In May 2022 the Lincoln city council approved a plan to build the Wilderness Crossing housing development near Wilderness Park.
This housing development would be built next to a historic sweat lodge. Native advocates say the development would displace ceremonies and threaten their right to religious freedom, keeping them from participating in traditional religious practices.
Several Native American community members, along with the Indian Center, Inc., attempted to appeal the city council’s decision, citing these concerns.
In September 2022, the City of Lincoln sued the Indian Center, Inc. and Native American individuals associated with the Niskíthe prayer camp.
The City of Lincoln is asking a judge to prevent these parties from proceeding with any appeals to the City Board of Zoning Appeals, arguing that the board does not possess the jurisdiction to make rulings on the issues raised in the appeal.
Big Fire Law & Policy Group and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Nebraska are representing the Indian Center, Inc., along with the sued Native community members. Big Fire Law & Policy Group and ACLU of Nebraska are arguing for dismissal of the City of Lincoln’s lawsuit.
On November 18, 2022, case arguments began at a virtual Lancaster County District Court hearing. A decision is anticipated in coming weeks.
Land acknowledgment: The Indian Center, Inc., Niskíthe Prayer Camp, Big Fire Law & Policy Group and the ACLU of Nebraska acknowledge that the land at the center of this appeal as well as the land on which the appeal and related material were developed is ancestral and unceded territory of the Oto-Missouria, Pawnee, Arikara, Kansa, and UmoNhoN (Omaha) Peoples, among others who have been caretakers of the land for generations, and comprises the present-day service area of the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska. We honor that stewardship in this effort by working to end an injustice impacting Indigenous Nebraskans.