In order to expand the work and impact of Simply Smiles on the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Reservation, the Dakota Association of the United Church of Christ has leased Simply Smiles just over 8 acres of their land for a term of 99 years!
On this property (adjacent to the Sam D. Horse Community Center property in La Plant, South Dakota on the Reservation, where Simply Smiles currently runs its programming), we will build additional infrastructure that will work in conjunction with the Community Center property.
This expansion will increase our efforts, grow our partnerships, and allow us to work each day to create the smiles that lead to the brightest possible future for the children of Cheyenne River.
Simply Smiles has put down our roots in La Plant, South Dakota. This is the town that welcomed us onto the Reservation almost ten years ago. Now, as we solidify our commitment to the Reservation and to Indian Country at large, we also solidify our commitment and our gratitude to the town of La Plant.
As you can imagine, entering into this lease was a lengthy and at times complicated process. We couldn't have done it without an amazing team that worked together for over two years toward a shared vision for Simply Smiles on the Cheyenne River Reservation.
A special thank you to:
- The Dakota Association of the United Church of Christ, Toni Buffalo, and Louie Blue Coat
- The South Dakota Conference of the United Church of Christ, Rev. Gordon Rankin, and Attorney Bob Frieberg
- Shipman & Goodwin, Attorney Sarah Westby, and Attorney Dame Catalan
- Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton and Attorney David Smith
- The people of La Plant
- The Congregational Church members who live in La Plant and helped Simply Smiles to connect with, and develop a relationship with, the Dakota Association.
- Simply Smiles donors and supporters!
Now, to address a few questions:
This is great news! When will Simply Smiles start developing the land?
In the coming years, Simply Smiles will incrementally add the infrastructure we need to the land. We’ll add utility connections and driveways first, then buildings for storage, housing, program implementation, and more! In the immediate future, you may see a Simply Smiles staff member on the land parcel putting in corner markers and/or a sign.
What about the Sam D. Horse Community Center?
Simply Smiles will continue to use the Community Center as the center of all Simply Smiles does on the Reservation. Because of the generosity of Simply Smiles supporters, volunteers, and our partners on the Reservation, we have invested a lot of energy and funding into make the community center in La Plant what it is today. What we build on the new land will be an expansion of the community center infrastructure we've already built.
You are leasing the land from a church group. Is Simply Smiles still a non-religious organization?
Yes. Simply Smiles is not officially connected to any one religion, faith, or belief system. We want to be able to work with anyone who shares our values and our vision. Remaining independent in this way is a central tenant to Simply Smiles programing being open, available, and feeling comfortable for everyone.
Why did Simply Smiles lease the land and not buy it outright?
We chose to lease the land and not buy it out of respect for the Lakota owners of the land. We wanted to make sure that in all of our actions that Simply Smiles is supporting and giving, not taking anything from the Lakota people. By leasing the property, the land stays in the ownership of Lakota people.
How long is the lease?
Simply Smiles is leasing the land from the Dakota Association of the United Church of Christ for a term of 99 years. The lease began on June 1, 2018. Over these years, we will use the land to further the vision and mission of Simply Smiles.
Where is the leased property exactly?
The leased property is 8.04 acres and it lies between the Sam D. Horse Community Center land and Main St. The eastern border is the old Iowa Ave, adjacent to the community center. Access is along the western border on Main St, just south of the Congregational Church entrance.
Is everything with the lease solid legally? Land ownership can be a tricky thing on the Reservation...
Absolutely! The land is deeded/fee/non-trust land and a full year of effort was put into making sure the property was cleanly and legally owned by the Dakota Association and that they had the right to lease the land. The land was platted/surveyed, title checks were run, title insurance was secured, and multiple law firms supported the effort. We then developed a lease that protected both parties. All the legal ducks are neatly in a row making sure the land holding is stable for the next 99 years.
Will there be any Lakota ceremonies performed to bless the land?
We would love your input and help to make sure that before we break ground on the first building that we have honored the traditions and practices for a situation like this.