses non-Indian people guilty of premeditated murder, as well as theft of personal property and cultural items. I wonder how many non-Indian thieves (some are named in the article) of Lakota property have been jailed! And, the theft of the area you call Badlands National Park, North and South Units, is one large example. Each of these situations clearly amounts to cultural genocide.
The issue of preferential treatment in hiring practices is another misconception. Look into the last names of Park employees; tell me how many of them have recognizable Lakota last names. How many of those OST members that the Park hires could be picked out of a crowd as being Indian? Equal opportunity laws were enacted for a very specific reason, those reasons are not shown in it's practice.
And, in response to the case of BADL bison going to Pine Ridge, ITBC (Intertribal Bison Cooperative), with the cooperation of the National Park Service, stole Badlands bison years ago, in order to increase size & look in their herd at Cheyenne River. Now however, no one is getting "excess" bison because BADL trusted bison management there to the city-slickers from their law enforcement division. So, calf recruitment in the Park plummeted to approx. 10 % in recent years. (Recruitment in that herd, on that grass, should be over 90 % every year!)
Also, I was supposedly hired by BADL about three years back, to develop a Management Plan for the "South Unit". Prior to that, I had worked as a Biological Science Technician with Wind Cave National Park. They (BADL) didn't like my plans though; which included total Lakota control, complete removal of cattle, & reintroduction of bison after the government expediently cleaned-up their mess there. Kenner even went to the extreme of down-playing my knowledge of bison ecology & making fun of a presentation I'd recently given at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, during an informal mediation hearing regarding my original racial discrimination complaint against BADL. UNL thought enough of my presentation, research, & knowledge to make me an Associate Fellow through the Center for Great Plains Studies at UNL. (Ordinarily, only faculty receive that honor, I was still an under-graduate in the OLC Interdisciplinary Environmental Science program.) I was fired immediately after filing a formal racial discrimination complaint. The government neglected to give a final decision on my complaint. And, they refused to answer to my complaint on the wrongful firing.
Oyate, keep in mind what I said on the Lakota Landowners Association KILI radio program a couple years back too... "The one thing Supernaugh fears most is the Ft. Laramie Treaty!"
Respecting the land + Respecting the people = Returning the land to the people.
Charlie "Wolf" Smoke
August 08, 2002
Badlands fossil dig delayed
By Heidi Bell Gease, Journal Staff Writer
STRONGHOLD TABLE -- The National Park Service has delayed a proposed fossil dig in the South Unit of Badlands National Park pending a meeting with Oglala Sioux tribal officials.
The dig for ancient animal fossils was supposed to start next week. Some members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe have objected to the project, saying it is too close to human graves and cultural or historical sites in the area.
This week, National Park Service Regional Director Bill Schenk agreed to delay the dig until he and other park administrators could meet with tribal President John Steele and other tribal leaders. The meeting will be Aug. 27 on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
"I think the Park Service is trying to be rational and understanding (of) the concerns of the tribe," F.A. Calabrese, an archaeologist and associate regional director for the National Park Service in Omaha, Neb., said. "There isn't any reason that we have to do this in a hostile manner, that I can see.
"Hopefully, we can work it out."
Some tribal members protesting the dig by camping at Stronghold Table in the South Unit had planned to link hands and surround the dig site next week. They saw the delay as a minor victory for the tribe and for protesters.
"It's given us time to take a good breath," Lovey Two Bulls, who has led the protest, said. "But we're still going back after our land."
The South Unit is technically tribal land but has been included in the park boundaries for about 35 years. Under a Memorandum of Agreement signed in 1976, the National Park Service is responsible for administering the South Unit.
Two Bulls and some others want to see the tribe sever ties with the park service and take control of the South Unit, possibly developing it for tourism. But that hasn't happened yet, and park service officials say they are legally mandated to protect fossil resources in the park.
Fossil hunters already have plundered the proposed dig area, prompting the park service to pursue funding for a dig. The three-year project would remove the fossils and keep them in trust for the Oglala Sioux Tribe.
"We don't do excavations of anything unless you have to, basically, unless it's threatened," Calabrese said. "We're not doing this just because the paleontologists are interested. That's not it at all."
In geology and archaeology, he said, "When a resource is threatened, the method of mitigating that threat is removal with documentation. That's just the nature of the sciences."
He said the dig still could proceed this fall if an agreement is reached.
Badlands National Park Superintendent Bill Supernaugh said the Aug. 27 meeting is "an excellent opportunity for all of the decision makers to come together and discuss the underlying issues. I look at this as a significant opportunity to make some progress to a better understanding of our roles and responsibilities."
Tribal President John Steele did not return calls for comment.
Questions or comments on this story? Call reporter Heidi Bell Gease at 394-8419 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lakota Stronghold, in defense of the Ghost Dancer
Lakota Stronghold, in defense of the Ghost Dancers
By Brenda Norrell Pechanga Net
PINE RIDGE, S.D. There is only the light of a quarter-moon and a canopy of shooting stars when Lakota voices in Stronghold camp say, They are coming.
In the distance, fourteen Lakota horseback riders, some riding bareback, are approaching on the same route that survivors of the massacre of Wounded Knee followed 112 years ago.
Here on Stronghold Table they Ghost Danced so the people would live and they were massacred. Now, the remains of men, women and children -- Lakota, Paiute, Northern Cheyenne, Northern Arapaho and other tribes -- are apart of this earth.
With a drum and Lakota song by elder Archie Little, the horseback riders circle in the darkness and hear strong advice from Percy White Plume on the need to respect women and be kind and loving fathers.
They camp on the Stronghold where the Tokala (Kit Fox) Society, the traditional Lakota warrior society, has come to defend the sacred. They are prepared to do whatever necessary to prevent the National Park Service from excavating in the Badlands.
Robert Tall, 20, rode horseback to the Stronghold. I feel we have been violated, they took our lands from us. We are trying to keep our place here as our home. We are free here.
I wake up every morning, whether I am here or at home, not knowing whether there will be a gun in my face or a big smile and plate of breakfast.
It is morning in Stronghold camp and the voices of the Lakota Land Alliance on KILI Radio salutes the horseback riders and Tokala here. The morning radio news drifts across camp as the scent of potatoes, onions, bacon and coffee fills the air.
Tall says to Indian young people, Be who you are and don't change what you feel inside. Be strong for your people.
James Toby Big Boy, says Lakota medicine men are clear on what this struggle is about.
It is not about fossils and it is not about money. It is about protecting the sacred, protecting the remains of our ancestors. They are resting now, let them rest.
Looking out across Stronghold Table, Darwin Apple says, This was the last stronghold of Crazy Horse. He came to this place to escape the troops who were pursuing him.
Apple points out that the National Park Service intends to excavate and place the remains in trust for the tribe in museums.
Apple, however, says, They are already being kept in trust by a greater power.
Lakota elder Archie Little, Tagliskawakan, said the region of the Badlands is littered with live bombs and explosive from testing during World War II. While there are tribal and federal efforts underway to clear the explosives out of the Badlands, he said bombing range efforts are being used as a guise for something else: elicit searches for fossils and Indian remains.
There are a lot of live bombs. But their tracks go right by the bombs. They are looking for bones. They are like dogs. They like to chew on those things.
Little said of the haunting trafficking of Indian remains, âIf you go to a fancy office, you will probably find one of these skulls that they are using for an ashtray.
The secret, he said, is to be humble, show respect and offer respect. The white man, however, has violated these spiritual laws.
When they die are they going to take this land with them? This earth they claim will eat them up in the dust.
Little said there are childrenâs bones here, over the edge of Stronghold Table, where they were massacred during the Ghost Dance. He hopes other tribes will come to honor their ancestors who died in the Ghost Dance here and help carry on the struggle.
Little also points out that the skulls are absent from the remains in Indian graves here.
Then, pointing out that the zeolite mineral is plentiful here, he said, That is also what they want.
Just below Stronghold Table, are the remains of those who died here. Buried in shallow graves, the bones are now being exposed by drought and erosion. Lakota say it is no accident. The spirits of those who passed have chosen this time to reveal themselves.
On a steep cliff, the remains of a Lakota teenager are present with the bones of his horse he was buried with. There is a grave, covered with stones nearby. Teepee rings, now photographed for a pending court case and testimony before a Senate Select Committee, are also here. The number of rocks in the teepee circle and the absence of firepits indicates Lakota may have hidden here during winter months during times of massacres.
The National Park Service, however, planning to excavate here, states there are no remains here.
The National Park Service has no knowledge of any human remains having been discovered in the South Unit of Badlands National Park. No human remains are at risk . . . wrote William Supernaugh, superintendent of Badlands National Park, to Cecelia Lovey Two Bulls, among the leaders of this movement, on Aug. 2.
Meanwhile, Lakota gathered beneath a canopy, with sandwiches and stew, at the Stronghold for a day of sharing and talks on strength and healing. Michael Standing Soldier, from Wakanyeja Pawicayapi Inc. (Children First) in Porcupine spoke on ancestral grief.
Standing Solider said the Oglala have long held their power in the symbol of the four colors of the four directions and the powers represented. We had all these things deep inside of us as a people.
Historical trauma, however, has been passed from generation to generation. Healing comes through remembering, understanding and placing blame where it should be, he said.
The trauma began when the innocent, children and elderly, were murdered. It continued through the attack on the minds in boarding schools and on the spirits by Christians.
Although the night was a time of spiritual revelation for Lakota, Christians tried to change this. They made us fear the night. In the nighttime, they said there was a devil out there.
Percy White Plume spoke on fatherhood and respect. Hold your children, he urged. Speaking of how men grow up without being hugged, he told men to ask the women in their lives to hug them and realize how it feels. Then, he said, think about how good children feel when hugged.
This story begins here, but it does not end here.
On night patrol in the Badlands, following the gathering for strength and healing, four American Indians and this reporter are staked out on three mesas, armed only with walkie-talkies and pints of water.
It is eerie in the darkness, the only sounds are of a bull and the only movement is of bats. There is this question, âWhat do we do if a helicopter lands next to us?
The night before, at the Stronghold patrol lookout point on the edge of the mesa, Lakotas watched with binoculars as three helicopters hovered in the darkness above the Badlands. The area is closed by tribal order to the National Park Service and fossil-hunters. Still, the helicopters come at night. A cable appeared to be lowered from the helicopters and a large box lifted from the area below.
Lakota at the Stronghold fear fossils are being taken in the cover of darkness. The other possibility is that the large amounts of zeolite, used in nuclear waste dump lining, baby diapers and cat litter, are being tested or taken out in the cover of darkness.
On this night, however, with the team staked out on the mesas, the helicopters return and hover in circles above, but do not land. The National Park Service said it has no knowledge of the helicopters at night.
Earlier in the week, Toby Big Boy, sister Lovey Two Bulls and family members protested the planned excavation at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.
Meeting with them was Cahuilla Kaweah M. Red Elk, Lakota, from the Center on Human Rights and Indian Law in Colorado Springs, Colo. As the National Park Service, under the Interior Department, pressed for the location of remains, she said Indian tribes are not required to tell the location or description of the remains of their ancestors.
Tribes do not have to disclose this to anyone.
Julia Taylor, public relations manager for the Denver Museum of Nature and Science told the Two Bulls that the museum became involved because it was asked to be a contractor to help with the science in the project at the excavation.
But, we have pulled out of the project until your tribe and the National Park can come to an agreement.
The National Park Service, which administers the Oglala land in the Badlands by way of a 1976 memorandum of agreement, told the tribe the excavation will be a research project and salvage operation of the fossils which are at risk of vandalism and theft.
Badlands Supt. William Supernaugh said it would work with the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology and the Denver Museum of Science and Nature on the three-year project.
The National Park Service said the site has always been a "titanothere graveyard", with animal bones around 40 million years old, but the excavation would not be in the area of human remains. Titanothere was an elephant-sized prehistoric animal and an indirect ancestor of the modern-day horse.
Halting the Aug. 12 starting date for the excavation, Supt. Supernaugh tentatively scheduled a meeting with Oglala President John Yellowbird Steele for August 27 at the Badlands office. The National Park Service, however, has said it does not intend to halt the excavation indefinitely.
Neither do the Lakota at the Stronghold plan to halt their resistance to the excavation, pledging to take any means necessary to protect it.
Little said, I don't care if it takes up 10 years, we will stay here.
Remembering the Ghost Dancers led by the Paiute Wovoka and massacred here, Two Bulls said, They are resting. Just let them rest.
National Park Service officials postpone dig
By Heidi Bell Gease, Journal Staff Writer
STRONGHOLD TABLE -- Protesters at Stronghold Table in the South Unit of Badlands National Park won a small battle Thursday, when regional officials of the National Park Service agreed not to move forward with plans to survey and excavate fossils in the area until further discussion with the Oglala Sioux Tribe's elected officials.
"Postponing the excavation and any surveys, that in itself, I suppose, is a little victory," tribal President John Yellowbird Steele said after meeting briefly with park-service officials at the Stronghold. "But I can tell you, the tribe will not allow any excavation" without protection for human remains and cultural sites in the South Unit.
The National Park Service had planned to launch a three-year dig for ancient fossils of the titanothere, a rhinoceros-like mammal, earlier this month. Park officials said fossils were being stolen from the site and a dig was the only way to protect them.
Under a 1976 memorandum of agreement with the tribe, the park service is responsible for administering and protecting resources in the South Unit, which is tribal land. Any fossils removed would remain tribal property.
A group of tribal members has been camped at Stronghold Table since late June to protest the dig. Park officials say the dig site is not close to any cultural sites, but protesters disagree. They say the entire area is sacred to the Lakota and should be returned to the Oglala Sioux Tribe.
On Thursday, National Park Service Regional Director Bill Schenk of Omaha, Neb., told about 80 people at the Stronghold that the park service and tribe need to review the 1976 memorandum of agreement and find ways to work together to protect and preserve resources. "Many things have changed in that time, and it is time to take a look at that," he said.
"We don't want to negotiate. How much more clear can we be?" asked Anita Ecoffey, whose parents were forced from the area years ago when the U.S. government wanted to use it as a bombing range. "We want it back. We want the National Park Service out of here."
Russell Means, an Oglala Lakota and well-known American Indian Movement activist, took the opportunity to announce his plans to run for tribal president this fall.
"Whether I am in office or not this December, your troubles are just beginning," he told Schenk. "It stems from the umpteen years that we lived here and took care of this land without the help of the U.S. government."
Means cited Article 6 of the U.S. Constitution as saying treaties are the supreme law of the land. "So you have no business here," he said. "The memorandum of agreement is null and void."
Lovey Two Bulls, who along with her family has spearheaded the Stronghold protest, said the protesters will do whatever it takes to get back the South Unit.
"We're going to get our land back," she told Schenk. "We're going to put camps at every gate. This is our land. We're not going to put up with this."
If the tribe and park service do review the memorandum, Patricia Parker probably will play a role in that. As head of the National Park Service American Indian liaison office in Washington, D.C., her job is to improve relationships between parks and Indian tribes.
"I'm supportive of taking another look at this thing," she said Thursday. "It's obviously been a very rocky relationship, not a mutually beneficial one, on some levels."
Parker said she believes parts of the memorandum could be changed without an act of Congress. But if legislation is required, "that's not unheard of."
The hardest part may be devising a process for reviewing the agreement that will work, especially with every elected tribal official up for re-election this fall.
Schenk said he hoped it wouldn't take long to get newly elected officials on board. "Clearly, this is a burning issue for folks here," he said.
Meanwhile, he said he would consult with his park-service peers about other alternatives to the proposed fossil dig.
"Anytime you take the time to sit down with people, it's productive," Schenk said of Thursday's meeting. "Obviously, I can't change 150 years of history in a five-hour visit to the park."
Comments or questions on this story? Call reporter Heidi Bell Gease at 394-8419 or e-mail her at email@example.com.
Tony Black Feather: The Most Controversial Statement of Our Time?
by BRENDA NORRELL
STRONGHOLD TABLE, S.D. Lakota elder Tony Black Feather told the United Nations that the American flag represents a racist nation that violates natural and spiritual laws, dishonors treaties and engages in a game plan of corporate greed.
In his statement delivered to the United Nations and distributed here on Stronghold Table, Black Feather pressed for disarmament and peace as President Bush pressed for war in Iraq.
Urging America to "come clean in the eyes of the world," Black Feather said people often ask him about the red, white and blue of the American flag
"I tell them that the aboriginal Lakota people of this country look at this flag as a piece of red, white and blue cloth that stands for the foreign racist system that has oppressed Indigenous peoples for centuries.
"For traditional Lakota people, that piece of red, white and blue cloth stands for a system and a country that does not honor it's own word."
Black Feather, in his statement to the Working Group on Indigenous Populations, said the flag represents a nation of dishonor.
"If it stood for honor and truth, it would remember our treaties and give them the appropriate place under international law. But it doesn't. It dishonors its own word and violates its treaties, that piece of red, white and blue cloth."
On the Stronghold, Black Feather distributed his written statement, which was delivered to the United Nations in July, as he challenged the National Park Service in the Badlands. Ignoring demands from the tribe, the Park Service plans to excavate fossils in the burial grounds of the Ghost Dancers massacred here after they survived the massacre of Wounded Knee.
"America is a world problem," Black Feather told National Park Service officials leading a tour in the Badlands of the proposed excavation site on Oglala Sioux tribal land.
Lakota gathered here say the bones of the Ghost Dancers, who danced here to bring back the buffalo and the old ways, are revealing themselves at this time for a reason.
With a message for humanity and calling for disarmament around the world, Black Feather chastised the Park Service for entering sacred grounds in the Badlands with armed park rangers.
At the resistance camp manned by the Tokala Warrior Society, the traditional Grey Eagle Society, Russell Means and others chastised National Park Service officials.
Pointing out violations of federal laws, Lakota said the arrogance and racism is indicative of federal Indian policy and a nation that is spiritually bankrupt.
Black Feather's comments on deception and the flag were representative of the situation here.
Black Feather said of the American flag, "This colorful cloth represents imperialism with the professed Christian duty to destroy many races of peoples throughout the world, to illegally confiscate their possessions, property and even their lives when U.S. interests need to be served.
"It is their intention to establish one world government, based solely on the American system of corporate greed.
"The cloth represents a political language that is designated to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable. This piece of red, white and blue cloth represents a political system that is contrary to the principles of Natural Law and the moral principles, which govern a diversified humanity.
"This piece of cloth misrepresents the human race.
"As Lakota people, we engage in different actions to remember the Natural Law and to assert our rights."
Black Feather said the takeover of the Oglala Sioux Tribal Council offices and the current resistance on Stronghold Table asserts the rights of the Lakota people.
"As the aboriginal people of this land, we must understand and assert that it is under our care. The continents of the world belong to its aboriginal peoples.
"Someday somebody will have to account for these violations of the Natural Law and violations against Creation that the piece of cloth has been responsible for.
"The United States needs to come clean to cleanse its conscience in the eyes of the world. Only then will we have justice and balance in this world."
Black Feather's statement was among those of the Tetuwan Oyate Teton Sioux Nation Treaty Council, delivered to the XXth Session of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations in July and on Stronghold Table in August.
Brenda Norrell writes about Indian affairs and the American west.