Posted by on Aug 1, 2012 in Uncategorized

Pe’Sla: Protecting Sacred Sites as the Next Battle Ground

By: Chase Iron Eyes

Pe’Sla, to the Lakota, is the place where Morning Star, manifested as a meteor, fell to earth to help the Lakota by killing a great bird which had taken the lives of seven women; Morning Star’s descent having created the wide open uncharacteristic bald-spot in the middle of the forested Black Hills. The Morning Star placed the spirits of those seven women in the sky as the constellation “Pleiades” or “The Seven Sisters.” Please note that this is just one oral account; there are others if you ask. I am no expert. In fact, I am just a young man. I do not need to know or question every last detail anymore. It is enough for me to know that these sites are necessary to our continued existence.

The Center of the heart of everything that is; that is what Pe’ Sla is to the Lakota people. It is one of a small number of highly revered and geographically-cosmologically integral places on the entire planet. It is one of the places that we are required to go to at the appropriate times that our Sun is traveling through certain constellations. We perform(ed) certain ceremonies at Pe’Sla which sustained the Lakota as well as humanity at-large. Like the “sun dance” or any other ceremony of an Indigenous people, the ceremonies performed at Pe’ Sla are conducted on behalf of “all my relations” by those chosen within the Lakota nation. These ceremonies are done for the continued return of cycles in the universe; cycles of growth, life, death, seasons, water, plants, medicine, animals, and buffalo. I don’t personally know anyone that performs such ceremonies on earth at the places and times that are appropriate according to the changing constellations throughout the spring, summer, fall, and winter seasons. However, because we are still living on our planet and our planet continues to live, I know that our people are still conducting the appropriate ceremonies.

The Lakota nation is in a state of grave concern over the future of “Pe’Sla” (Old Baldy) or “Reynold’s Prairie”– so named after the name of the family which “owns” our site under United States imposed law. We are in a state of concern because Pe’Sla will be put on the auction block by the Reynold’s family on August 25, 2012 according to news sources. There is no guarantee that any new “owner” would preserve the integrity of the site in its current state. There is reason to be concerned over the future of this site because the South Dakota Department of Transportation, Pennington County Commissioners, and the Federal Highway Administration are in the process of preparing a South Rochford Road Project Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The EIS would clear the way for the consideration or various alternatives relating to the construction of a new highway (or upgrades to existing infrastructure) from Rochford through the middle of Pe’Sla to the Deerfield Lake area. I have seen this process play out several times when our Tribal Historic Preservation Offices (THPOs) and other Cultural Resource Representatives from different Indian Nations attempt to protect sites. The legal system, indeed the culture, is set up to promote property ownership and development. What “they” do not understand is that we cannot go anywhere else in the world to perform our ceremonies, to manifest our beliefs. There is only one Pe’Sla, one Bear Butte, one Grey Horn Butte, and so on. We were meant to pray here.

The protection of sacred sites is the final frontier. It is the one place that indigenous ways cannot waiver. There will always be conflict because the system will always need to feed itself, to devour more land. It is painfully obvious that the Corporate West will never value our world as much as it values its standards of living. It is obvious that the Corporate West will refuse to recognize even a true cost “global market” where we incorporate real costs of continuing the oil/carbon economy. The Corporate West forcefully promotes a kind of economics (neo-classic) that does not take into account real costs such as rapid deforestation, loss of species, loss of fresh water, oil spills, melting ice-caps, nuclear disasters, increased tsunamis, hurricanes, etc. in its “cost” or GDP calculations. As long as GDP rises we are made to believe we should be happy. Neo-classical is a kind of economics whose purveyors do not want us to know that their economics is a “growth” myth that presumes, pretentiously, that the earth has limitless “resources” (relatives as Indigenous peoples know them as); the kind of economics that commodifies humans in the same fashion as “natural resources.” I don’t foresee the Corporate West recognizing these obvious truths for our economic future much less respecting that we consider this land to be sacred and have no choice but to conduct ceremonies at certain places. Be thankful we are all not ignorant; be thankful we are still willing to defend the land.

The willingness to defend the land is a state of spiritual consciousness because we are the land. Our bodies become the land. We depend on the land and we will always protect the land. This is the magnitude of what is at stake, and what was at stake at Glen Cove (Wintun), San Francisco Peaks (Dine)…the list goes on. All the colonizers early efforts to cut our ties to the land, language, ceremonies, etc. have been done to prepare us for maintenance of the Corporate West, which leads to the ultimate destruction of our entire planet. If we believe and value as they in the system do, we will not be willing to defend our spiritual dignity and by extension, our sacred sites.

This internal battle is brought to light with every sacred site’s potential destruction. There are those among us that are ready for the earth to cleanse. We are preparing for her to show those that do not recognize her as a living, breathing, spirit, that we are not supreme; to teach us that what most humans consider civilization is the most destructive form of savagery in ages. A change is needed, a change that may come only by a cleansing force. I always thought my mom was crazy when, as a teen, we would talk about the state of our affairs and she would confidently nod her head behind tinted glasses and say, “don’t worry my boy; Mother Earth is on our side.”

As the Oceti Sakowin (Great Sioux Nation), we have a tremendous responsibility to protect the Black Hills. Other nations carry that moral responsibility as well- including the Cheyenne, Arapaho, Crow, Kiowa, and others that know the sacred nature of the Black Hills. We need to come together: the Treaty Councils, Tribal Governments (IRA), Action Groups, Grassroots organizations, AIM Chapters, and any individual willing to help. We will not wait for others to “take up the cause.” Each one of us must be willing to set up camp at any sacred site set for destruction, share information via social media or around a campfire, seek legal recourse in any court of law, protest, “buy back” our sites as the Sicangu (Rosebud Nation) and Mdewakantonwan (Shakopee Dakota) are talking of doing, and do whatever it takes to defend our most vital sites. The auction day (Aug.25,2012) fast approaches as does the future Pe’Sla construction (2014). As long as we are living there will be a fight to protect all of our sites. There is only one Mother Earth, Blihiciyapo.