PINE RIDGE, SD -
A United Nations fact-finder studying the lives of American Indians is releasing some of his findings. They include recommending the federal government return the Black Hills to tribes.
For many Native Americans in the Dakotas, the Black Hills are a touchy subject.
"It belongs to us, and this was reaffirmed in 1980 by the United States Supreme Court," Oglala Sioux Tribal President John Yellow Bird Steele said.
The 1868 Ft. Laramie Treaty promised that the Black Hills would remain in tribal hands. But that was a promise broken once gold was discovered in the area.
"It isn't just a piece of paper. It isn't just a contract. It is something more spiritual that has us tied and connects us to this land," OST member Clarence Yellow Hawk Sr. said.
Yellow Hawk Sr. can relate to the treaty in a way not many other people can.
"My grandfather, Chief Yellow Hawk, was one of the signers of those treaties back in 1868," Yellow Hawk Sr. said.
"When you ratify a treaty by two-thirds of the Senate and it falls into the constitution of the United States, it's a law and it needs to be fully implemented," Yellow Bird Steele said.
It's an opinion shared by James Anaya, the fact-finder for the United Nations who will recommend that the federal government return the Black Hills to the tribes. His mission is part of the U.N.'s Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
"I want everyone to know of the document that the United Nations had passed and the United States accepted, of what those specific rights are so we can implement them," Yellow Bird Steele said.
"My grandfathers and fathers always told me that we will live poor. We will live under these conditions knowing that one day, our ancestors told us that, we will be getting the Black Hills back. And I believe that time is now," Yellow Hawk Sr. said.
An official report to the United Nations is expected by this September.
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