Black Hills Unity Concert - Rose Davis

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The sacred Black Hills, located in what is now western South Dakota, constitute a spiritual sanctuary for Plains Indigenous Nations. For the fourth year in a row, hundreds will gather at the feet of the Black Hills for the Black Hills Unity Concert to pray and address nation-to-nation issues.


The overriding purpose of the concert is to find a resolution to legislative abuses of Indigenous treaty rights specifically the Black Hills Land Claim. The Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868, the supreme law of the land according to Federal Courts, ensured that the Black Hills would be reserved for the Plains Nations (such as the Arapahoe, Dakota, Lakota, Nakota and Cheyenne). When various military excursions officially announced gold was found in the area, a mass influx of miners established various townships and cities in the area. Today the majority of the Black Hills is overseen by private and federal groups and Plains Nations peoples are treated as trespassers in a homeland guaranteed to them by federal law. After reviewing the case, Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun stated that, “A more ripe and rank case of dishonest dealings may never be found in our history.”


While seeking resolution to this and other sensitive issues, organizers of the Black Hills Unity Concert explicitly operate in a non-confrontational manner. Youth organizer Lyla June Johnston states, “We are dealing with incredibly emotional issues for all parties involved. In the spirit of unity we seek true partnerships with things that have been historically divided. If there is a way forward, it will be together and it will be kind. Anything less will not be true progress. We are praying for the courage to see and respond to the truth with deep integrity, however that may look.”


The Black Hills Unity Concert will be an immense talking circle for indigenous nations and non-indigenous groups to discuss and share in an outdoor concert environment, while embracing

Indigenous Ways of Knowing rooted in Indigenous Sovereignty.


This year’s concert will be highly focused on networking and communication, with morning workshop sessions on issues such as language extinction, cultural erosion, water protection, uranium contamination, youth suicide, sustainable economic development, self-sufficiency and self-determination, racial division, the protection of Indigenous women and other issues.


Elders from indigenous groups from around the world will convene before and during the concert from places such as Colombia, Australia, Mexico and Nigeria. The intent of this is to share stories of sacred sites and find ways to support one another in their struggles for community health and sovereignty.


The line up for entertainment is a glimpse into the soul of the indigenous spiritual movement. Prolific the Rapper, a Lakota musician and advocate for peaceful, prayerful solutions to indigenous rights issues, will be featured.


The audience will be educated by the passion of Wanbli Ceya of Oglala, South Dakota. Wanbli has expressed concern that, “people on the Rez have been shattered by alcohol and Meth.” He believes that, “living like a true traditional Lakota is the only way to restore health to the people.” He has dedicated his life to using his musical and literary talents to convey this message.


This year’s concert lineup includes other indigenous musicians and speakers such as Goodvoice Wolf (Lakota), Raye Zaragoza (Akimel O'odham), Naelyn Pike (Apache), The Cody Blackbird Band, Kalilah Rampanen (Nuuchahnulth/Cree), Lyla June (Diné), Theresa Bearfox (Mohawk), Darren Thompson (Annishnabeg) and many more. The concert will also host many non-native musicians such as Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul & Mary, Tsering Lodoe of Tibet, The Peace Poets of Brooklyn, The Flobots and local musician, Steve Thorpe. In addition to the concert lineup, the event will host workshops, presentations and ceremonies that will provide participants with an opportunity to gather with like-minded people, and network with local and national leaders, as well as various tribes through the United States.


The concert will occur at the Elk Creek Resort from September 8th-10th in Piedmont, South Dakota (17 minutes northwest of Rapid City). Admission is free and participants are encouraged to join in on the organizing effort by registering as volunteers at The concert is still accepting applications for licensed food and crafts vendors (contact 978-204-7315).