The first two principles of Unitarian Universalists are to promote and affirm: 1) The inherent worth and dignity of every person, and 2) Justice, equity, and compassion in human relations. In our Black Hills there are 2,000 privately owned acres known as Pe’Sla to the Lakota and as the Reynolds Ranch to non-native people in the area. The Reynolds family recognize the importance of their land to the Lakota and in our view, their canceling the auction for these 2,000 acres encompass the core of those two principles.
The Lakota people possess a strong connection to the earth. It is not unlike several other great spiritual traditions and their leaders who spent weeks in the wilderness communing with God and nature. The Black Hills in general, and Pe’Sla in particular, hold a very important place in the spirit of the Lakota people. For several hundred years the Lakota have buried their people in the Black Hills. It is perhaps the largest graveyard in the United States. And, more specifically, Pe’Sla is the hallowed ground on which the Lakota people begin their annual rites. It is their first ceremony of their new year.
One might compare Matho’ Paha’ (Bear Butte), Pe’Sla (Reynold’s Ranch) or Hinhan Kaga Paha (Harney Peak) to Jerusalem for the Christians, Jews, and Muslims; the Vatican for Catholics; or Mecca for the Muslim faith. Imagine a developer wanting to build luxury condominiums on the ground of Saint Peter’s Cathedral. Thinking closer to home, the idea of building a new football stadium on the site of Arlington National Cemetery would be abhorrent to the relatives of the soldiers buried there.
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These are very complex issues. Many very intelligent people have labored for years to unravel the effects of the atrocities beset on the Lakota by the United States Government. No one can deny that atrocities occurred. How do we begin to heal? The Black Hills Unitarian Universalists Fellowship endorses the UN Declaration for the Rights of Indigenous People. Article 12 refers specifically to “the right to maintain, protect, and have access in privacy to their religious and cultural sites; the right to the use and control of their ceremonial objects; and the right to the repatriation of their human remains.”
BHUUF supports the Lakota people in their efforts to obtain sacred lands that belong to them. Further, we call on other area churches, synagogues, mosques, and other religious denominations to join us in the work to return these especially hallowed grounds to the Lakota people in the most timely way possible. Join us by endorsing the United Nations Declaration for the Rights of Indigenous People, and/or, publicly support the Lakota in their struggle to keep their lands sacred and hallowed.