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Court orders protection for Sioux graves

A federal court has ordered the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to change the hydro operations of the Oahe dam on the Missouri river in South Dakota. The court ruling is intended to provide at least temporary safeguards for American Indian graves in the reservoir that are being exposed by record-low waters. The ruling will require USACE to maintain the current water level at a South Dakota reservoir that is a major source of hydroelectric power. The Corps has said that it would try to make up for the power deficit by increasing flows from dams further up river, but said the federal government stood to lose US$3M in lost energy.

Before USACE built its dams along the Missouri, US federal government promised Sioux Indian tribes that it will move Indian graves out of the reservoir bed. But record-low water levels caused by this summer’s drought have uncovered caskets and artifacts that show the graves were not moved. (See article on cultural heritage management in IWP&DC November 2000, pp40-41).