Experience advises: Don’t hold your breath. But read on.
Under any other circumstances, the old “open to discussion” line could legitimately be called wishy-washy. But when South Dakota Sen. Tim Johnson tells columnist Tim Giago, here, that’s his position on the return of the Black Hills to the Sioux Nation, it’s significant.
That’s because, as Giago writes, the subject is radioactive. “This issue is one that could be the destruction of a political career and all South Dakota politicians to date wouldn’t touch it with a 10-foot pole.”
The open-to-discussion argument about the Black Hills got a boost last year when then-candidate Barack Obama used words to that effect when he talked to tribal leaders during a South Dakota campaign stop.
Lower Brule Sioux Chairman Michael Jandreau tells the Sioux Falls (S.D.) Argus Leader, here, that his memory of the May 2008 meeting was that Obama promised “to do everything in his power to work with the tribes to bring about a settlement.”
The paper reports the tribal leaders have formed a proposal that reads: “Barack Obama is a strong believer in tribal sovereignty. He does not believe courts or the federal government should force Sioux tribes to take
settlement money for the Black Hills. … Obama would not be opposed to bringing together all the different parties through government-to-government negotiations to explore innovative solutions to this long-standing issue.”
Sioux tribes have sought the return of the Black Hills for generations, and in the 1980s, a bill sponsored by then-New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley would have turned over 1.3 million acres of federal lands to the tribes.
Tribal leaders are going to keep meeting in an effort to resolve the legal thicket surrounding the land, its return, and the disbursement of funds awarded the Great Sioux Nation for the improper taking of the Black Hills
That’s progress – moving at a glacial pace, but progress nonetheless.