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Jesuits Good Practice Against Land Grabbing.

Any advocacy should be based on the credibility that increases positions and proposals. And it should be truly carried out in the best interests of the affected population.

Then advocacy raises awareness and citizens’ participation drawing attention to important issues in society and ensuring a path to change. Among the various types to advocacy surely the best are good practices. Too often, grassroots and international organizations see the advocacy arena as a space of words, discussions, conferences, decisions, agreements or disagreements, documents and papers:  what is needed are people who act risking critics and turning political correctness upside down.

And so the Jesuits are returning 525 acres of land to Native Americans in South Dakota to the Rosebud Sioux. ‘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,’ said Fr John Hatcher, president of St. Francis Mission

The property had been given by the US government to the Jesuits in the 1880s for use for churches and cemeteries, according to Father Hatcher. “At the beginning of the mission, we had 23 mission stations. 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.

Fr 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. When the work of the land transfer was initiated, it was “stalled.” It was a matter of finding the right office within the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs to follow through. “Finding the right office to carry it out — it’s just a cumbersome process,” says Rodney Bordeaux, chief operating officer of St Francis Mission

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.

 “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. The symbolism far outweighs,” Compton told CNS, but then caught himself. “Land is valuable. Land everywhere is valuable. Land around here is worth $1,000, $2,000 or more an acre.”

(From Catholic Herald, 9 May 2017)

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