Thursday, April 23, 2009

Sioux Split Over Black Hills Suit

Some 5000 Sioux Indians have joined a class-action lawsuit calling for the disbursement of moneys won in court cases from years ago, but only 19 plaintiffs are named - the other 4,981 Indians live on reservations and fear retribution from fellow Indians who believe accepting money for the Black Hills is tantamount to selling the land. The suit asks for the release of $900 million in compensation and interest from cases awarded more than a century ago, as well as in the 1980s. However, since eight Sioux tribes refused the money at those times, some legal experts believe the case will be dismissed - further, that the money could not be awarded anyway, without Congressional approval.

Those opposed to the suit say accepting money would "bless" the "sale" of the Black Hills and want the land returned. Of course, that is not going to happen. Still, certain stubborn tribesmembers say those who take the money are just looking for a check and are "prostituting" themselves.

The Sioux were awarded the Black Hills in an 1868 treaty. When gold was discovered in the mines there, it sparked battles including George Custer's infamous "last stand." In 1877, Congress reclaimed the lands when the Sioux refused to sign a new treaty relinquishing ownership. In 1980, the Supreme Court upheld an earlier ruling, granting eight Sioux tribes more than $100 million in restitution, but the tribes refused it. This case also seeks money won by the tribes for earlier industrialization of the land.

© C Harris Lynn, 2009

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