Native American tribes are concerned they will lose access to land they consider sacred if a deal to sell nearly 2,000 acres of prime real estate in the Black Hills of South Dakota goes through, reports AP.
The land near Mount Rushmore is privately owned but members of the Great Sioux Nation have been allowed to hold annual gatherings there to perform sacred ceremony rituals.
Each spring, the Lakota people have visited the site, known as Pahá Sápa in Lakota, to participate in ceremonies that celebrate nature's cycle of rebirth and renewal, according to Indian Country.
The tribes are concerned that the land will be sold and developed and they will lose access to the site. An auction is scheduled for August 25th where the land will be sold to the highest bidder.
Rapid City Journal reports that a number of tribes are scrambling to raise money in an attempt to buy all or most of the land.
“To lose this would be a big deal,” Oglala Lakota medicine man Rick Two Dogs told the newspaper. “We follow a spiritual calendar; we still do to this day. People still gather at the sacred sites to make offerings, to make prayers. It’s very important to us.”
With only a week until the auction date, the tribes have raised only about $110,000 and they believe the land will sell for $6 million to $10 million, reports AP.
A lot of our people who practice our way of life go there to pray and there are a lot of us that go up there," said Rodney Bordeaux, president of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, which is leading the effort told the Associated Press.
"Basically, it's an opportunity for the tribes to become involved and save Pe' Sla from development, commercial development, up there and try to save it and keep it in its current state, so people can always go up there to pray."
The South Dakota Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration are reportedly considering paving one of the main roads that divides the land. AP reports that the paved road was mentioned in the advertisement touting the land's development potential.
Rapid City Journal reports that the land is the only site holy to Native Americans that is privately owned and is not within state or federal boundaries.