ROSEBUD, S.D. – A Native American tribe said Monday it has reached a deal to buy land it considers sacred in South Dakota's picturesque Black Hills, ending weeks of worry about possible development on the land.
The owners of nearly 2,000 acres of pristine grassland prairie have accepted a $9 million bid by the Rosebud Sioux, tribe President Cyril Scott told The Associated Press. The Rosebud Sioux already has paid $900,000 as an earnest deposit; the remaining $8.1 million is due in November.
The land's owners, Leonard and Margaret Reynolds, couldn't immediately be reached for comment. The couple has declined to talk publicly about the matter since mid-August, when their plans to auction off the land went public and prompted outcry from the Great Sioux Nation.
The land plays a key role in the creation story of the tribes, and members feared that new owners would develop the property, which the tribes call Pe' Sla.
The public auction was cancelled just days before it was to take place. The Reynolds invited private parties to bid on the property, including the Rosebud Sioux. The tribe's bid was accepted in late August, Scott said.
"We have come together as a nation," he told the AP. "Rosebud is ready to secure this land for our people."
The tribe plans to conduct an environmental assessment to make sure the land doesn't contain any hazardous surprises.
"We don't want to find anything out there that would require major cleanup," said Vernon Schmidt, executive director with the Rosebud Sioux Tribal Land Enterprise, which was established to piece together the tribe's lands.
"We're hopeful about this. We're confident we'll be able to close the deal with this," Schmidt said.
An online campaign to help the tribe buy the land raised nearly $390,000. The campaign ended last weekend.
The Rosebud Sioux Tribe is looking to see if it can cover the remaining land cost itself, Schmidt said. If not, the cost could be spread among the roughly 20 tribes that make up the Great Sioux Nation, which was fragmented when Native Americans were pushed to reservations and now spans several states, including Montana, Wyoming, the Dakotas and Minnesota, as well as Canada.
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.
Schmidt said the tribe hopes to eventually get the land into trust status with the federal government.