History offers several examples of white settlers’ greed for gold and how it led to violence, disease, land theft, and genocide of Indigenous peoples, the California and Black Hills gold rushes being prime examples.
Less well know is that it happened in Minnesota, too. Reports of gold in northern Minnesota led state business and political interests to seek the U.S. government’s help in securing a treaty to force the Bois Forte Band of Ojibwe to cede lands coveted by gold speculators and prospectors. That treaty was signed on this day in history, April 7, 1866.
The 19th century gold rushes from California to the Black Hills had devastating effects on Native peoples, and history could be repeating itself.
According to a story in the Lakota Country Times: “Mineral Mountain Resources, of Vancouver, Canada, is seeking approval to conduct exploratory gold mining throughout the central Black Hills.” Investors are hoping to find “Homestake 2,” a reference to South Dakota’s famous Homestake Mine, “the largest and deepest goldmine in North America,” according to Wikipedia.
According to the Lakota Country Times:
That the especially sacred Lakota site of Pe` Sla – within the already sacred Black Hills – is also marked for gold exploration should come as no surprise. Native American land is always treated as disposable, whether for the federal government’s needs or for the monied interests that control it.
Pe` Sla is deeply tied to the Lakota creation story and is the site of annual ceremonies. Native nations have worked together to try to save this site, considered the center of the universe by the Lakota. According to a 2012 story in Indian Country Today: “In a historic banding together, the Great Sioux Nation, or Oceti Sakowin was able raise the $9 million needed to purchase” Pe` Sla.
It took another five years to get the land protected under federal land trust status, according to a March 24, 2017 story by KOTA TV. It reported: “now that the fight to keep the tract permanently in the hands of Native Americans for cultural and religious use is won, the tribes can focus on restoring the property.”
Still, the proposed mining could threaten Pe` Sla. The site getting scrutiny for gold mining is near the former gold mining town of Rochford, which also is near Pe` Sla. The sacred site could be affected by downstream pollution.