The Jesuits are returning more than 500 acres in South Dakota to the Rosebud Sioux. The formal return of the property is expected to be complete sometime in May.

The property had been given by the U.S. government to the Jesuits in the 1880s for use for churches and cemeteries, according to remarks in a YouTube video by Jesuit Father John Hatcher, president of St. Francis Mission.

“At the beginning of the mission, we had 23 mission stations,” Father Hatcher said. “But over the years as the people moved off the prairie and into cluster housing, those churches were closed because they were considered unnecessary.” Other properties never had churches built.

“It’s now time to give back to the tribe all of those pieces of land that were given to the church for church purposes,” Father Hatcher added. “We will never again put churches on those little parcels of land. But it’s an opportunity to return land that rightly belongs to the Lakota people,” of which the Rosebud Sioux are a part.

The property, totaling about 525 acres, is dotted throughout 900,000 acres on a Rosebud reservation in the south-central portion of the state, bordering both the state of Nebraska and the Missouri River.

Rodney Bordeaux, chief operating officer of St. Francis Mission, said that when he started work there five years ago, the land transfer, having been initiated by Father Hatcher, was “stalled.” He attributed it to finding the right office within the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs to follow through.

Samantha Jones of the Sicangu Lakota band of the Rosebud Sioux, left, and Casey Camp of the Ponca Nation are seen in Washington in this 2014 file photo. The Jesuits are returning more than 500 acres in South Dakota to the Rosebud Sioux. (CNS photo/Jim Lo Scalzo, EPA) 

“It was just a matter of someone doing it,” Bordeaux told Catholic News Service during a May 4 telephone interview. “We did it on our end, but finding the right office to carry it out — it’s just a cumbersome process.”

With the land back in the Rosebud Sioux’s hands, “it might just be used for agricultural purposes like it is now, for grazing. It might be used for community development. It might continue to be used for religious purposes,” said Harold Compton, deputy executive director of Tribal Land Enterprises, the Rosebud Sioux’s land management corporation. “It’s because they’re so scattered, I think each one will eventually evolve due to their own location.”

There are about 25,000 people enrolled with the Rosebud Sioux, 15,000 of whom live on the reservation.

Compton told CNS, “It’s the symbolism of returning. This land was categorically reserved by the government for the church’s use. So, the church returning this to the tribe is a plus for everybody.” He added, “The symbolism far outweighs” but then caught himself. “Land is valuable. Land everywhere is valuable. Land around here is worth $1,000, $2,000 or more an acre.”

Responses to "Jesuits to return 525 acres of South Dakota land to Rosebud Sioux Tribe"

  1. Excellent ... it's long overdue!

  2. Unknown says:


  3. Unknown says:

    They also should be compensated monetarily!

  4. Unknown says:

    that is long overdue and wonderful, I hope others will follow this path

  5. About time to give back what was once stolen.

  6. Unknown says:

    ownership is His not ours
    here on Mother Earth

  7. MotoMom says:

    I'd love to see much more land returned to the custody of the people who lived there and respected it. How about the Black HIlls next?

  8. My Kills in water family let the st francis mission use 10 acres of land for church use if they giving it back it should go back to the Family that let them use it not the tribe the Tribe is a Federal corporation stealing from we Natives if the tribe gets it its just giving it to the Federal foreign Government ! give it to the People you took it from Rodney Bordeaux once said we need to get over the Doctrine of Discovery how can we when they continue to use it on we Natives ! to steal our resources and never gave a family a chance to use the Land ! So much Corruption in the Tribal government the Tribe is selling shares of our land with out the original alottes saying its ok they just do as they want like i said they are a Arm of the Federal government give the land to the rightful owners ! The Tribe is not doing right with our Land they Damaged our water by letying it be fertilized with so much chemicals from ranchers pesticides in our water who knows what other damages have been done to our minerals reserved for us GIVE IT BACK LET US LIVE LIKE EVERYONE ELSE TIME TO END THE FEDERAL TRUST OF THE FOREIGN FEDERAL GOVERNMENT HOLDING ALL OUR RESOURCES SAYING THEY TAKE CARE OF US THEY CARE OF EVERYONE ELSE WITH OUR RESOURCES AND LAND AND WATER WE THE ORIGINAL LAND OWNERS ARE THE HAVE NOTS WHILE EVERYONE HAS !

  9. Anonymous says:

    Homes should be built on these grounds and GIVEN to the people of the tribe, NOT the tribal government, THE PEOPLE!

  10. Unknown says:

    That's a little less than a square mile, but a good gesture. Now I wonder if the USA will block it, or take it away.

  11. Unknown says:

    It's a start. Now on to the national forests and BLM land #Giveitback I hear ya not wanting the BIA types to have control. #HonorTreaties

  12. Lucille says:

    I wish this could be presented in a form I could read.

  13. Anonymous says:

    earth is for everyone not governments!

  14. Unknown says:

    ALL the churches need to follow suit and return illegally stolen property on EVERY reservation. I don't have a problem with the churches being here so long as they do it at the invitation of the people they serve. This is ALL sovereign land and it's time the U.S. Govt. recognizes that. Can you imagine being in the position of the Cape Code Mashpee tribe and having your trust land taken away (yet again) because the B.I.E. refuses to recognize you as a people? When did they become that authority?

  15. Lar Jens says:

    This is absolutely wonderful! Best news I've received in a long time...
    Hopefully this is just the beginning of great good coming to our people
    ~ of many tribes!

  16. Unknown says:


  17. Unknown says:

    A step in the proper direction.

  18. Unknown says:

    Good news. Now; locate the "My Kills In Water' family, The original land owners, and return the land to them. The 10 acres is equal to 0.015625 square miles. This is enough land for a family to re-initiate a homestead, inclusive of establishing an updated/renovated or new dwelling along with other required structures in addition to self sustaining activities (farming) of their choice. The Federal Gov't has historically involved itself w/ 'land removal' of all First Nations people throughout history w/ ongoing complaints in recent time in which the BIA has proven itself completely untrustworthy in it's participation on behalf of corporations in many instances instead of acting on behalf of the interests of the very citizans it has been created to 'protect'. If all decending members of 'My Kills In Water' family have deceased, then the land could be considered to be returned to the tribe, where it is 'HOPEFUL', that it will be restored for good use for all members of the tribe. There is option to construct numerous family dwellings, a central community lodge, school, medical facility, etc., or even establish farm/ agricultural activities; till the land to supplement for crops useage or allow the land to remain as pasture for livestock grazing. -It will be a better day when more land is rightfully returned to original First Nations' land owners and First Nations, and we are all able to 'lay down the sword' and 'bury the hatchet' and start a more complete 'healing' process to reestablish more trust. WE, All, as 'North Americans' have lost so much by what has happened by past and current legislative policies and both, administrative and corporate practices. It will prob require another 8 generations before there is a noticable improvement and 'balance' between our Nations. (US, CA & 1st Nations) We have a lot of work ahead of us to create a better future.

  19. Unknown says:

    The remaining 515 acres (0.8046875 square miles) the Jesuits return to the tribe should be returned to their rightful original owners. Again; If there are no remaining decendents of those families then we can be Hopeful the land will be put to good use for all tribal members.

  20. Unknown says:

    i went to a Jesuit school. i rarely have any cause to say anything good about them. There are exceptions, though. Very much behind the curve, but better late than never. Give them credit for doing SOMETHING!

  21. Unknown says:

    Give them time and they will have all the land back from those who stole it and killed in the process...

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