Archive for July 12th, 2012
By Jesse Abernathy, Native Sun News Editor
RAPID CITY – A Native American spiritual refuge in the heart of the Black Hills continues to face utter decimation.
Almost 2,000 acres of the land known as “Pe Sla” by the area’s original inhabitants – the Lakota – are slated to be auctioned off on Aug. 25. The move would potentially open up the scenic, pristine prairie to development by non-Native Americans, spelling the end of one of the last quiet vestiges of traditional Lakota worship in the Black Hills, or Paha Sapa.
Translated to English, “Pe Sla” means “Old Baldy,” a reference to the sprawling prairie’s sudden but natural juxtaposition against the heavy forest cover of Paha Sapa. The 4,000-acre rolling expanse of hills and meadows is situated approximately 25 miles due west of Rapid City and is primarily undeveloped private ranchland, with a portion being public land managed by the U.S. Forest Service.
The culturally significant mecca is also currently the subject of a road-improvement project initiated by Pennington County commissioners in 2004. South Rochford Road, which cuts a curved path through the center of Pe Sla from the town of Rochford to the Deerfield Lake recreation area, is being considered for paving, realignment and drainage-structure additions. Known as the South Rochford Road Project, the proposed improvements to the 12-mile stretch of gravel road are necessary to facilitate better year-round access to Rochford from Deerfield Lake, officials say.
Through a joint effort with the South Dakota Department of Transportation and Pennington County, the Federal Highway Administration is in the process of preparing a South Rochford Road Project environmental impact statement (EIS). In addition to the potential environmental effects of an upgrade, according to state Transportation Department Environmental Manager Terry Keller, the administration is examining the possible cultural effects of the three road project alternatives under consideration: taking no action, improving the existing alignment, and making improvements to a new alignment.
“(The alternatives) have to compete against each other to see which is the best one,” Keller told Native Sun News in April. And “one of the alternatives that has to be considered all the way through is to do nothing because there are times when doing nothing is the best option for the environment.”