Four bands of the Lakota people make their home on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation. We are Itazipco (Without Bows), Mnicoujou (Plants by the Water); Siha Sapa (Blackfoot), and Oohenumpa (Two Kettles).
Our people have lived on the Great Plains of North America since time immemorial. Today we live on a mostly barren expanse of prairie in northcentral South Dakota. Our Nation is the fourth largest Indian reservation in the United States, roughly the same size as Connecticut. Our eastern border is the Missouri River, now a reservoir called Lake Oahe, the creation of which was itself an invasive and immoral act of dispossession by the federal government.
About The Tribe
In the Fort Laramie Treaties of 1851 and 1868, we reserved ourselves a “permanent” homeland which included all of the western Dakotas, with the Missouri River as our eastern border, and large portions of Montana, Wyoming and Nebraska. The Treaties constitute a solemn promise and the Supreme Law of the Land under the U.S. Constitution.
The United States illegally broke that promise in the 1870s when it stole from us the sacred the Black Hills, about which the Supreme Court wrote in 1980: “A more ripe and rank case of dishonorable dealings will never in all probability be found in our history.”
The United States never legally annulled our Treaties. Therefore, we retain significant rights in our Treaty territory. These rights include access to a sufficient amount of clean, healthy water in the rivers and subsurface bodies that touch our Reservation and support our people and our existence as a Tribe.
Despite these rights, which are Treaty-based and therefore represent the supreme law of the land under the U.S. Constitution, right now, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe is facing threats to our sacred water, our sacred lands, and our treaty rights, the likes of which our people have not experienced in generations.
A History of Dispossession
The United States has dispossessed us of our lands and deprived us of a viable livelihood for hundreds of years. Despite the United States’ Treaty obligations and its fiduciary duty to us, the government repeatedly has colluded with industry and non-Indian interests to encroach on our lands and resources in the name of private profit. The government robbed us of the sacred Black Hills to enrich prospectors and gold miners. The government systematically exterminated the buffalo, robbing us of our way of life and forcing us onto reservations, to make the plains free for homesteaders. And in 1950s, the government flooded our very best lands- more than 100,000 acres of river bottom – to provide stream control for non-Indians hundreds of miles downstream. And now they are coming for our water.
The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe does not own a casino and the poorest county per capita in the United States is within our reservation boundaries. The only two viable industries on our reservation are cattle ranching and tourism, both of which require access to clean, fresh water.
The United States has taken from us over and over. What more can we give?
In the 1950s entire communities were flooded by the US Government to provide flood control for non-Indians downstream. The Cheyenne Agency is now submerged between the waters of Lake Oahe.
To us, the threats from the oil companies and the government who supports these industries is an extension of the Indian wars that we fought against the United States 100 years ago. Back then, the government aided and abetted gold miners and homesteaders in physically dispossessing us of our land.
We are a warrior society and fought to protect our sacred lands with bows and arrows and our lives. Today, the government is aiding and abetting extractive industries to run crude oil pipelines across our sacred waters and mine poisons from the ground irrespective of our rights, our health, safety, and welfare, and the health, safety, and welfare of all Americans.
Unlike our past fights with the government, we find ourselves today equipped to meet the United States Government and industry as equals on their battlefield. Our leaders are educated and sophisticated and understand our Treaties and the laws of the United States. Our people have been trained to stand up and fight for Unci Maka, our Grandmother Earth, and the future generations who will rely on her for their existence as we do today.
But we cannot do it alone. We need your support to do continue to battle the oil companies and government who continue take from us- just as they always have done.