Jesuits to return 525 acres of South Dakota land to Rosebud Sioux

Samantha Jones of the Sicangu Lakota band of the Rosebud Sioux, left, and Casey Camp of the Ponca Nation are seen in Washington in this 2014 file photo. The Jesuits are returning more than 500 acres in South Dakota to the Rosebud Sioux. CNS photo/Jim Lo Scalzo, EPA

The Jesuits are returning more than 500 acres in South Dakota to the Rosebud Sioux. The formal return of the property is expected to be complete sometime in May.

The property had been given by the U.S. government to the Jesuits in the 1880s for use for churches and cemeteries, according to remarks in a YouTube video by Jesuit Father John Hatcher, president of St. Francis Mission.

“At the beginning of the mission, we had 23 mission stations,” Father Hatcher said. “But over the years as the people moved off the prairie and into cluster housing, those churches were closed because they were considered unnecessary.” Other properties never had churches built.

“It’s now time to give back to the tribe all of those pieces of land that were given to the church for church purposes,” Father Hatcher added. “We will never again put churches on those little parcels of land. But it’s an opportunity to return land that rightly belongs to the Lakota people,” of which the Rosebud Sioux are a part.

The property, totaling about 525 acres, is dotted throughout 900,000 acres on a Rosebud reservation in the south-central portion of the state, bordering both the state of Nebraska and the Missouri River.

Rodney Bordeaux, chief operating officer of St. Francis Mission, said that when he started work there five years ago, the land transfer, having been initiated by Father Hatcher, was “stalled.” He attributed it to finding the right office within the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs to follow through.

“It was just a matter of someone doing it,” Bordeaux told Catholic News Service during a May 4 telephone interview. “We did it on our end, but finding the right office to carry it out — it’s just a cumbersome process.”

With the land back in the Rosebud Sioux’s hands, “it might just be used for agricultural purposes like it is now, for grazing. It might be used for community development. It might continue to be used for religious purposes,” said Harold Compton, deputy executive director of Tribal Land Enterprises, the Rosebud Sioux’s land management corporation. “It’s because they’re so scattered, I think each one will eventually evolve due to their own location.”

There are about 25,000 people enrolled with the Rosebud Sioux, 15,000 of whom live on the reservation.

Compton told CNS, “It’s the symbolism of returning. This land was categorically reserved by the government for the church’s use. So, the church returning this to the tribe is a plus for everybody.” He added, “The symbolism far outweighs” but then caught himself. “Land is valuable. Land everywhere is valuable. Land around here is worth $1,000, $2,000 or more an acre.”

Contributing to this story was Mark Pattison in Washington.

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Category: Faith and Culture

  • tschraad

    Much to do about nothing. If the land was truly given to the Jesuits in 1880 and they decide to give it to somebody else, just do it. It is not a major complicated problem.

    • Dominic Deus

      tschrad–It may be much ado about nothing to you as an immigrant, but to the Native American’s whose land it rightfully was, it means a lot. Something about a white person explaining why it’s no big deal when a tribal representative says otherwise just doesn’t seem …credible.

      (Also Ish-Na-Na-Mani…”Walks Alone”)

      • tschraad

        Dominic Deus – So when are you going to return to these so called Native Americans” the home, business, land etc. that you are currently occupying. As you just said “Native American’s whose land it rightfully was”‘. Let me know when you return your ill gotten real estate.

        • Dominic Deus

          “So called”…? What do suggest calling them.

          –Walks Alone

          • tschraad

            How about “immigrant”.

          • Dominic Deus

            Can’t use that. An immigrant is someone leaving one geographic area and going to another that is culturally and socially different, in most cases with a different language. If you go to a place that has no people, you are not an immigrant. Native American peoples are descended in the first place from hunter gathers who crossed the land bridge connecting Asia and North America known as Beringia about 16,500 years ago. there were no people here until they moved south and they were the first. as you get further into the Southwest the picture gets blurred according to some theories based on Polynesian migration and genetic testing (I think). There is, of course, no question that Native Americans tribes were here long before European “discovery” and also that they’re not immigrants. Believe it or not, you have one thing right. As far as we know, these indigenous peoples did not lay claim to land itself for many centuries. They might have had a sense of territory and a willingness to fight over it but claiming the land was a western European concept useful to kings and nation states. It also required an assertion that people already on the land were inferior or not people at all. Our country was no better when it came to indigenous tribes so what we are left with is a moral question. The only consideration United States law allows is violations of treaty rights and/or reservations wrongly taken. All the rest is moral arguments and whether of not you believe in Manifest Destiny.

            The Jesuits, who have a keen eye for this kind of thing and recognize that the land in question rightfully belonged to the Native Americans or “Redskins” as some white people and sportscasters call them.

          • tschraad

            Dominic Deus – “Can’t use that”. ‘I sure can. Your definition of an immigrant is erroneous.

            “. If you go to a place that has no people, you are not an immigrant.” First, you do not know if those who were here are the descendants of the “first people”. The “first” people, according to your view, own/controlled all of North America, South America and if you want to really get serious, all of Pangaea was inhabited by at least Adam and Eve. So Adam was the rightful owner/ruler of the world.

            According to my friend, a full blood Apache who lives in New Mexico, all land, including parts of Mexico and Canada including the United States, is “holy ground” and belongs to his people. We have had some interesting discussions. Hard to discuss when his starting point is that I was talking to him standing on his property.

            “It also required an assertion that people already on the land were inferior or not people at all”. Dominic, you are way off base with your opinion. Many articles have been written about these early people and how some tamed the land and their worship of gods, having a language, knowledge of the cosmos and calendars.

            “Redskins” as some white people and sportscasters call them.” Really? Which sportscasters called these immigrants redskins? Can you name one person who has been singled out in public and called this name?

          • Dominic Deus

            Dominic Deus here.

            Here is a short video graphic from National Geographic showing the pre-historic migrations of humans into a previously unpopulated world.


          • tschraad

            Dominic Deus – It still is an unpopulated world.

            Let us cut to the core. Adam was the first human being and all land and oceans are his and his children. End of story, using your logic.

          • Dominic Deus

            Where did you read that? Not National Geographic I bet

          • tschraad

            Dominic Deus –

            You avoided answering a fact?
            The world belongs to the descendants of Adam our first human.

            Chew on this-

            ” …. According to the U.N. Population Database, the world’s population in 2010 will be 6,908,688,000. The landmass of Texas is 268,820 sq mi (7,494,271,488,000 sq ft). So, divide 7,494,271,488,000 sq ft by 6,908,688,000 people, and you get 1084.76 sq ft/person.
            Episode 1: Overpopulation: The Making of a Myth …

            So I will stick with my answer “It still is an unpopulated world.”

          • Dominic Deus

            If you are suggesting that all those foreigners go live in Texas, best to check with some Texans on that. The Texas legislature just had its annual fist fight when one Republican representative shouted to Hispanic protestors he was calling ICE to get them to leave the building.

            Since I have no idea where you are going with this, I will stick with National Geographic:

            Adam and Eve were part of a Hebrew “origin of our people” story and not two actual foundational people named Adam and Eve. Worse yet, if you actually go looking for our earliest ancestors or “parents” if you prefer, they were not western European white people at all but short, very dark-skinned inhabitants of the Olduvai Gogre in the Great Rift Valley. You can actually go there and see where they lived. I’ve done that and it is very interesting.

            The second greatest thing about it is that it has men’s and women’s restrooms. The women’s are (reportedly) horrible but the men’s has a trough urinal with a spectacular panoramic view the of the valley and the origins of human kind…which is where your pee goes to. If you ever wanted get even with your entire family tree, as well as everyone else’s, this is the spot to do it.