In 2011, the poorest American Indians in the United States refused to accept over one billion dollars from the United States government. They reiterated their long-held belief that money--even $1.3 billion--could not compensate them for the taking of their beloved Black Hills. A closer look at the formation of the Sioux claim to the Black Hills helps us to understand why the Sioux Nation has repeatedly rejected compensation for land taken by the United States over 100 years ago. This article seeks to understand why the Sioux view the Black Hills as priceless property by studying the formation of the Black Hills claim. It constructs a new, richer approach to understanding dispute formation by combining narrative analysis with the sociolegal framework for explaining dispute formation. The article argues that narratives enrich the naming, claiming, and blaming stages of dispute creation. It illustrates the usefulness of this new approach through a case study of the Black Hills claim. It uses the autobiographical work of an ordinary Sioux woman to provide a narrative lens to the creation of the Sioux claim to the Black Hills. American Indian Stories by Zitkala-Sa presents a narrative of Sioux life around the time of the claim's emergence. By contextualizing and humanizing the claim, my analysis provides insights into why the Sioux claim to the Black Hills emerged into a legal dispute and helps to explain why the Black Hills remain priceless property to the Sioux Nation today. The article concludes with a suggestion for successful resolution of the Black Hills claim based on acceptance of the Black Hills as priceless property to the Sioux Nation.
Indian and Aboriginal Law | Land Use Law | Law
Kirsten Matoy Carlson, Priceless Property, 29 Ga. St. U. L. Rev. 685 (2013).