SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - The planned auction of nearly 2,000 acres of land in South Dakota's picturesque Black Hills that is considered sacred by American Indian tribes has been cancelled, though it wasn't immediately clear why.
Brock Auction Company planned to auction five tracts of land owned by local residents Leonard and Margaret Reynolds on Saturday. But a message on the auction house's website Thursday said it has been cancelled at the land owners' direction.
The auction house and Margaret Reynolds declined comment, and tribal officials were left wondering what had happened.
"There are a lot of things we don't know at this point," Rosebud Sioux Tribe spokesman Alfred Walking Bull said. "If there was a change of heart, we've definitely thankful for that. We're hoping for the best. We can take a breath right now."
Tribes of the Great Sioux Nation consider the site key to their creation story and are trying to purchase the land, which they call Pe' Sla, because they fear new owners would develop it. The property, which spans about 1,942 acres of pristine prairie grass, is the only sacred site on private land currently outside Sioux control.
The Rosebud Sioux, whose reservation is among the closest to the land, has allocated $1.3 million toward trying purchasing the property, though tribal officials fear the selling price could be between $6 million and $10 million.
Walking Bull said he wasn't aware of the cancelled auction until contacted Thursday by the Associated Press. Rosebud Sioux President Rodney Bordeaux also said he didn't have details, saying: "I don't know anything more than you do."
Organizers of a website that has collected more than $250,000 from 5,000 donors to help purchase the land also were unaware of the cancelled auction. Sara Jumping Eagle, a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe who started the website with her husband, Chase Iron Eyes of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, said the tribes were consulting and trying to gather more information.
Roughly 20 tribes make up the Great Sioux Nation, which was fragmented when American Indians were pushed to reservations. The tribes now span several states including Montana, Wyoming, the Dakotas and Minnesota, and Canada, and members hold ceremonies and rituals on the South Dakota land.