SIOUX FALLS | A Native American tribe trying to buy land it considers sacred in South Dakota's picturesque Black Hills is in negotiations with the landowners and has secured money for a deposit, though no final agreement has been reached, tribe officials said Tuesday.
The nearly 2,000 acres of pristine prairie grass plays a key role in the creation story of the tribes making up the Great Sioux Nation, and members fear that new owners would develop the property. The land, which the tribes call Pe' Sla, is the only sacred site on private land outside Sioux control.
The Rosebud Sioux Tribe, whose reservation is among the closest to the land, has allocated an undisclosed amount of money as an earnest deposit on the land, though tribe spokesman Alfred Walking Bull said Tuesday that he couldn't specify the amount or where negotiations stood with the land owners.
"Basically, Rosebud is working out the details and the details will be forthcoming as early as next week," he said.
The tribe had earlier said it was allocating $1.3 million to the cause, and donations to an online fundraising effort totaled about $300,000 by Tuesday, though tribal officials fear that the land could sell for between $6 million and $10 million.
The landowners, Leonard and Margaret Reynolds, declined comment Tuesday. An auction to sell that land had been scheduled for Aug. 25, but the couple cancelled it a few days before without commenting. Walking Bull said both sides have been working through a third party to handle negotiations.
Despite the hushed negotiations, tribe supporters praised the news of the progress.
"We are very pleased we've reached this positive milestone," said Chase Iron Eyes, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe who led the online fundraising effort. He said supporters will hold a celebration rally Wednesday in Rapid City.
The tribes believe the Sioux people were created from the Black Hills. According to part of their spiritual tradition, Pe' Sla is where the Morning Star fell to Earth, killing seven beings that killed seven women. The Morning Star placed the souls of the women into the night sky as "The Seven Sisters," also known as the Pleiades constellation.
Tribal members hold ceremonies and rituals on the land.