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Jesuits in South Dakota returning land to Native Americans


AP Photo | James Nord

John Burger - published on 05/12/17 - updated on 05/12/17

525 acres had been given the order by the federal government in the 1880s.

The Jesuits are returning land that “rightly belongs to the Lakota people” in South Dakota, says the head of the St. Francis Mission run by the order.

By the end of May, more than 500 acres that the U.S. government in the 1880s had given to the Jesuits will be back in the hands of the Rosebud Sioux.

Jesuit Father John Hatcher, president of St. Francis Mission, explained in a YouTube video that the property had been given to the Society of Jesus for use as churches and cemeteries.

“At the beginning of the mission, we had 23 mission stations,” Father Hatcher said. “But over the years as the people moved off the prairie and into cluster housing, those churches were closed because they were considered unnecessary.”

Father Hatcher said the Jesuits “will never again put churches on those little parcels of land.”

Catholic News Service reported that the property totals about 525 acres, scattered throughout 900,000 acres on a Rosebud reservation in the south-central portion of the state.

Rodney Bordeaux, chief operating officer of St Francis Mission, said that when he started work there five years ago, the land transfer, having been initiated by Father Hatcher, was “stalled.” He attributed it to finding the right office within the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs to follow through. … With the land back in the Rosebud Sioux’s hands, “it might just be used for agricultural purposes like it is now, for grazing. It might be used for community development. It might continue to be used for religious purposes,” said Harold Compton, deputy executive director of Tribal Land Enterprises, the Rosebud Sioux’s land management corporation. “It’s because they’re so scattered, I think each one will eventually evolve due to their own location.” There are about 25,000 people enrolled with the Rosebud Sioux, 15,000 of whom live on the reservation.

Compton told CNS that land in the area is worth between $1,000 and $2,000 an acre.

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