Little Big War: A band of armed Sioux warriors have seized 134,000 acres of Badlands National Park to protect what they say is a sacred burial ground
April 2004

By Todd Wilkinson, contributing editor

P.O. Box 422

Bozeman, Montana 59771

[email protected] or 406-587-4876

Backpacker Magazine

33 East Minor St.

Emmaus, PA 18098


Fax: 610-967-8181

Subscribe to Backpacker: 800-666-3434

To submit a Letter to the Editor: [email protected]


In oral memory older than writing, the men were called Tokala, a clan of High Plains warriors revered for their fearlessness and disregard of overwhelming odds. On the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, they still talk about the Tokala. When a battle seemed futile, they say, the warriors would tie themselves to a stake in the ground, making retreat impossible, and then embrace martyrdom. An Oglala Sioux who died that way knew his spirit would transcend to the next world.

By the end of the 19th century, however, this society of fighters had vanished forever. Or so it seemed. In the spring of 2002, word began circulating through the reservation: The Tokala were mounting an emergency revival.

Just past midnight on June 21, 2002, some two dozen men crossed the southern edge of Badlands National Park. They rode in a convoy of old pickup trucks and carried tepee poles tipped with red, yellow, and black prayer flags -- banners that Oglala Sioux warriors of old would fly before battle. These modern-day Tokala also toted high-powered optic scopes, topo maps, a laptop computer, cell phones, fresh buffalo meat, a pipe with tobacco to make an offering to the Creator, and, some say, a cache of guns. They packed in enough gear and provisions to sustain an encampment indefinitely. Their goal was to seize the South Unit, a 134,000-acre portion of the park lying almost entirely within the reservation's boundaries. The group made camp atop a broad, treeless mesa called Cuny Table and, as the sun rose over the South Dakota prairie, braced for a swift response from the federal government. Two years later, they are still waiting.

The Tokala had reason to expect an attack. Several clan members had lived through the 1973 shootout at Wounded Knee between 200 members of the militant American Indian Movement (AIM) and FBI agents, in which two Indians were killed. This time around, the Tokala began their fight with a PR salvo. They sent a defiant statement to local newspapers and broadcast it on the tribal radio station, declaring the South Unit off limits to all "trespassers" -- meaning everyone but themselves. They vowed to occupy the Badlands until the National Park Service surrendered the swath of wild, eroded prairie to tribal control. And, over many months, they scared off hikers, fired shots over the heads of park visitors, threatened rangers with bodily harm, and called for the removal of Park Superintendent William Supernaugh.

This hostile takeover is the first of its kind in American history. It's the first time park officials have knowingly allowed visitors to be booted out by vigilantes -- the Tokala estimate that they have asked more than 100 hikers to leave. Yet the park service has not taken any notable action, and the national press has virtually ignored the siege. In fact, with the exception of the Oglala Sioux tribal leadership, a few Indian-besotted Europeans, and the usual coterie of activists -- including actor Viggo Mortensen, who plays Aragorn in the Lord of the Rings films -- very few people outside South Dakota have noticed at all. Even the state's congressional delegation has abstained from formal comment.,2646,7085__1_10,00.html

It might seem inconceivable that a forbidding place like the Badlands, a panorama literally gnawed from the Great Plains, would be worth fighting for at all. Indeed, it would be impossible to assign a single motive to the Tokala's fight. In the Badlands, everything is complicated. This is a mystical, looking-glass realm where the lines of reality are often blurry. It is the homeland of Crazy Horse and the place where he is buried; the site of two violent conflicts at Wounded Knee; and ground zero for a legal push to return the nearby Black Hills to Native Americans. The Badlands are also a treasure trove of fossils, a boon to poachers. And, some say, they are the scene of a government attempt to cover up a second massacre at Wounded Knee's back door. History and hearsay, legal battles and local politics, greed, heroism, and the sheer frustration of living in the poorest place in America -- all are inseparable strands woven into the Tokala's decision to launch a surprise offense against the U.S. government.

Every year, a million tourists turn off Interstate 90 at Wall, South Dakota, home of Wall Drug, a tourist trap that advertises free ice water for hundreds of miles. They veer south to drive the scenic Badlands loop in the national park's northern tier, and then most of them get back onto I-90 and resume their vacation. The rest, about 100,000, continue south to the White River Ranger Station, a part of the national park that lies within the bounds of the Pine Ridge Reservation. Until recently, only a hundred or so of these visitors ventured more than a quarter mile into the backcountry. Now, because of the occupation, almost no one does.

This is a paradise for the bushwhacker who likes adventure, and for young Sioux men on solitary vision quests. There are no marked trails in the South Unit, no trailheads, no entrance stations, no designated campsites. You pick your way through the shadowy labyrinths of twisting ravines and canyon headwalls shaped like gothic castles and Druid ruins, passing mountain lion tracks and darting antelope. Everywhere you step there is the crunch of bleached...stones, you think. Look closer: They are bones, millions of them.

Although the Badlands appear as prairie on the map, they more closely resemble the desert Southwest. They are the arid yang to the lush yin of the neighboring Black Hills, home of Mt. Rushmore. Looming tantalizingly on the reservation's northern horizon, the Black Hills are the spiritual heart of the Oglala, one of the seven bands of Lakota, or Sioux. This is where the creator gave the Oglala their first laws and blessed them with the buffalo. An 1868 treaty guaranteed the tribe's "absolute and undisturbed" use of the Black Hills and Badlands in perpetuity. Just 4 years later, geologists accompanying George Armstrong Custer on an illicit expedition found gold in the Black Hills. By the start of 1875, 15,000 miners were squatting there. In 1876, the government seized the Black Hills on behalf of the white settlers. In return for giving up 7.7 million acres of holy land, the Oglala were promised food, financial aid, schools, and jobs.

The tribe's holdings shrank even more during World War II, when the U.S. War Department used the power of eminent domain to convert this part of the reservation into a bombing range. Planes and artillery pummeled the area up until the 1960s. At that point, the Oglala had every reason to believe that the land would be returned to the tribe. Instead, the Department of the Interior made it part of Badlands National Park. In 1976, a memorandum of agreement carved 134,000 acres out of Pine Ridge to form the South Unit, doubling the park's size. Tribal leaders, ignoring what must have been a sense of dejavu, signed the memo in return for assurance of a federal windfall. The Park Service promised that the South Unit would provide employment and income to Pine Ridge, a benighted reservation with a chronic unemployment rate above 70 percent and a median income of $2,600. But the jobs and big money never appeared. Once again the Lakota felt they were cheated by the Wasicu, or white man.,2646,7085__2_10,00.html

At least this time the government didn't slaughter Indians. The 1868 treaty had been accompanied by a threat: Those Lakota who refused to give up their nomadic culture and settle on the reservation would be considered "hostiles" and hunted down. The hostiles responded by annihilating Custer and his men at Little Big Horn.

Wasicu vengeance came 14 years later. In December 1890, the Seventh Cavalry rode into Pine Ridge and surrounded one of the last free bands of Lakota -- a starving and frostbitten group that had camped under a white flag of truce beside Wounded Knee Creek. While the bluecoats searched the few remaining Lakota fighters for guns, a shot was fired, killing a trooper and triggering a hail of bullets from machine guns set up on the ridges. An estimated 300 Lakota men, women, and children lay dead or dying in the snow. To many Lakota, this is recent history. Some had grandparents at Wounded Knee.

It is like the land itself. History is never linear here. The past festers with each season as the soil exposes new reminders. And yet the Badlands are traditionally a healing place. George Tall, leader of the resurrected Tokala, sees no contradiction.

"This is where they rolled the bodies over the edge," Tall says. He stands towering and brooding on the edge of Cuny Table as spears of lightning streak ahead of a purple and pea-green thunderhead. At 52, Tall has an intense, boiled-down look -- lean, fit, and physically formidable, with a full head of long, raven-black hair and ink pen tattoos on his arms. Half a life ago, he was a cohort of Russell Means in AIM's early days. When Means left Pine Ridge to pursue an acting career in Hollywood, it was Tall who remained behind.

Pointing to a ravine where he claims he found the bones of a young Lakota child thrown from Cuny Table, Tall pauses for a moment. He clenches his fists and tears up. "We are here to remember them," he says.

He isn't referring to the victims of Wounded Knee but to an alleged second slaughter. Not all of the Indians died from the cavalry's Hotchkiss guns, he says. A few scrambled north for safety, negotiating a maze of dry river washes that snake through a jumble of gumbo mountains to a hidden place called the Stronghold. According to Tall, a militia of white ranchers waiting in ambush at Cuny Table shot the unarmed Indians and dumped their bodies into the chasm below.

Historians say they have never heard of such a massacre; nor, until recently, have many Lakota. Tall himself has only hand-drawn maps and blurry photos as proof. Still, against a century's backdrop of atrocities, many of the tribe's members find it believable. It fits the Wasicu pattern.

This time, however, when Tall and his Tokala seized Cuny Table, the government responded with unexpected passivity. Officials are wary of inciting another Waco -- or Wounded Knee, for that matter. When the Tokala made vague threats against park officials, including Supernaugh, the superintendent pulled all non-Lakota patrols out of the South Unit.

Supernaugh made a provocative exception when he sent several rangers to escort a team of paleontologists into the South Unit. At the behest of the Tokala, Oglala Sioux tribal police faced down the group at gunpoint, their fingers poised on the triggers of loaded M-16s. Both sides blinked. "We were lucky nobody got shot or killed, that's how serious it was," Supernaugh says. "Next time, it could be different.",2646,7085__3_10,00.html

Reaching behind his desk at park headquarters in Interior, SD, Supernaugh proffers a Gary Larson Far Side cartoon that he keeps in a growing file on the Tokala siege. The drawing portrays a cowboy returning on horseback from a negotiating session with Indians. His body is covered with arrows. "On some days, I can definitely relate to this guy," Supernaugh says. The soft-spoken 37-year veteran of the park service sports a small ponytail and a bushy gray handlebar mustache twisted tightly at the ends to resemble bull horns. Some of the Oglala consider Supernaugh to be a bit of a dandy, but his enemies see him as the archetype of the Wasicu oppressor. The Tokala have accused him of, among other things, personally buzzing the protesters at Cuny Table with a Piper Cub aircraft; requesting that the South Dakota Air National Guard spy on the activists with black helicopters; masterminding a covert fossil-stealing ring; and managing a government conspiracy to mine Badlands uranium for nuclear bombs, a plot that closely follows the story line of the movie "Thunderheart."

"You have to give my antagonists credit for being creative," Supernaugh says. "The airplane stories are particularly entertaining. For one, I don't have a pilot's license and wouldn't know how to fly a plane. Number two, we don't have the budget to be out taking joy rides. If we did have the money, we'd be using it to monitor black-footed ferrets and bighorn sheep." He insists that he doesn't take the allegations personally. "What they fail to grasp is if they succeed in having me removed," he says, "there's going to be another park superintendent arriving in my place dedicated to upholding the same laws. And another after that, and another after that."

Not all of the tribe support the Tokala. A few miles from the encampment, 80-year-old Nellie Cuny serves up Indian tacos at the Cuny Cafe, one of the few restaurants on the reservation. Her grandparents were survivors of the Wounded Knee massacre, and she says her family has always regarded the Badlands as sacred. Her own granddaughter is a Badlands ranger who hopes to make a career with the park service. For years, the Cuny family has grazed cattle on the plateau. Now the Tokala have padlocked fence gates, restricting access to the public grazing allotment for which the family pays thousands of dollars a year. When asked about the Tokala, Nellie Cuny shakes her head in disgust. Her younger sister, Frieda Jaeger, is more talkative. "I'd like to tell them a thing or two and it's not going to be nice," Jaeger offers. "I think they're bozos."

The siege has also hurt the business of Ben and Richard Sherman, brothers who until recently led bushwhacking adventures through the South Unit. The Shermans don't support the occupiers' militant tactics either. But they understand the resentment that motivates it. Direct descendents of Crazy Horse's grandfather, their own grandparents were displaced when the government seized the land for the bombing range, paying a pittance to willing sellers and forcing out the rest. Richard Sherman remembers the daily flash of incendiary bombs and the boom of explosive projectiles going on for decades. "It was like a war zone out there," he says.

Strangely, the same natural forces that thrust bones to the surface also bury the ammunition. Though there are plenty of spent shells and other mock-battle detritus scattered throughout the South Unit, they are not readily visible, and the place looks as wild as it was before the Wasicu.,2646,7085__4_10,00.html

The Shermans believe the park service should honor its promise to let the tribe comanage the South Unit, but they say the activists undermine the tribe's credibility by basing their occupation on a dubious conspiracy. "I have no doubt that people are buried out there," says Ben. "Humans have had a documented presence in the Badlands for at least 11,000 years. I'm sure there are Lakota and settlers and army soldiers and other Indians who died while they were walking across it.

"But when I was growing up on the reservation, no one I knew had ever heard of these so-called slaughters. If you ask me, I think this is all about something else."

By "something else," he refers to remains -- not human, but fossil. Supernaugh says it explicitly: "This is about fossils and money, big money."

The usual features that inspire the creation of a national park -- sublime scenery, superb hiking -- are not the chief reason the Department of the Interior absorbed the South Unit. The area is shaped by the White River Geologic Formation, a combination of earthly forces that happens to be ideal for preserving remains. The South Unit is perhaps the world's richest source of fossils. Entombed in a deathbed of shifting sand and silt, the bones go back 30 million years to the Oligocene epoch, the period that followed the age of the dinosaurs. Each year, wind, frost heaves, snow, and rain bring thousands of fossils to the surface, from massive predators to giant turtles to grass eaters of SUV proportions. Federal law forbids private collection. But if you want a souvenir of your own, you can drive to one of the numerous shops advertising Badlands fossils throughout western South Dakota. You barely have to leave the reservation. In the Longhorn Store right across the boundary, glass cases display the petrified remains of bulls and tortoises. Ask the proprietor for something special, and he will gladly show you more in the back room.

The government, for its part, supervises the excavation of South Unit fossils and holds them "in trust" for the Lakota people; the tribe is not permitted to sell them or keep them on the reservation. Most are stored at the South Dakota School of Mines in Rapid City. When the skeleton of a Titanothere, a rare, rhinoceros like creature the size of an elephant, was found protruding from a remote cliff in the South Unit, the park service felt that it had to act fast. "A complete skull can turn into a bunch of little bone chips" when it's exposed to the Badlands' climate, Supernaugh notes.

The superintendent enlisted the School of Mines and the Denver Museum of Natural History to conduct the excavation in the spring of 2002. He informed John Yellow Bird Steele, chairman of the Oglala Sioux tribe, of the project in a memorandum that described the location as "the Titanothere graveyard" within the Badlands "Stronghold Management Unit."

The words "graveyard" and "Stronghold" would come back to haunt Supernaugh.

When researchers arrived at the site, they discovered that poachers had beaten them to it. A crude attempt to wedge the Titanothere from the cliff side had damaged the skeleton. Nearby fossil beds showed more signs of aggressive pilfering. But by then, Supernaugh had problems of his own. Pine Ridge was abuzz with distortions of his memo to Steele. The word around the reservation was that the park service intended to dig up a human graveyard near the Stronghold, one of the most sacred sites in the Badlands. In 1890, bands of the remaining free Lakota went to this well-hidden site to perform a ceremony called the Ghost Dance, believing that the ritual would bring back dead relatives and vanished buffalo while making them invulnerable to Wasicu bullets. The government saw the dance as a prelude to battle and banned the ceremony. When Custer's nemesis, Sitting Bull, became a Ghost Dancer, tribal police shot him dead.,2646,7085__5_10,00.html

Tales of Wasicu scientists plotting to go after Lakota remains at the Stronghold stirred up the Lakota's worst fears. "Once a crazy rumor like that starts circulating, it's hard to put it back in the bottle," notes Supernaugh. He adds an understatement: "This is a place where trust in the federal government isn't very high to begin with."

A few days later, the rumor gained credibility when a frumpy Lakota housewife named Lovey Two Bulls went before the Oglala Sioux Tribal Council and claimed she had proof that the park service was using the Titanothere dig as a ruse to collect remains of resting ancestors. Then she raised the stakes: The slaughtered Lakota were not buried in one mass grave but in two, she asserted. She placed one site near Cuny Table and the second near the Titanothere. Two Bulls held up grainy photographs and said they depicted graves. In addition, she declared, she and her sons had found bone fragments from Indians shot on Cuny Table. Chairman Steele demanded an immediate moratorium on the Titanothere excavation, and the tribal commission used the issue to justify a resolution calling for an end to the park and a ban on all visitors. The tribe hired Lovey's sons, Tony, Tom, and Ernest, to patrol the South Unit and gather more evidence.

Does Steele believe the Two Bulls clan? Whenever asked, he responds evasively. It is politically unwise for a tribal politician to side with the feds. And Steele may be reluctant to buck the militants; his opponent in the last tribal election was Russell Means. "What's missing in all of this is leadership, to sort out fact from fiction and calm people down," Ben Sherman says. "John Steele has acted more like a white politician than a leader of the Lakota people. Supernaugh hasn't behaved any better. If trouble starts, it'll be on their hands."

When Supernaugh dismissed the massacre story as absurd and announced that the Titanothere excavation would proceed as planned, Lovey Two Bulls met with George Tall, who mobilized his AIM friends. Supernaugh credits Lovey with making him one of the most hated people in the area, but he says her motive is more economic than political or personal. The Titanothere excavation would hinder the work of fossil poachers. And Lovey Two Bulls, he says, is one of them.

The Two Bulls family resides on a massive whale fin of prairie that splits the Badlands in two. "Mi casa es su casa," reads a sign nailed to a wall next to the family's front door. Casa de Two Bulls is a clutter of junk. The yard is a mess of outbuildings, discarded trash, and rusted vehicles scavenged for parts. When a visitor appears in the driveway, a dog growls and a pair of exotic geese come honking. Lovey Two Bulls opens the door to reveal a living room in an equal state of dishevelment. Piles of paper are everywhere. Shelves, some holding books on paleontology, are coated with dust. Nonetheless, the place has a cozy feel made cheery by Lovey's toothy smile. The frizzy-haired 62-year-old volunteers that her greatest ambition is to be a good grandma.

Lovey's husband of four decades, Eddie Two Bulls, emerges from the bedroom and grunts himself forward in a wheelchair. A 66-year-old painter of wildlife scenes, he used to sell his work in Grand Teton National Park. Decades ago, an auto wreck made him a paraplegic and left Lovey to support a family of five. Her three sons, now all grown, have found their own share of trouble. One was sent to prison for manslaughter after a fatal accident. Another was accused of running over a fellow Lakota with a car in a drunken argument.,2646,7085__6_10,00.html

Lovey wheels Eddie into the backyard and then brings forth an old metal pail full of mineralized hooves, jaws, and other bones. She lifts a weighty hunk about the size of a melon: part of a Titanothere skeleton, she says. Lovey and Eddie tick off the names of dozens of extinct species, offering each genus in Latin, their relative abundance or rarity, and going rates on the global market. They name renowned paleontologists they've met over the years and digs in which their boys assisted. "You can't say we're ignorant," says Lovey. "My boys can pick up a piece of bone and tell you what creature it is."

Tears come to her eyes when she tells how fossil collecting has been a source of solace for her sons dating back to their youth, when a white physician on the reservation introduced them to paleontology. "They live fossils," she says. Lovey has admitted numerous times, at public meetings and to the press, that her family has made its living by selling Badlands fossils. She sees nothing wrong with it. In her mind it isn't poaching; it's a valid form of subsistence. "When I see fossils, I think of all the money they are bringing in," she says. Lakota and non-Indians alike have been taking fossils for years; according to Lovey, tribal Chairman Steele was a bone prospector in his youth.

Lovey and her family maintain that the park service's prohibition follows a racist double standard. It prevents impoverished locals from harvesting items that are only going to decay anyway; meanwhile, it allows well-heeled museums to collect them. "I think them fossils should be collected before they go to nothing," Eddie says. "Ninety percent of them haven't even been exposed, but we've already lost so much because we weren't paying attention."

"Stealing is stealing," retorts Terry Grosz, a retired law enforcement specialist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The South Unit's value lies not just in fossils that have been revealed; "we have no idea what magnificence lies at the unknown levels beneath the surface," he says. "For poachers to go in there and crudely take those items from the face of the Earth is like serving crystal at a table with a wrecking ball. Once those things are removed, wholly intact or in pieces, so much will be lost forever." Grosz believes that the illicit trade of Badlands fossils is worth many millions annually. A well-preserved skull of a saber-toothed tiger can fetch the finder thousands of dollars. The complete skeleton of a beast new to science can rise to seven or eight figures. And in 1997, the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago paid $8.36 million for the T-Rex named Sue, whose skeleton was uncovered north of Pine Ridge.

Just one officer remains to stop the poaching on the South Unit, a Lakota named Vincent Littlewhiteman. A law enforcement specialist with training in the Army and Bureau of Indian Affairs in Arizona, Littlewhiteman is the only ranger the Tokala will allow into the South Unit. He would not be an easy man to eject. Littlewhiteman has an authoritative stare accentuated by a military-style buzz cut, highway patrolman's sunglasses, and a body builder's physique. Stenciled onto his knuckles is a homemade tattoo bearing the letters S I O U X. Ben Sherman says he walks a cultural tightrope. A Lakota in uniform brings back bad tribal memories; when Crazy Horse was murdered, his arms were pinned by a Lakota wearing a law enforcement uniform, a former friend named Little Big Man. Says Sherman: "Every morning that he wakes up and looks in the mirror, whether he has his park service uniform on or not, he is first an Indian." Littlewhiteman clearly feels the strain. Five minutes into the interview, he lets his ranger bravado slip. "I'm caught between two worlds," he says.,2646,7085__7_10,00.html

Lovey denies that the conspiracy theory about mass graves was fabricated to prevent park authorities from interfering with poaching. But Littlewhiteman insists the Two Bulls family is lying. "I can tell you one thing right now," he says. "The National Park Service is not going to start digging up grave sites."

Lovey says she has shown hard forensic evidence to Chairman Steele but purposefully kept it from the eyes of Supernaugh and Littlewhiteman. There are well-documented cases of researchers disinterring native people, and Lovey says she fears the feds would exhume the dead and destroy evidence. "We found skeletons minus their skulls. Where did they go? To a museum? Our dead should be allowed to rest with dignity. I will not give up the location of these sites."

Lovey tells a photographer on assignment to this magazine that her sons Tom and Ernie will guide him to one of the sites. They drive for an hour through roadless backcountry, using a Jeep Cherokee and an ATV (donated, incidentally, by Viggo Mortensen), stopping finally at a cliff wall near the Titanothere site. Small, hard chunks of something lie scattered at the bottom of the cliff. They could be stones, or fossils, or human bones; it would take a lab analysis to tell for sure. But Tom and Ernie are not about to let a Wasicu wander off with a sample.

Although the Two Bulls clan and the Tokala are eager to publicize their cause, it takes numerous requests before Tall approves a visit, and then only with a Tokala escort. At noon on the appointed date, a fleet of pickups driven by Tokala and non-Indian groupies leads the way along axle-crunching dirt tracks that cross gates blocked with barbed wire before crossing Cuny Table.

It is an impressive place to hold a protest. The table's edge, with its sheer 500-foot drop, summons butterflies to the gut of the unprepared visitor. A yurtlike shelter sits on a nose of land; nearby is a camper trailer, bunkers covered with sheets of plywood, and a latrine whose throne provides an inspiring perch. The camp has a temporary, messy look. As Supernaugh says, "The place has been turned into a trash dump. Very unparklike." The superintendent notes primly that the Tokala never applied for a camping permit. Not to mention the privy, which violates park regulations.

A hand-painted sign forbids guns and alcohol, but police reports suggest enforcement is lax. Tall contends that the Tokala are unarmed, although he admits that his own gun "accidentally discharged" in a confrontation with a crew of Lakota who were cleaning up the bombing range. His insistence that this is a "peace camp" is contradicted by a Tokala named Tom Clifford. "Yes, we're all gun toters, but you don't see no guns, no alcohol, because we're not giving the feds any reason to come in here with their Homeland Security terrorist b***s***," Clifford says. But he warns: "Supernaugh should know that we've got guns if we need them."

In honor of their visitors, the Tokala prepare a feast of boiled buffalo stew and bologna sandwiches, serving it up in the yurt as a thunderstorm blows in. The scene is more Harley rally than armed camp. A few warriors, pot bellied and stiff muscled, wear black biker T-shirts with AIM slogans. Some of them talk like Cheech and Chong. One has a shaved head and wraparound sunglasses. A man without front teeth sports military fatigues and matted dreadlocks that hang to his waist. He types on a laptop while Tom Clifford delivers an angry speech. "We know what Custer thought of Indians and look at what happened to him at Little Bighorn," Clifford says menacingly.,2646,7085__8_10,00.html

Sitting alone in the camper trailer is Charlie Smoke, a Tokala sentry who says he was fired from the National Park Service after he questioned federal policy. (Supernaugh says he was dismissed for downloading pornography on the job.) Smoke has a tanned face and long brown hair, and he claims a mixed heritage of Lakota and Mohawk. But a bit of digging reveals that his real name is Roger Leo Adams Jr. and that he grew up in Memphis. Canadian officials contacted his parents a few years ago when he refused to provide a birth certificate to immigration officials. His mother told the press that Roger "had always said he wanted to be an Indian."

Meanwhile, Tall strolls solo along the dizzying heights of the Badlands chasm, speaking on a cell phone to a lookout posted a few miles to the west. Tall speaks in Lakota to prevent the National Park Service from listening in. Asked for a translation, he replies: "When I want to tell the truth, I speak Lakota. When I want to lie, I speak English."

A meeting of the Tokala commences when Tall strolls into the yurt. The eight warriors in attendance agree to issue another ultimatum, this one informing the National Park Service that the 1976 Memorandum of Agreement is null and void. In return for the South Unit, the National Park Service promised to help clean up the bombing range and share in the gate proceeds from all of the park entrance stations, including the busy northern gateway south of Wall. The memorandum also obligated the agency to help construct concession facilities and create service jobs for reservation inhabitants, establish a legion of Lakota rangers, finish a paved road to provide access, re-establish a bison herd, plan a trail and campground system in the backcountry, and erect a multimillion-dollar, tribal-run interpretive center that would explain the Lakota culture and even house local fossils.

The feds made good on the gate receipts, which total around $400,000 a year, and cleanup crews are working the bombing range. Other than that, there's little to show for the memorandum. The visitor center still occupies a double-wide trailer that had to be shut down and disinfected last year because of a Hanta virus scare.

Tornado warnings have been issued in this corner of South Dakota, and as the thunderstorm billows onto Cuny Table, most of the occupiers drive off in their pickups, leaving only Tall and an aide on the rampart. Motioning at the South Unit's rugged maw, Tall speaks of a passing into the next world that would do Crazy Horse proud. He says he isn't afraid. Park rangers and FBI agents in flak jackets could appear any day now. "I believe they are going to come," he says, "and if they do, they'll turn us into martyrs." Ben Sherman insists Tall isn't bluffing. "There are people here who, because of lack of employment opportunities, have become almost professional agitators and they aren't buffoons," he notes. "They're looking to do something honorable in defense of the tribe and make their families proud. If the National Park Service provokes violence, there are going to be people joining the Tokalas willing to lay down their lives."

Still, the Shermans credit Tall with remarkable restraint. They say that when Supernaugh sent a team to check out the Titanothere site, the Tokala leader chose a nonviolent response. "Bill Supernaugh should have known better than to send his people out into the park. He knew full well he might incite the Tokala, and he put the lives of innocent people at risk," says Ben. "It was a good thing George Tall kept his cool.",2646,7085__9_10,00.html

The Two Bulls family is less impressed. Lovey's husband Eddie says it was he who told Tall about the legend of the Tokala. "They call themselves Tokalas," he says, laughing. "They didn't even know what the Tokalas were before I told them. The real Tokalas died out during the 1800s. Those guys are Tokala wannabes."

When Tall is told that William Supernaugh's strategy is to wait out the occupation in the theory that the Tokala will pack up and go home, the Tokala leader seems surprised. "He said that? If Bill Supernaugh wonders how long we'll be out here, our response is as long as it takes," Tall says. "Probably longer than that."

If anything, Tall's motives are even more complicated than those of the group he leads. His cause is not based entirely on poachers and rumors, massacres and cover-ups. Tall says the Badlands continue to be a magnet for contemporary Lakota warriors because of the sanctity of the land, made more acute by its rare geographical isolation. Tall remembers the stories traditional elders told, always in Lakota, about Crazy Horse. Killed in 1877 when he went to Ft. Robinson in Nebraska to negotiate with the federal authorities, Crazy Horse was carried by his parents in a horse cart back to Pine Ridge, where they interred him in an unmarked spot -- in the hardscrabble of the South Unit, some say, or close by in the rolling hills and juniper-peppered ridges behind Tall's hometown, the tiny reservation community of Manderson. He didn't die in battle (he was bayoneted by Indian police) but his tribe reveres him as a martyr. A white man had once asked Crazy Horse to point to the geographic center of his home. Scorning the proffered map, the warrior-mystic had replied with a bitter irony: "It is where my people are buried." An Indian burial was nothing like the Wasicu's version. Its cemeteries had no fences, and most graves were unmarked. But these places were guarded as holy ground.

Tall understands why non-Lakota hikers, too, living in a crowded world and seeking physical adventure, make pilgrimages here in search of their own connection to the Earth. But after being pushed to the fringe of Wasicu culture, he says, the Lakota now want to be left alone. Once, at a negotiating session with the government, Tall lectured the bureaucrats: "You only work here; we live here. This is why we're fighting for this land."

That fight has borne some fruit; the Tokala have succeeded in getting Supernaugh to put the Titanothere project on hold.

But returning the South Unit to the tribe is another thing.

It would take an act of Congress to undo a national park.

If the National Park Service even endorsed divestment of the South Unit, it could bolster existing Indian claims at other parks, including Yellowstone, Glacier, the Grand Canyon, Great Smokies, and Yosemite.

It could open the door, too, to the return of the Black Hills -- none of which is likely to happen. But that isn't the point, exactly. The point is to hold the South Unit for as long as it takes. Probably longer.

So Tall stands on Cuny Table like a Tokala of old, staked to the ground and ready to defend even the most hopeless of causes. This is where the honor lies. It is where his people are buried.,2646,7085__10_10,00.html


Additional and highly recommended websites:


Write or fax William Supernaugh to demand he honor the 1851 Fort Laramie Treaty, and the wishes of the traditional Lakota people.
William Supernaugh, superintendent [email protected] or [email protected]
Badlands National Park
P.O. Box 6
Interior, SD 57750
605-433-6260 or 605-867-1271
Fax: 605-433-5404 or 605-867-5044
Doug Albertson (biology) [email protected]
Rachel Benton (paleo) [email protected]
Dan Johnson, Park Curator [email protected]
Research coordinator: Brian Kenner [email protected]  


You can also contact Timothy McKeown, NAGPRA (Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act) Program Leader for the national park service; [email protected] or 203-343-4101 Ask him why William Supernaugh & NPS is violating NAGPRA.
Interesting photo of the bombing range:
Supernaugh is also the "Point of Contact" for the South Dakota Resource Advisory Boards:
He's also with the Association of National Park Rangers (ANPR) and answers questions at its "Do you have questions or comments" page: If you have a question, email: [email protected] and visit this URL to view both your question and its answer!
DLN Human Rights Advocacy Coalition

Badlands fossil dig delayed


August 9, 2002

By Heidi Bell Gease, Journal Staff Writer

[email protected] or 605-394-8419

Rapid City Journal

Rapid City, South Dakota

To submit a Letter to the Editor: [email protected]

Stronghold Table, South Dakota - The National Park Service has delayed a proposed fossil dig in the South Unit of Badlands National Park pending a meeting with Oglala Sioux tribal officials.

The dig for ancient animal fossils was supposed to start next week. Some members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe have objected to the project, saying it is too close to human graves and cultural or historical sites in the area. This week, National Park Service Regional Director Bill Schenk agreed to delay the dig until he and other park administrators could meet with tribal President John Steele and other tribal leaders. The meeting will be August 27 on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

"I think the Park Service is trying to be rational and understanding (of) the concerns of the tribe," F.A. Calabrese, an archaeologist and associate regional director for the National Park Service in Omaha, Nebraska, said. "There isn't any reason that we have to do this in a hostile manner, that I can see. "Hopefully, we can work it out."

Some tribal members protesting the dig by camping at Stronghold Table in the South Unit had planned to link hands and surround the dig site next week. They saw the delay as a minor victory for the tribe and for protesters. "It's given us time to take a good breath," Lovey Two Bulls, who has led the protest, said. "But we're still going back after our land."

The South Unit is technically tribal land but has been included in the park boundaries for about 35 years. Under a Memorandum of Agreement signed in 1976, the National Park Service is responsible for administering the South Unit.

Two Bulls and some others want to see the tribe sever ties with the park service and take control of the South Unit, possibly developing it for tourism. But that hasn't happened yet, and park service officials say they are legally mandated to protect fossil resources in the park.

Fossil hunters already have plundered the proposed dig area, prompting the park service to pursue funding for a dig. The three-year project would remove the fossils and keep them in trust for the Oglala Sioux Tribe.

"We don't do excavations of anything unless you have to, basically, unless it's threatened," Calabrese said. "We're not doing this just because the paleontologists are interested. That's not it at all."

In geology and archaeology, he said, "When a resource is threatened, the method of mitigating that threat is removal with documentation. That's just the nature of the sciences."

He said the dig still could proceed this fall if an agreement is reached. Badlands National Park Superintendent Bill Supernaugh said the August 27 meeting is "an excellent opportunity for all of the decision makers to come together and discuss the underlying issues. I look at this as a significant opportunity to make some progress to a better understanding of our roles and responsibilities."

Tribal President John Steele did not return calls for comment.


DLN - Dakota, Lakota, Nakota Human Rights Advocacy Coalition

Stronghold Donation Address

Please send any donations to Lovey Two Bulls at this address:

Lovey Two Bulls
P.O. Box 131
Hermosa, SD 57744

A tax ID number for donators will be available soon.

Thank you,


August 7, 2002

Even though there is a tribal moratorium on the proposed excavation site on August 12, William Supernaugh and the NPS are still planning to excavate. A protest group, which will include some elderly, plan to join hands around the excavation site to protect the site.

This news release is also a call for warriors across Indian country to support the Oglala at the Stronghold during August 12-23, and also in September. Our ancestors used the stronghold to Ghost Dance and pray for a better life yet they were killed, will there be a repeat? We too want these same lands for a better life also. This is the beginning of a millennium when it seems that as humans we should have developed social skills on how we treat one another, yet this not the case.

On August 12, Percy White Plume and a group of riders will leave Wounded Knee massacre site for the Stronghold. On the 13th there will be presentations at the stronghold camp to address issues that youth face today. On the 14th, the youth riders will make the return trip to Wounded Knee.

The Oglala people feel this is a time to show true sovereignty and stand up against the theft of Treaty lands and the desecration of ancient burial sites as well as fossils and historical cultural sites.

Hau Kola,
George Tall-Tokala


The Tokala will be hosting a gathering and invite all to come camp in protest of the planned excavation on August 12th. The camp will be moving down from edge to the excavation site and will stay for as long it takes. We are expecting a large amount of protestors from all over the country. Many different tribes will be represented, as there are many warriors of other tribes buried in the Badlands. Russel Means will be to the camp on Wednesday and will be speaking on Monday the 12th. Celebrity Indian sympathizers have been invited and are expected to arrive. Newspaper representatives and television news shows have also been invited and are expected to come. Please bring tents &/or tipis if you have them. We will provide what we have but are only outfitted for so many people. Canned food and personal supplies will be needed for those planning on spending the night. We will share what we have but may be in need of more. Any donations you can bring will be greatly appreciated. Campers and RVs are welcome. Please DO NOT BRING ALCOHOL OR DRUGS TO THE STRONGHOLD!

Please use the following contact numbers for any questions and directions to the camp.

Lovey Two Bulls : (home) 605-255-4108 [email protected]
Toby Big Boy : (home) 605-867-1314 [email protected]
Skye Kamide : (home) 630-860-5165 [email protected]

A new website of the conflict at the Stronghold. Also have received a call for tarps.


Sacred Burial Grounds Disturbed; Zeolite Wanted for Plutonium Disposal

Indians Appeal for Observers, Nonviolence Trainers and Night-Vision Gear.

Mass Civil Disobedience Set to Begin August 12 on Indian Land in South Dakota.

U.S. Agents in Night Raids Use High-Tech Choppers and Infrared Equipment.

Sioux Nation, Scene of Daily Indignities, Becomes "Mississippi of the North".

I have just returned from Oglala Lakota Nation in the Badlands of South Dakota where a shocking drama has begun to unfold. While the White House is pushing hard to launch high-level nuclear waste disposal operations in Nevada, federal agents are running roughshod over human rights in Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota, astride "gold" deposits of zeolite. If legal efforts to block the invasions fail, leaders and many members of the 25,000-strong tribe plan to use their bodies to stop the bulldozers as early as August 12.

The Lakota people, also known as Sioux, are appealing to other Indian tribes, all Americans of conscience and the nations of the world to come to their aid. Right now they need:

*Qualified volunteers to conduct nonviolence training for protesters.

*Independent observers ready to be witnesses in case of confrontation. *Infrared cameras and goggles for night-vision.

*Four big mud tires for serious SUV off-roading.

By day, federal police treat the Oglala Lakota people so abusively that their reservation has become known as "the Mississippi of the North," reminiscent of 1960s civil rights struggles. Police insult Indians, write bogus tickets, tear down meeting signs, etc. By night, helicopters, their lights turned off, whirl into American Indian airspace and touch down amid sacred sites near the historic Stronghold. The feds take ancient fossils, use heavy earth-moving equipment close to sites of human remains, and set off small explosions. The excavations under cover of darkness appear to rely on high-tech night-vision equipment.

Pine Ridge Reservation is a potential source of zeolite, a mineral that government officials would like to see mined for use in plutonium waste repositories. Work has begun to improve the dirt road into the area, reportedly with 16-inch-deep pavement, which would support heavy trucks. Plans are said to be drawn to build a railroad line to reach the remote area. Indians are concerned that zeolite mining would release erionite, a known human carcinogen, into the environment.

Many sites of human remains exist in the area on and near the big Stronghold plateau, where survivors of the December 29, 1890 Wounded Knee massacre went. There, most of those who escaped the Wounded Knee atrocity were subsequently hunted down, murdered by white militia, and left in winter graves. More than a century later, just in recent months, long-term erosion, natural to the geology of the area, has begun to uncover many shallow graves. Coincidentally, in recent months, federal agents have been entering the area without permission and tampering with Indian property. Some of the Lakota people believe the surfacing of the old human remains is a sign that it is time to take a stand.

Current federal activities in the area violate the 1868 Treaty of Laramie, and a 1976 memorandum of understanding between the National Park Service and the Oglala Lakota Nation. Department of Interior officials have refused to consult with Lakota leaders regarding federal plans for the Indians's land. The Tribal president has demanded that the National Park Service replace its area superintendent, whom the Indians have found so autocratic that they refuse to meet with her.

Lawyers for Oglala Lakota Nation, while asking the Department of Justice to persuade the Department of Interior to back off, got ready to go to federal court for an emergency injunction. If these efforts fail, the tribal leaders and many other Indians are expected to join hands in a great circle around sacred areas where the National Park Service plans to step up daytime excavation activity in the open on August 12.

They are appealing for help to ensure that peace and justice will prevail. Please respond. Please post and forward this appeal to all potential allies. My office can help you find low-cost air fares to Rapid City, South Dakota, plan logistics for ground transportation or helicopter service if desired, and get in contact with Oglala Lakota leaders.

By Tony Bothwell, Chairperson American Indian Affairs Committee
National Lawyers Guild [email protected]  


Pine Ridge Zeolite, technical bulletin by K. Barbarik et al., Colorado Agricultural Experiment Station, TB 91-2 (1991).

Erionite, CAS No. 66733-1-9, Ninth Annual Report on Carcinogens, National Institutes of Health. (visited August 5, 2002).

Hot Demonstrations of Nuclear-Waste Processing Technologies, by H.F. McFarlane et al., in 49 JOM 7 (1997), journal of The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society.

Disposing of Spent Nuclear Fuel, Argonne National Laboratory. vtour/emt.htm (visited August 5, 2002).

Minerals Management, National Park Service, 36 C.F.R. vol. 1, pts. 1- 199 (July 1, 1997).

Fossils on Federal and Indian Lands, Report of the Secretary of the Interior (May 2000). fossil/fossilreport.htm (visited August 5, 2002).

Badlands fossil dig mired in history, opposing views, by Heidi Bell Gease, in Rapid City Journal (August 5, 2002).

Lakota protest National Park Service Badlands dig
Vow to use "all means" to protect sacred sites

By Jim Kent  

Badlands, S.D. - Oglala Sioux tribal members believe that there's a distinct difference between an archeological dig site and the burial places of their ancestors - now they're trying to make that clear to the National Park Service.

Dozens of Lakota have set up camp on "The Stronghold" - an isolated area of the Badlands where their ancestors gathered after the Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890 - to protest an archeological excavation planned by the National Park Service and the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. The Lakota claim that the location for the dig, scheduled to begin August 12, is sacred land.

National Park Service spokesperson Marianne Mills commented that the entire issue is simply a misunderstanding in terminology.

"The controversy started with the word, 'graveyard', " she remarked. "The nickname for the site has always been "titanothere graveyard", which got interpreted as it was a human burial ground. And it's not, it's just an area with a conglomeration of animal bones that are very, very old ... up around 35 to 40 million years old. The initial confusion came about because people thought we were going to go in and excavate a human cemetery."

Titanothere was an elephant-sized prehistoric animal that looked like a rhinoceros, but was actually an indirect ancestor of the modern-day horse - which is also sacred to the Lakota. Mills said the prehistoric site is nowhere near The Stronghold, nor any areas that have been indicated as burial sites. She pointed out that the National Park Service received a list of culturally sensitive sites from the Oglala Sioux tribe in 1976 when the tribe signed a Memorandum of Understanding to share joint control of the South Unit of the Badlands National Park -- where the dig will take place -- with the Park Service. Most of the South Unit is located on the Pine Ridge Reservation. The land was previously controlled by the U.S. Air Force and was once part of the Badlands Bombing -- or Gunnery -- Range, a training course for bombers during World War II. The dig would be the first major excavation in the South Unit since the MOU was signed.

"The area where the titanothere bone bed is found was not designated as a sacred site," Mill observed. "There's also been some confusion because the word's gotten out that we're intending on excavating The Stronghold, which we are not."

Oglala Sioux tribal member Pat Clifford said that Mills "may" be right, but added that if anyone's confused about the situation, it's Mills and the NPS. "We know where they're digging and where they're gonna be digging," Clifford advised. "And we know that there are burial sites there. It's not just The Stronghold that we're talking about. We're talking about the whole area. We want them out of the whole area."

Tribal spokesperson Johnson Holy Rock was a member if the Tribal Council when the MOU with the Park Service was signed. He said the tribe is backing the protesters at this point, but noted that there is some confusion regarding the intent of the original document and the agreements that were made by the tribe with the National Park Service.

"We're caught up here between self-determination, self-government and self-whatever else comes along," Holy Rock observed. "And in the confusion, we tend to misinterpret and misconstrue the intent of things that have taken place. The Stronghold is one of these and seemingly now they're finding graves over there and some of these people would like the land back and not let it be a part of the National Park Service. And now there's a disagreement going on between the tribal government and the National Park Service as to just who has administrative authority over the Badlands National Monument. Right now it's kind of a stand-off and it could go any direction."

Clifford commented that the protesters will make every effort to use the law as their primary tool. The group is in the process of obtaining an attorney in order to file an injunction to stop the excavation under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.

"If we can do that, I see it all being handled in court," he remarked. "But if we can't do that, we're gonna have to physically stop them, and I can't really say how far they're willing to go."

They made us many promises, more than I can remember. But they kept but one: They promised to take our land ... and they took it. - Chief Red Cloud
Tunkashila, Let us stand Coalition strong in protection of our lands, our beliefs, our Sacred Spirituality, and our traditional Indigenous ways of life. We stand in strong support of Indigenous Rights and the Inherent Allodial title of Dakota, Lakota, and Nakota Lands. Let us reclaim what is ours and work diligently to preserve what we now have.

End Dakota/Lakota/Nakota Ethnic Cleansing!

This website was created to Honor of our Ancestors, our Traditions, Elders and Children, and to provide a future for our generations to come.
You cannot destroy a people who have a Vision such as Ours.

[email protected]

January 15, 1999, report from the USDA Office of Inspector General (OIG). The report could divide political and fiscal conservatives. The OIG reviewed 12 sales from 1992 to 1996 in CA, MN, MS, VA, and WV. In 10 sales, several measures to minimize environmental harm were not implemented. Also, 3 contracts authorized the harvesting of more trees than specified by the agency's own environmental assessments. Agency critics and whistleblowers claim the practices it details are widespread. Report: or (neither of these URLs work for this report...)

Executive summary:

Timber sale data:$FILE/sej_wi99.pdf


Last but far from least is this Very Important Article:

Interpreting Wildlife Management Policy to Meet Individual Park Needs: The National Park Service's Management Policy in the 21st Century


By William R. Supernaugh

The George Wright Forum (pages 19-22)

Volume Sixteen, Number Three

When the National Park Service (NPS) released its current Management Policies volume (NPS 1988), it recognized that parks needed flexibility to apply prescriptive management techniques to wildlife residing within park boundaries for all or a part of their life cycle. Despite continued references in the media and some professional journals, NPS does not rely wholly on the principle of “natural regulation” when contemplating the long-term management of park ecosystems (NPS 1988, chap. 4:6). While preferring to manage holistically -- that is, at the ecosystem level -- park managers must, of necessity, adopt single-species management programs in some instances.

For a better understanding of the manager’s options with regard to prescriptive management of a species, the following review of some of the wildlife-related policy statements is presented. As a first screening, faunal components of park ecosystems are noted as being either native or exotic (non-native) species (NPS 1988, chap. 4:5). Within the former category, NPS sets forth policies applicable to managing both resident and migratory native species, even going so far as to discuss the need to vary management practices for species with relatively short migration patterns, such as elk, versus animals having long migration routes, which may only include park-administered lands for a short period of time, such as whales or butterflies. Providing a further breakdown of discretionary decision-making, NPS acknowledges that management of harvested species and their habitat may occur in those areas where Congress has specifically authorized hunting or trapping.

A second category within the management policies comprises nonnative species, also called “alien” or “exotic” species. In general, NPS pursues opportunities to limit the establishment of species that were not a natural component of the ecological system characteristic of a particular unit of the National Park System. NPS policy allows different actions in response to non-native species that extend their range to parks (coyote and armadillo, for example), as opposed to zebra mussels, brown tree snakes, and European wild boars. There is even a provision for the introduction of new exotic species when they may control previously established ones (NPS 1988, chap. 4:12). Leaf, root, and stemboring beetles that live on purple loosestrife are but one example of such introductions.

A third discrete emphasis of NPS’s wildlife management policy is on the management of threatened and endangered wildlife (NPS 1988, chap. 4:11). Active management of such special-status species may be warranted under certain conditions, including but not limited to removal of targeted predator species, preconditioning of animals slated for introduction, and intense habitat manipulation to favor their success.

By now you should get the idea that wildlife management in the National Park System is not a single set of rules; rather, it constitutes broad guidelines designed to meet Servicewide objectives. Due to the diversity of areas (which now number over 370 sites; NPS 1997), their legislative history, their location within a larger ecosystem context, and the particular needs of a species or assemblage of species, park managers have a great deal of flexibility and discretion in designing wildlife programs. In 1991, NPS produced a guideline for natural resource management, NPS-77, which further amplifies the 1988 management policies with established or recommended practices and procedures for many aspects of the program (NPS 1991). Among these are more detailed discussions of native animal management; endangered, threatened and rare species; hunting and trapping; and exotic species management. These sections are designed to assist park managers in the development of resource management plans and action plans for specific programs. Just as important, they discuss the external concerns of managing native animals across park boundaries.

By way of illustrating policy interpretation and application in real situations, let us examine several recent events that have occurred at Badlands National Park, located in the southwest corner of South Dakota. Our first case study involves controlling the migration and establishment of black-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus) colonies on private and national grassland prairie communities adjacent to the national park. Within South Dakota, the prairie dog is designated a pest species and active efforts are maintained by the state to eliminate colonies when range managers complain (SDDA 1994). For the park manager, the policy is relatively clear: a native species to the badlands, prairie dogs are an important -- and according to some (Kotliar et al. in press; Miller et al. 1994), a keystone -- species within prairie ecosystems. (A keystone species has a large overall effect on community or ecosystem structure or function, an effect disproportionately large relative to its abundance; see Power et al. 1996.) Seen as a competitor for scarce forage and a destroyer of rangeland, emotions run high when colonies expand outside the park boundary. The park has, on a case-by-case basis, prior to 1994, controlled colonies within one-half mile of private lands, using zinc phosphide, when requested to do so by adjacent land-owners. The Management Policies define an animal “pest” population as one which interferes with the purposes of the park (NPS 1988, chap. 4:13). While prairie dogs in and of themselves don't interfere with park purposes, they are a state-listed pest species and subject to control. The NPS policy statement goes on to say, “Native pests will be allowed to function unimpeded except where control is desirable ... to prevent outbreaks of the pest from spreading to ... other plant communities ... outside the park.” The state, along with a private landowner, may take steps to control a population beyond park boundaries only to have it recolonized by animals migrating out of a heavy density on park lands, creating a chronic problem for the land-owner. In such a case, and using the exemption cited above, NPS would conduct a biological assessment, and, if disparate densities between NPS lands and private lands outside the boundary exist, control measures may be initiated. Further complicating any such action contemplated by NPS is the ongoing effort to reintroduce the endangered black-footed ferret onto park lands. While this may make control efforts more complex, the environmental impact statement for ferret management (USFWS 1994) did allow for the continuation of limited prairie dog removal even where the presence of ferrets was documented.

A second case study involves one of several species of native grasshoppers found within the prairie ecosystem. One, the migratory grasshopper (Melanoplus sanguinipes), is of economic interest as it is known to contribute significantly to crop and rangeland damage (APHIS 1997). Through emergency designation it has been declared a pest species in South Dakota in past years (SDDA 1997). In 1996 and 1997, populations increased dramatically, and agricultural landowners adjacent to the south boundary of Badlands initiated a campaign to obtain funding for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to conduct a preemptive aerial spray campaign on lands administered by NPS but held in trust for the Oglala Sioux Nation within the Pine Ridge Reservation. Using the same policy guidance as in the previous instance, APHIS was requested to initiate aerial spraying during the third instar of the species and at a time when visual counts with a sweep net were resulting in over 90 animals per sweep. A quarter-mile buffer zone was established within the park boundary adjacent to cropland.

I believe that the Servicewide policies pertaining to the management of wildlife species do provide viable options for prescriptive manipulation of populations and their habitats. Both prairie dogs and grasshoppers -- by nature cyclical and migratory -- influence vegetation within an ecological context across political and ownership boundaries. Solutions based upon research findings and founded on common understanding and compromise among the several affected parties, using an integrated pest management (IPM) approach, can achieve results that meet each party’s objectives without unacceptable long-term loss to park resources.

Parks do not exist in vacuums, but rather as islands among a sea of jurisdictional ownerships. Managing fragmented ecosystems with only part of the historic faunal component, policy must -- and does -- recognize the need to intervene at some definable threshold of tolerance.


APHIS [Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service]. 1997. APHIS Environmental

Assessment: Rangeland Grasshopper Cooperative Management Program for Western South

Dakota. N.p.: APHIS.

Kotlier, N. B., B. W. Baker, A. D. Whicker, and G. Plumb. In press. Are prairie dogs a

keystone species? Journal of Environmental Management.

Miller, B. G., G. Ceballos, and R. Reading. 1994. The prairie dog and biotic diversity.

Conservation Biology 8, 677-681.

NPS [National Park Service]. 1988. Management Policies. Washington, D.C.: NPS.

———. 1991. NPS-77 Natural Resource Management Guideline. Washington, D.C.: NPS.

———. 1997. The National Parks: Index 1997-1999. Washington, D.C.: NPS.

Power, M. E., D. Tillman, J. A. Estes, B. A. Menge, W. J. Bond, L. S. Mills, G. Daily, J. C

Castilla, J. Lubechenco, and R. T. Paine. 1996. Challenges in the quest for keystones.

BioScience 466, 9-20.

SDDA [South Dakota Department of Agriculture]. 1994. Prairie Dog Management in South

Dakota. N.p.: SDDA.

———. 1997. South Dakota Grasshopper Program Manual. N.p.: SDDA.

USFWS [U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service]. 1994. Final Environmental Impact Statement,

Black-footed Ferret Recovery, Conata Basin/Badlands, SD. N.p.: USFWS.

William R. Supernaugh

Badlands National Park

P.O. Box 6, Interior,

South Dakota 57750

[email protected] (four pages)


Environmental Assessment for the Fire Management Plan, Badlands National Park (Jackson, Pennington and Shannon Counties, South Dakota)


March 31, 2004