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United States: UN expert calls for consultations with indigenous peoples over private land sale in Black Hills, South Dakota

US / Indigenous peoples

22 August 2012

GENEVA (22 August 2012) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, James Anaya, urged today the United States Government and the local and state authorities in South Dakota to address concerns expressed by the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota peoples about an impending private land sale in the Black Hills region of the central-northern state, that will affect a site of great spiritual significance them.

Mr. Anaya has received information about the auctioning of five tracts of land in the area of Reynolds Prairie, in South Dakota, scheduled for 25 August 2012, within which a site sacred to the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota peoples, Pe’ Sla, is located. These indigenous communities are concerned that the sale of this land will result in restrictions to their access and use of Pe’ Sla for ceremonial purposes. They are also concern that it may lead to a road development project that would diminish the cultural and spiritual integrity of their sacred site.

“I call on all concerned parties to engage in a process of consultation to find ways in which to resolve these concerns,” the Special Rapporteur said. “I believe such dialogue is necessary in order to help heal the historical injustices endured by the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota peoples and to allow them to maintain their cultures and traditional practices for future generations.”

“The views and concerns of the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota peoples need to be considered regarding any private or government activity that would affect their right to continue to maintain their traditional cultural and ceremonial practices associated with Pe’ Sla,” he stressed.

The site of Pe’ Sla is located within the Black Hills, which the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota peoples consider to be sacred. The United States signed the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie with these indigenous peoples which reserved their rights to the Black Hills. The discovery of gold in the area led to a Congressional Act in 1877 that passed ownership of the Black Hills to the United States. The Lakota, Dakota and Nakota peoples have since then sought to recover the Black Hills.

The issue of the Black Hills in South Dakota is representative of the problems brought to the attention of the Special Rapporteur during his official visit* to the United States (23 April to 4 May 2012) concerning the efforts of indigenous peoples to protect culturally and spiritually significant areas that are no longer under their exclusive ownership or control.

The Special Rapporteur will present to the UN Human Rights Council his official report on his country visit to the United States in the upcoming weeks.

The UN Human Rights Council appointed S. James Anaya as Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples in March 2008. Mr. Anaya is a Regents Professor and the James J. Lenoir Professor of Human Rights Law and Policy at the University of Arizona (United States). As Special Rapporteur, he is independent from any government or organization and serves in his individual capacity. Learn more, log on to:

(*) Check the Special Rapporteur’s preliminary observations and recommendations:

See the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples:

UN Human Rights Country Page – United States of America:

For more information and media inquiries, please contact Maia Campbell (+ 41 22 917 9314 / [email protected]) or write to [email protected].

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, OHCHR Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / [email protected])

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