Tribal National Park Almost A Reality

The Oglala Sioux Tribe is one step closer to managing the South Unit of Badlands National Park in South Dakota—a move that would create the nation's first tribal national park.

Yesterday, the National Park Service (NPS) and Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, announced the final management plan, officially endorsing the power transfer (though Congressional approval is still needed for the plan to take effect). While the Tribe and NPS have worked together to manage the land for nearly 40 years, this change would officially allow the Oglala Sioux people to control and operate the 133,000-acre unit for recreational and educational purposes.

"Our National Park System is one of America's greatest story tellers," Salazar said in a press release. "As we seek to tell a more inclusive story of America, a tribal national park would help celebrate and honor the history and culture of the Oglala Sioux people. Working closely with the Tribe, Congress, and the public, the Park Service will work to develop a legislative proposal to make the South Unit a tribal national park."

Hoping to increase tourism in the South Unitwhich  is less visited than the North Unit of Badlands—the tribe is planning the introduction of 1,200 bison, landscape restoration and cultural education such as hide tanning and bow making, according to a story in the Lakota Country Times.

"People will come,"  said Gerard Baker,  a Sioux tribal official and the new interim director of the Oglala Sioux Parks and Recreation Authority (OSPRA). "They will want to see the buffalo and animals on the landscape and hear first-hand experiences from tribal elders."

NPS still needs to sign a record of decision for the changes to take effect, which is expected this summer. Then, the Tribe and NPS will "formally develop the legislative framework," Eric Brunnemann, Badlands National Park superintendent told Indian Country Today.