Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis today announced the release of the final General Management Plan/Environmental Impact Statement for the South Unit of Badlands National Park – located in south-western South Dakota – which recommends the establishment of the nation’s first tribal national park in partnership with the Oglala Sioux Tribe.
“Our National Park System is one of America’s greatest story tellers,” Salazar said. “As we seek to tell a more inclusive story of America, a tribal national park would help celebrate and honour the history and culture of the Oglala Sioux people. Working closely with the Tribe, Congress, and the public, the Park Service will work to develop a legislative proposal to make the South Unit a tribal national park.”
Although there are a number of historically important ancestral Puebloan archaeological sites within the national park system – including Mesa Verde and Betatakin – the lack of national park status for symbolic Native American sites across the United States is a state of affairs that has proved puzzling for overseas visitors – as well as Americans – for many years. Of course, it could be argued that the subsequent addition of a Native American memorial with a spirit gate at the Little Bighorn National Battlefield Monument in eastern Montana – previously known as the Custer Battlefield National Monument – could technically qualify that location as the first Native American National Monument though clearly the original Custer monument was not created with that intent.
In 2010, nearly 1 million visitors travelled to Badlands National Park and spent $23 million in the Park and surrounding communities. This spending supported more than 375 area jobs. With expanded future opportunities for recreation and education in the South Unit, a tribal national park is an exciting prospect for South Dakota. “Continuing our long-standing partnership with the Tribe, we plan to focus on restoration of the landscape, including the reintroduction of bison that are integral to the cultural stories and health of the Oglala people,” said NPS Director Jon Jarvis.
Depending on Congressional action, the 133,000 acre South Unit – which is entirely within the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in south-western South Dakota – could be administered through a variety of options, including as a unit of the National Park System managed by tribal members, hired as NPS employees, or managed by tribal members as employees of the tribe.
Source: U. S. Department of the Interior Additional Information: Badlands National Park • Oglala Sioux Tribe •
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