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A land neither here nor there: voices from the margins & the untenuring of Lakota lands

  • Joseph P. BrewerII
  • Mary Kate Dennis


As Lakota people strive to honor their relatives’ contributions to contemporary societal values, there remains a need to think about the broader implications of their elders land tenure histories. For Lakota, forced assimilation by varying federal agencies into agrarian lifestyles and individual land ownership was a major societal shift away from former Lakota lifeways, however the communities in this study accomplished those agrarian agendas in the early 1900s. Forced assimilation into agrarian lifestyles wasn’t enough, in 1942 their lands were condemned, and they were left with uncertain futures. The 341,726 acres that supported the community of Upper Medicine Root and others, once within the jurisdiction of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, was condemned in the summer of 1942, displacing 125 families for the purposes of military training to aid in World War II efforts. This study explores how this particular event, creates a slow and rather violent landscape scale narrative of trauma. This research includes interviews with Lakota elders who experienced these events first hand, a content analysis of primary documents and other first-hand accounts as well as federal archival documents. These resources offer insights into the experiences of these families in 1942, particularly what homestead life was like, how the removal was communicated to the residents, details of the lived experience of removal and the aftermath. The study concludes with ongoing land tenure struggles and broader implications of community wide legacies couched in an unwavering pursuit to reclaim the lands that were condemned and therefore reclaim their cultural and familial landscape.


Land tenure Lakota Slow violence Displacement Gunnery range Badlands 



We would like to thank all the extraordinary people that took part in this study, and recognize their deep commitment to community. To the Elders, thank you, we respect and honor your enduring spirit, your voice will continue to live in our daily lives as we teach our relatives the lessons that you have taught and will continue to teach us. We would like to thank Philip Burnham for his support and kindness over the course of this process. To the staff and Archival Specialists at the National Archives and Records Administration thank you for the prompt and continued assistance.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors have no conflicts of interests.

Informed consent

This study was approved by the University and Tribal IRB and we followed their protocols related to informed consent for participation in this research. Each participant in this study was spoken to, and given a document about informed consent, explaining their rights as participants at the time of the interviews and contact information if further questions or concerns should arise.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of KansasLawrenceUSA
  2. 2.University of ManitobaWinnipegUSA

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