When the United States broke the Fort Laramie Treaty in 1877 by taking
the Black Hills, litigation eventually found that the only relief for
tribes was money. A 1980 judgment in the U.S. District Court in Sioux
Falls, S.D. awarded the eight tribes $105 million. However, those
tribes in the treaty have maintained for years that the land is sacred
and not for sale. They have refused to accept the settlement.
The Oglalas, Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, Lower Brule Sioux Tribe, Rosebud
Sioux Tribe, Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and Standing Rock Sioux Tribe
and Santee Sioux and Sioux Tribe of Fort Peck have been united in their
stand against accepting the money. The tribes are located in South and
North Dakota, Nebraska and Montana. Recently, however, the Sioux Tribe
of Fort Peck in Montana announced it would like to see the money paid
out to plaintiffs.
In 2007, a lawsuit to pay out the money began. The Fort Peck tribe
joined the 8,000 plaintiffs, individual tribal members from various
reservations, in the lawsuit that would like to see the money dispersed
to individual tribal members. Douglas Kettering, a lawyer representing
the plaintiffs, told the Argus Leader that the settlement amount, with
interest, might be as much at $900 million. This is an extremely
contentious issue for communities living at or below the poverty line.
As some have pointed out, the courts do not have the authority to
return the land.
Many in Indian Country, however, fear that dodging tribal governments
by awarding money to individuals would seriously undercut the authority
of these governments.