Oglala Sioux Tribe President Bryan Brewer published an update on efforts to establish a Tribal National Park within the boundaries of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in the southwestern portion of South Dakota.
The roughly 133,000 acres of tribal land is currently being managed by the National Park Service, but there is a movement afoot to create the Badlands South Unit, essentially an extension of the current Badlands National Park, with the caveat being that this park will be jointly managed by the Oglala Sioux Tribe and the park service.
Oglala President Bryan Brewer recently penned an op-ed in Indian Country Today Media Network in support of federal legislation that would establish the cooperative management structure called the Tribal National Park Commission.
“The purposes of the (legislation) are to preserve, protect and interpret the cultural, historic, prehistoric, scientific and scenic values of the area, including the history, culture and heritage of the Oglala Sioux Tribe and Lakota people,” Brewer said.
If passed the bill would authorize a memorial to honor Lakota World War II veterans, including the Codetalkers, and honor the Oglala families that were displaced from their homes in 1942.
In 1942, the United State War Department announced it was seizing the Northwest corner of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation for an Aerial Gunnery Range and told the approximately 900 Native families to move out.
The dented landscape still shows vestiges of the practice bombing runs carried out by the U.S. Air Force during the war.
In the 1960s, the United States offered Lakota families the opportunity to purchase back some of the land, which many did. The government also authorized the ability to graze livestock on the land.
Since 1976, there has been an understanding that a cultural heritage center honoring the Lakota people would be constructed and the national park would be jointly managed, but a full-fledged agreement is still yet to be hammered out.
According to the Rapid City Journal, the Oglala Tribal Council agreed to issue a referendum, asking tribal members to vote on whether they would like to see the creation of the Tribal National Park.
Oglala President Bryan Brewer has maintained the park is an opportunity to both honor the long and illustrious culture of the Lakota Nation, restore Buffalo to its traditional pastureland and promote economic development in an area that continues to wrangle with a lack of economic opportunity.
“The Tribal National Park offers our Tribe the chance to honor our Lakota culture and heritage,” he said. “We have a chance to restore the buffalo and native species, promote economic development and create jobs through respectful tourism that honors the heritage of our Oglala Lakota Nation.”