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South Dakota Appeals Pe` Sla Trust Status

Photo courtesy Rosebud Sioux Tribal Land Enterprise

The South Dakota Governor’s office has announced it will appeal the Bureau of Indian Affairs decision to place Black Hills land owned by 4 Native American tribes into federal trust status.

Pe` Sla…or “The Heart of All That Is”…is a 2000-acre site at the center of the Black Hills that’s considered sacred by Native Americans. The property was purchased in 2012 by the Rosebud, Crow Creek, Standing Rock andShakopee Mdewakanton Sioux tribes after the individual who owned the property announced plans to sell at a public auction.

Last month the Bureau of Indian Affairs approved the tribes’ request to place the land into federal trust status. Tribal officials say that decision would have helped the tribes regain sacred site status for the land. And they say it would also have permitted the tribes to decide what to do with the land.

But those plans are now on hold, says Kurt Blue Dog, an attorney for the tribes that own Pe Sla.

“This will entail an administrative process where the Department of the Interior will set out a briefing schedule where the state would submit commentary,” explains Blue Dog. “Effect a legal brief indicating why they oppose the government taking this land into trust for the 4 tribes...and then the tribes get an opportunity to respond.”

Questions to the South Dakota Attorney General’s office regarding the state’s appeal of the land trust approval were answered with documentation from September 2015 offering an overview of the state’s position on the trust status request.

In the document state officials question the Interior Department’s authority to take land into trust for multiple tribal entities. They contend the 4 tribes that own Pe` Sla are equivalent to “an organization”.  They argue that the Interior Department cannot take land into trust status for an organization.

The state’s position is that making Pe` Sla “trust land” is equivalent to making it “reservation land” and would, therefore, create a new tribe consisting of members of the 4 tribes that own Pe` Sla.

Kurt Blue Dog anticipates the Pe` Sla appeal process could take at least several months.