Indian input on use of Missouri River

Last Friday, U.S. Corps of Engineer officials were asked to consider what American Indians see as a wrongdoing that marks the history of the development of the Missouri River mainstem dam system on the river in South Dakota.

The injustice, according to these Native Americans, includes taking of private property, scattering of families and inadequate reparations in return from the federal government.

This group is dwindling because of time. Many of the people who were unfairly treated by the government, according to Ronald Neiss, chairman of the Land Use & Environment Commission of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, waited until the end of their lifetimes, without success, for adequate compensation.

[Witnesses testified to the devastating effects on their families from being forced to move for dam reservoirs.] “And then when this Pick-Sloan thing came along, (government officials) told us that we had to move, that the property was probably going to be condemned. I think that’s how they got the property, but I don’t know for sure. I was a child,” she told Corps representatives at Friday’s meeting. “I didn’t really understand what was going on.”

The building of the dam and the creation of Lake Francis Case had long-lasting repercussions on Buechler’s family.

Corps of Engineer officials are in the midst of conducting the Missouri River Authorized Purposes Study (MRAPS). It is a broad-based, congressionally-authorized effort to review the project purposes established by the Pick-Sloan Flood Control Act of 1944. The study will analyze several purposes in view of the current basin values and priorities to determine if changes to the existing purposes and existing federal water resource infrastructure may be warranted.

Due to the relationship tribes have with the Missouri River, and their status as independent sovereign nations, Friday’s meeting in Vermillion was being held specifically to collect tribal input for the Missouri River Authorized Purposes Study.

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