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The Great Sioux Nation has purchased the final 437 acres of Pe' Sla, a high mountain prairie that is sacred to the seven Native American tribes.

The Reynolds family retained the homestead property when in August 2012 it sold 1,900 acres of ranch land west of Hill City to the Oceti Sakowin, the traditional name for the Great Sioux Nation.

"They (the family) decided over the course of the summer that they wanted to sell" the 437 acres, said Mark Van Norman, a Maryland-based attorney representing the Shakopee Mdewankanton Sioux Community, Crow Creek, Rosebud and Standing Rock Sioux tribes that two years ago came forward to preserve the culturally significant site.

The final parcel of the culturally significant property sold for $2 million, Van Norman said. The tribes financed a portion of the purchase. 

To pay off the loan, the tribes still have to raise between $600,000 and $700,000, "the sooner the better," according to Minnesota-based Cris Stainbrook, president of the Indian Land Tenure Foundation. 

The other members of the Oceti Sakowin are still welcome to join the effort to preserve the property considered the "heart of everything," Van Norman said.

"The door is open," he said, "and other tribes have been invited."

Van Norman and others also met informally Monday with Pennington County representatives to discuss the plans for the property as the transition is made to put the land in trust with the Bureau of Indian Affairs. 

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County commissioners in September contacted Van Norman to explain their concerns about law enforcement, road maintenance, emergency services, zoning, the future use of the property and loss of tax revenue once the property is placed in trust.

On Tuesday, Commission Chairman Lyndell Petersen told the Journal: "I’m very comfortable with what we’re doing and the way we’re doing it. I appreciate the fact that we are responsible for establishing a working relationship that will serve the interests of everyone."

Changing the Pe' Sla's status as a taxable property to a nontaxed trust property could take a couple years, Van Norman told the Journal.

All of the tribes are working together with authorities representing the county and nearby Hill City, Van Norman said. 

"The priority is to always be a good neighbor," Lisa Colombe of the InterTribal Buffalo Council said. The tribes want to build lasting, respectful relationships, and that can be done if everyone works together, she said.

Colombe is helping the tribes with a plan to introduce a small herd of buffalo on the Pe' Sla grasslands. She envisions a small herd that not only would help manage the grassland, but also introduce children to the spiritual significance of the buffalo.

"Buffalo are just American," Colombe said. "Everyone feels that symbolic connection."

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Contact Andrea J. Cook at 394-8423 or andrea.cook@rapidcityjournal.com

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