Lakota Sioux demonstrators protest plans at Badlands National Park


Last Updated: 10 years

On Wednesday, residents of the Pine Ridge Reservation are expected to gather at Wounded Knee to protest a planned federal park arrangement that they say will strip them of their deeded land.

Wednesday is the anniversary of the battle at the Little Big Horn between General George Custer, the Northern Cheyenne and the Lakota Sioux, a synchronicity that protestors hope is not lost on the public.

According to a statement issued June 20, the Oglala Sioux and Lakota Sioux of the reservation have been told the federal government will be taking land that comprises the “South Unit of the Badlands National Park.”

According to the statement, the tribe would also lose the income from grazing allotments on the land and income from the north gate fees of the Badlands National Park.

Changes in the management of the Badland National Park’s south unit have been planned for several years by the National Park Service.

The Park Service said in 2010 that it wants to turn management of the south unit over the Lakota Sioux.

Apparently the protestors don’t like the structure of the new agreement.

“Tribal members are frustrated with the tribal council, which has gone against the will of the people,” according to the statement, which refers to Bud May and Lory Storm for more information.

“All nine districts on the reservation have passed unanimous resolutions against the park, along with the Shannon County Commissioners and several South Dakota State legislators,” the statement said.

Disagreements between the federal park authorities and the Lakota Sioux have been plentiful over the years.

According to the parks service, the Oglala Sioux Tribe doesn’t like the way the federal government took control of the South Unit land in 1942, and doesn’t like the way it has been managed.

There has never been any argument about the basic fact of Indian ownership of the land, or that Indians were badly treated when the gunnery and bombing range was established nearly 70 years ago, said Bob Janiskee, a former University of South Carolina professor who specializes in National Parks .

“The military gave the Indians then in residence — about 800 of them — just one week to vacate in 1942,” Janiskee wrote in 2010. “Subsequent decades of U.S. Air Force bombing and gunnery left the targeted areas of tribal land crater-pocked and littered with unexploded ordnance, some of which remains to this day.”

Janiskee said the administration of tribal land within Badlands National Park has left the Oglala Sioux feeling ignored and disrespected. A promised new visitor center and road improvements never materialized. While the north unit has a paved road and a nice visitor center, the south unit has a substandard road system and a converted trailer for a visitor center, which is open only seasonally. Operating on an annual budget of just $166,000 — less than 4% of the park’s operating budget — the South Unit attracts only about 9,500 visitors a year, Janikskee said in 2010 in an article in the National Parks Traveler magazine and website.

Protestors say, “In some cases, this will be the third time tribal members have been moved from their land and they say they will not comply with the latest order from the government.”

With the ride on Wednesday, they hope to bring outside attention to the issue.

The ride begins on the Vera Falk property on the reservation.

After the ride, everyone is invited to the Gordon Legion for a BBQ and Pow Wow Drum demonstration.