Forest Service Partners with Tribal Nations in Co-Stewardship at Pactola / Ȟe Sápa Visitor Center

Release Date: 

Contact(s): Media Contact: Scott Jacobson, 605-440-1409

Custer, S.D., June 5, 2024 — A formal signing ceremony will take place tomorrow at the Pactola / Ȟe Sápa Visitor Center to formalize the co-stewardship opportunity for Tribal Nations to work with the Black Hills National Forest to provide interpretive services to the public.

In December 2023, the Forest Service and five Tribal Nations (Participating Nations) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that outlines opportunities for Tribes to have a voice at the Pactola / Ȟe Sápa Visitor Center. Participating Nations, particularly Lakota and Dakota elders, will have a voice in interpretation; to help current and future generations of Lakota and Dakota understand their origins and their identity; and to convey to younger Native generations and other visitors to the Black Hills National Forest, the stories, traditions, and practices of their People.

The MOU strives to meet the spirit and intent of Joint Secretarial Order 3403 to cooperate with Native Nations in the stewardship of lands and waters currently under federal control. The MOU documents the mutual intent of the Participating Nations and the Forest Service to maximize opportunities to achieve shared goals through co-stewardship of the Pactola / Ȟe Sápa Visitor Center.

The Participating Nations include Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Oglala Sioux Tribe, Rosebud Sioux Tribe and Crow Creek Sioux Tribe. Developing the full interpretation program is expected to be a phased in process, beginning this spring of 2024 and continuing into outyears.

The Pactola Visitor Center will be closed tomorrow as the ceremony is not open to the public.

The Pactola Visitors Center was constructed in 1976 and has served as a seasonal visitor center during the summer months (Memorial Day through Labor Day). The average annual visitor count is approximately 40,000 people. The 3-acre site is located on the south end of the Pactola Dam in central Pennington County, South Dakota. According to SD Department of Transportation, approximately 1 million vehicles (approximately 3 million visitors) pass by the Visitor Center on Highway 385 each year.

For more information on the Black Hills National Forest, visit


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