Pierre, South Dakota

Seven Council Fires Camp

On March 22, 1999 in Pierre, SD, seven Lakota men established the "First Fire of the Oceti Sakowin (Seven Council Fires) camp on La Framboise Island after more than 200 people demonstrated against the U.S. Congress turning Treaty land over to the state of South Dakota. Spiritual leaders conducted ceremonies and lit a sacred fire at the camp-in site as a reminder that the aboriginal and Treaty rights of the Oceti Sakowin nation are not extinguished. The camp-in participants were committed to a nonviolent presence across from the SD capitol on La Framboise Island, part of the 200,000 acres in question. The intent was to remain there until the congressional decision, called Title VI: Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, Lower Brule Sioux Tribe and State of South Dakota Terrestrial Wildlife Habitat Restoration Act of 1999, or the "Mitigation Act", was repealed.


CPT was invited to be observers of this nonviolent camp-in calling for the reversal of the Mitigation Act. Various church groups endorsed CPT's presence and local congregations were invited to join and support Lakota people and CPTers on La Framboise Island. 

The CPT presence on LaFramboise Island in the Missouri River was designed to help prevent the outbreak of violence of the sort widely associated with the deaths at Wounded Knee in 1973. The presence by committed nonviolent Christians sent a message to local troublemakers and law enforcement bodies that the world is watching.

This was an important opportunity for Christians who want to witness to our nonviolent faith to make a very concrete statement with their lives. Although the presence on LaFramboise Island was peaceful, there had been racist incidents and occasional harassment, and gunshots were fired into the camp. As the deadline to remove the camp approached, the possibility existed that Federal or State Forces might use violent force to remove the Lakota people from the island. CPT was present to document these events and to help prevent an escalation of the violence.

Books

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee -- Dee Brown
In the Spirit of Crazy Horse -- Peter Matthiessen
Lakota Woman -- Mary Crow Dog
Dammed Indians
God is Red -- Vine Deloria
Walking in the Sacred Manner -- Mark St. Pierre & Tilda Long Soldier