Judge hears arguments from City of Lincoln, Native American activists

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – A new chapter has started in the legal battle between the City of Lincoln and a Native American group.

Friday afternoon, Lancaster County District Judge Darla Ideus heard both sides.

The argument is over a housing development project near Wilderness Park by Highway 77 and Pioneers Boulevard.

Part of the land is considered sacred to the Niskithe Prayer Camp, as a sweat lodge is located there.

Native American advocates submitted an appeal on the rezoning to the Board of Zoning Appeals. The city asked the Lancaster County Court to block the appeal. 

On Friday, the group raised a teepee in front of the courthouse to hold a prayerful intertribal gathering. 

“It’s extremely disheartening to have the City of Lincoln, a city that purports to be inclusive and welcoming, actively silencing Native voices,” said Erin Poor, a Lincoln resident and citizen of the Cherokee Nation.  

During the hearing, the Niskithe group asked the judge to dismiss the city’s lawsuit against them. 

“We’re fighting to be heard,” Poor said. “We’re fighting to have our ceremonial site respected and protected.” 

The Niskithe Prayer Camp group said the housing plan oversteps the city’s own guidelines. 

It is also asking for an environmental study to be done before the housing development moves forward. 

“As we grow and develop, because we will, we have to do it in a responsible and conscientious way, one that’s not going to negatively impact particular communities and the environment,” Poor said.

No decision was made Friday, a ruling is expected to be handed down in the coming weeks.

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