Sioux Nation Black Hills claim tops $1 billion

Few people know it, but in 1981, the Sioux Indian tribes of South Dakota were awarded about $150 million from the federal government to settle the tribes’ claims to land that was taken improperly by the government in western South Dakota, including the Black Hills.

The tribes have never taken any of the money, partly because many Indians want the land and not the money, and partly because Indians who want to take the money cannot agree on what to do with it or who should receive it.

So the money sits in an account held by the federal government, drawing interest. According to South Dakota newspaper man Tim Giago, an Oglala Lakota Indian who recently wrote a column about the settlement money, the value of the account has now surpassed $1 billion.

I’ve always wondered why the tribes don’t take some of the money and start buying back parcels of land. With $1 billion, tribes could bring a lot of western South Dakota back under their ownership.

Alternatively, I’ve also wondered why the tribes don’t take some of the money and use it to combat the chronic poverty on South Dakota’s Indian reservations.

Giago addressed that in his column:

So far it seems that extreme poverty has not entered into the equation, but the steadfast refusal to accept any of the funds by the treaty councils has diminished over the years and a younger generation sees the settlement through the prism of the 21st Century, and as they gain the political power within the ranks of the tribal councils, the decisions of the settlement will gradually fall upon them. To a people steeped in perpetual poverty, $1 billion offers many alternate possibilities.

For now, according to Giago, the money remains "invested 100 percent into the market," where it will continue to grow over the long-term until some decisions are made.

Tags: Tim Giago

About Author

Seth Tupper

Seth Tupper was born and raised in South Dakota and earned a bachelor's degree in journalism from South Dakota State University in 2001. After college, he worked at a newspaper in Minnesota and then returned to South Dakota in 2003 to join the staff of The Daily Republic in Mitchell, where he is currently the publisher. Seth has won numerous awards for his writing, including the 2007 Outstanding Young Journalist award in the daily newspapers category of the South Dakota Newspaper Association's Better Newspapers Contest. Seth's day-job and freelance work have granted him opportunities to meet hundreds of South Dakotans and travel across much of the state. He also spends a lot of his free time exploring South Dakota's state and national parks, hiking trails and kayak-friendly rivers.

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