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Sioux Land fund passes Congress

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WASHINGTON - Long-delayed trust funds to compensate the Yankton Sioux and the Santee Sioux in Nebraska have finally won Congressional approval, Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., announced Nov. 20.

The funds are compensation for the loss of over 4,000 acres of land during construction of dams on the Missouri River. Under the bill, the tribes can draw annual revenues from the trust funds to spur economic development on the reservations.

"Compensation to the Yankton and Santee Sioux Tribes is long overdue," Daschle said. "Over 40 years ago, these tribes lost important economic and cultural resources when thousands of acres of their most fertile and valuable land were flooded to complete the Fort Randall and Gavins Point Dams. I am pleased that Congress was able to complete action on this bill before adjourning for the year."

The Senate originally passed this legislation in July, but it was not cleared by the House of Representatives until the closing days of the session. Senate action clears the way for the bill to be sent to the President for signature into law.

Daschle said the legislation is similar to compensation bills approved by Congress for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, the Three Affiliated Tribes of the Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota, the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe and the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. The first compensation bill was enacted 10 years ago, and the Yankton and Santee Sioux are the only remaining Missouri River tribes still waiting to be compensated for their losses.

When the Fort Randall Dam, part of the Pick-Sloan project, was built, 2,851 acres of land on the Yankton Sioux Reservation were flooded, forcing the relocation of people in several communities, including the entire population of White Swan. Additional land was subsequently rendered unusable by continuing erosion. On the Santee Sioux Reservation, 600 acres of land near Santee Village and 400 acres on Niobrara Island were lost to flooding, and families were forced to relocate to wherever they could find shelter.

"It has taken over four decades for the federal government to recognize the unfulfilled federal obligation to compensate South Dakota tribes for their losses as a result of the construction of the dams on the Missouri River," Daschle said. "Passage of this bill today completes our effort to ensure that all South Dakota tribes are compensated for the valuable lands they once owned that are now under water."