On August 15, 1876, Congress passed legislation cutting off all funds to the Lakota people until they gave up claim to the Black Hills in South Dakota. Called the “Sell or Starve” Act, it led the Sioux to give up the Black Hills, which were finally seized by the United States on February 28, 1877.
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These actions followed the crushing defeat of General Armstrong Custer at the Battle of the Little Bighorn.
The conditions necessary for surrender of their lands were never lawfully met, and discussions about compensation continue, with the Sioux refusing a $1.8 billion settlement as recently as 2011.
This is one of many past injustices carried out by the United States Government against Native Americans. What are our obligations to redress these? Is there a time when righting past wrongs is no longer required (when the victims and perpetrators are no longer alive)? Is there such a thing as a “half-life” of past injustices? Or do the descendants of past victims maintain claims in perpetuity?