UN Human Rights Committee reviews Black Hills ownership

UN Human Rights Committee reviews Black Hills ownership
Published: Oct. 18, 2023 at 8:33 AM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - The debate over U.S. treaties and the ownership of the Black Hills was among the discussion in Geneva Tuesday as the United Nations reviews the practices of the United States.

South Dakota Native Americans are among the top priorities being discussed at the U.N. Human Rights Committee meetings in Geneva, but the discussion goes beyond treaties and the land.

Dignitaries from various countries questioned U.S. department heads. The treatment and ownership of the Black Hills is front and center. ACLU of South Dakota Legal Director Stephanie Amiotte spoke with Dakota News Now after finishing a U.N. session in Geneva.

“We know that it was illegally taken, as the United States Supreme Court has recognized, and violated the Constitution. The request is that the Black Hills be returned to the Great Sioux Nation,” said Amiotte.

Lead attorney of the Lakota Law Project Chase Iron Eyes is part of the collective, along with the ACLU, Great Plains Tribal Chairman Associations and Black Hills Clean Water Alliance.

“The people who live in the Black Hills who’ve been there for a long time, didn’t have any criminal intent when they purchased land in the Black Hills. I don’t feel that they should be punished for that. But we want their support in forcing the federal government to return all of the federal acreage in the Black Hills to the Sioux Nation,” said Iron Eyes.

The group claims mining is threatening water quality from the Missouri to Pactola and Belle Fourche.

“The mining industry is endangering the water resources that all have Rapid City and everybody who depends on the watershed in the Black Hills and in Rapid Creek,” said Iron Eyes.

“Approximately 25% of the well waters tested in indigenous communities contained elevated arsenic levels, and we do know that we have at least two EPA declared Superfund sites in the Black Hills from mining operations,” said Amiotte.

The ACLU claims all levels of government need to be aware of the treaties signed with South Dakota tribes.

“Individual states, local county city governments are equally obligated to comply with all of the treaties that the United States enters into. That is something that not a lot of local government agencies want to acknowledge or maybe don’t even know,” said Amiotte.

Final recommendations from the review will be released in early November.

Dakota News Now has requested an interview or statement from the National Parks Service and Governor Noem’s Office and await their response.