Sacred Native Site Pe’Sla Threatened

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Winona LaDuke at White Earth Reservation (Photo: G. Nienaber)

The sale is perfectly “legal,” but is it morally, ethically, and spiritually correct?

In a race against the clock, the Sioux Nation is fighting to save Pe’ Sla, one of its most sacred religious sites. Pe’ Sla, located in the Black Hills of South Dakota, is the epicenter of the creation story of the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota nations. Tribal elders and spiritual leaders conduct ceremonies essential to their culture and beliefs at times of the year when the stars are in special alignment.

On August 25, 2012, approximately 1,942.66 acres, sold in 5 tracts of land, will be auctioned off to the highest bidder. Once sold, it is highly likely that Pe’ Sla will be opened up for development, with the State of South Dakota building a road directly through it, according to a press release I stumbled across on Facebook. If the Sioux ever needed a savvy PR and fundraising team, now is the time, and it may be too late.

The fact that native sacred places were taken illegally by the United States government is secondary to the urgent need to do something to protect this privately owned yet cosmologically significant site before August 25, less than two weeks from now. In a gallant effort the Sioux Nation is fundraising to buy as much of the holy ground of Pe’ Sla as possible. What is possible and what is realistic may be two different things, or they may not.

Lastrealindians is collaborating with the Rosebud Sioux Tribe to centralize efforts to save Pe’ Sla

To be honest, when this writer discovered the story, the situation seemed overwhelming and hopeless. How would the Sioux be able to raise over one million dollars in a fundraising campaign in two weeks? So I dutifully posted it on Facebook, tried to go to sleep, tossed and turned in protest at my inaction, and now find myself blogging away at 1 AM–hoping and praying that by throwing this sad, terrible story against the wall, something might stick.

Winona LaDuke, the great native activist and teacher wrote a note “from the heart” about the importance of the Great Mystery to indigenous peoples, and here is the link to it. Read it. It may uplift you and it may bring a tear to your eye, but most of all it may inspire you to offer testimony and “talk story” about what is happening. The act of speaking is an act of spiritual solidarity.

“In the time of the sacred sites and the crashing of ecosystems and worlds, it may be worth not making a commodity out of all that is revered,” LaDuke writes, asking the critical question of morality.

She goes on to cite Lakota scholar Chase Iron Eyes, who said:

Pe’Sla, to the Lakota, is the place where Morning Star, manifested as a meteor, fell to earth to help the Lakota by killing a great bird which had taken the lives of seven women; Morning Star’s descent having created the wide open uncharacteristic bald-spot in the middle of the forested Black Hills. (On American maps, this is called, Old Baldy) The Morning Star placed the spirits of those seven women in the sky as the constellation “Pleiades” or “The Seven Sisters.”

On May 24, 1996, President Bill Clinton issued Executive Order 13007 that requires the government to “accommodate access to and ceremonial use of Indian sacred sites by religious practitioners.” Unfortunately, the order applies to federal and not privately held lands, leaving an ethical chasm between what should be and what is reality at sacred sites.

And now, at this moment, there is absolutely nothing we can do about that harsh fact.

georgianne nienaberIt is the hour of dark skies here in northern Minnesota and the Pleides is just now rising in the eastern sky, soon to be followed by Jupiter, Venus and the waning crescent moon. I find myself wondering what the skies are like just one state to the west in the Black Hills. Part of the writer wants to go there to better explain the sense of the sacred lands, but there is no time to waste when the hands of the clock have moved into another day since the time I sat down to write this testimony.

So, feeling completely helpless and inadequate, we offer what little we can and hope that a solution can be found in the coming days to save the “heart of all that is.”

Georgianne Nienaber

Posted: Monday, 13 August 2012


Note from the Publisher:  You can contribute to this cause by clicking below

Published by the LA Progressive on August 14, 2012
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About Georgianne Nienaber

Georgianne Nienaber is an investigative and political writer. She lives in rural northern Minnesota, New Orleans and South Florida. Her articles have appeared in The Society of Professional Journalists' Online Quill Magazine, The Ugandan Independent, Rwanda's New Times, India's TerraGreen, COA News, ZNET, OpEdNews, Glide Magazine, The Journal of the International Primate Protection League, Africa Front, The United Nations Publication, A Civil Society Observer, Bitch Magazine, and Zimbabwe's The Daily Mirror. Her fiction exposé of insurance fraud in the horse industry, Horse Sense, was re-released in early 2006. Gorilla Dreams: The Legacy of Dian Fossey was also released in 2006. She spent much of 2007-2009 doing research in South Africa, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Georgianne was in DRC as a MONUC-accredited journalist, and has been working in Southern Louisiana investigating hurricane reconstruction and getting to know the people there since late 2007. She is a member of the Memphis Chapter of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Georgianne is currently developing a short story collection set in Louisiana, and is continuing "to explore the magic of the Deep South."


  1. The relentless onslaught of cultural genocide continues. So many people act like it is something in the past, to be thrown away and forgotten like trash they throw everywhere. Yet it continues, both in obvious ways like this and in more subtle ways. Colonists tell me there is no such thing as generational trauma or that cultural trauma is invalid and we need to “just get over it”. They know nothing of what they speak and have grown so accustomed to their constant perpetuation of genocide and to the everyday atrocities that they think what they are doing is healthy and acceptable. It is not. Their greedy ways are not sustainable and their colonist culture will collapse but so many innocent lives are lost, caught in the grinding gears of the deranged and flawed colonist machine that is driven by deranged and diseased minds and spirits.
    We must come together and give and receive strength and support with our relations.

    • Georgianne Nienaber says:

      I am reading “Recovering the Sacred,” and for someone who thought I knew what whites had done, this book is a real jolt of truth and makes the fact that it continues, as you say, so much worse. Do you know if all of the Wounded Knee “collection” has been returned?

  2. I am from Minnesota. I am Lakota too. I have no money to contribute.This does not surprise me.When I was 5 I found out that Mt. Rushmore was put into Paha Sapa,a sacred place.They never stop messing with Oyate!

    • Georgianne Nenaber says:

      There is more to offer than money, Laura. You offer heartfelt concern which is worth so much more! Sorry about all of it..all of the desecration of sacred lands.

  3. Georgianne — thank you for not being able to sleep and for taking action instead. We don’t always know the outcome but I do believe that we set something in motion when we act. I will pass this on.

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