By Louise Oleson
Journal Managing Editor
It was the beginning of what is hoped to be a beneficial partnership between the Department of the Interior U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Spirit Lake Nation all to the benefit of the Sullys Hill National Game Preserve. To seal the deal a special ceremony was held Wednesday where the ground itself was blessed by a holy man and leaders representing both entities signed their names to documents and shook hands in front of witnesses.
Politicians from both nations took advantage of the opportunity to make statements. Sen. John Hoeven’s office and Rep. Kevin Cramer’s were represented and Darren Walking Eagle, the Chief Administrative Officer for Spirit Lake was present, as well. Chairman Roger Yankton also made an appearance and signed the documentation. He said he is pleased with this agreement and hopes it will bring good things to both Sullys Hill and Spirit Lake in the future.
It is official. A partnership is formed between two neighbors to find ways they can work together to enhance interest and use of the preserve. Many ideas have been discussed and the next few months and years will prove how the partnership will play out.
Matt Sprenger, who represented the USFWS said he hoped that it would make the many sacred sites within the preserve more accessible for Native people.
Colleen Graue, Visitor Services at Sullys Hill said she could see one day students from Fort Totten attending classes at Sullys Hill much like a select group of students from the Central Middle School in Devils Lake do now, all to enhance their learning.
Dan Lohnes, who is a member of the committee that helped make this happen, said he has a vision of one day the tribe having an office of tourism to promote the many opportunities that lay ahead of Spirit Lake.
Darrell Smith, who is the Tribal Historical Preservation Officer, has hopes for a museum on the reservation one day and the return of the numerous artifacts that belong to the Dakota people, enhancing education among both Native people and non-Natives.