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PINE RIDGE INDIAN RESERVATION
“It is our belief that our ancestors came into this world through an opening of what is now known as the wind cave of our sacred Black Hills. After my experience of going underground, I feel as if I have just been reborn,”
stated President John Yellow Bird Steele as he emerged from the depths of the Sanford Underground Research Facility at Lead, South Dakota.
Tribal Chairmen & South Dakota Governor Emerge from the Wind Cave
President Yellow Bird Steele of the Oglala Sioux Tribe was one of five Tribal Chairman who accepted the invitation extended by South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard to tour the facility on Friday, October 12 and to learn of the plans that are underway for the Sanford Center for Science Education on the surface campus which could include tribal colleges to enhance careers in science and engineering.
Visiting Tribal Chairmen included: President John Yellow Bird Steele, Oglala Sioux Tribe; Chairman Brandon Sazue, Crow Creek Sioux Tribe; Chairman Robert Shephard, Sisseton Sioux Tribe; and Chairman Tony Reider, Santee Sioux Tribe.
Governor Daugaard was personally involved in the tour and very receptive to the tribal chairmen in ensuring that their visit to the research facility was well received. Scientists involved in the first two major physics experiments installed during 2012, talked with the Tribal Chairmen about these experiments which are the Large Underground Xenon experiment and the Majorana Demonstrator experiment.
According to a handout distributed to the tribal chairman, the Large Underground Xenon experiment "aims to become the world's most sensitive detector to look for a mysterious substance called dark matter. Thought to comprise 80 percent of all the matter in the universe, dark matter remains undetected so far. The Majorana Demonstrator experiment will be installed nearby in a large new hall called the Transition Area. Majorana will search for an extremely rare form of radioactive decay-neutrinoless double-beta decay. This experiment will help determine whether neutrinos are their own anti-particles, a discovery that could help physicists better understand how the universe evolved."
Neutrinos are said to be "ghostlike, speedy, and nearly impossible to detect there are a lot of them, 62 billion pass through your finger, every second they come from suns and we can make them as they are also generated by fission in nuclear power plants and by particle accelerators. They pass harmlessly through practically everything, including Earth. They are almost impossible to detect, therefore extreme isolation is essential to catch the signal caused by rare collisions of neutrinos with atoms. Sensors have to be buried deep underground, underwater, or under Antarctic ice." Neutrinos travel fast, at or close to the speed of light.
The Sanford Underground Research Facility is located approximately 4,850 feet underground, in what was once the Homestake gold mine in Lead, South Dakota. The mine is 8,000 feet deep, with over 300 miles of tunnels. Homestake Mining Co. sealed the mine shut in 2003 and it slowly began filling with water. In 2004, the South Dakota Legislature created the South Dakota Science and Technology Authority to work with the scientists proposing the lab. In 2006, Homestake Mining Co. donated the underground mine to the South Dakota Science and Technology Authority.
In 2007, the National Science Foundation selected Homestake as the preferred site for a proposed Deep Underground Science and Engineering Lab. The National Science Foundation also funded a team of scientists and engineers to design a large, multi-level national underground laboratory at Homestake.
Homestake's selection also paved the way for the South Dakota Science and Technology Authority to begin reopening the mine and pumping water out - funded by a $10 million HUD grant, $40 million from the state Legislature and a $70 million contribution from philanthropist T. Denny Sanford. The South Dakota Science and Technology Authority's plan was to reopen Homestake to the 4,850 foot level as the Sanford Underground Laboratory. In December 2010, the project hit an unexpected snag. The National Science Foundation decided not to fund Deep Underground Science and Engineering Lab beyond the preliminary design phase. However, the Department of Energy also was considering major physics experiments at Homestake.
In July 2011, the Department of Energy agreed to fund operations at the Sanford Underground Laboratory during fiscal year 2012, which weigh in on how to use Homestake's great depth for larger, long-term experiments. With the National Science Foundation-led Deep Underground Science and Engineering Lab proposal stalled but with the Sanford Lab ready for science at the 4,850 foot level, the project, headed by Dr. Lesko, has become the Sanford Underground Research Facility or SURF at Homestake.
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posted October 20, 2012 6:59 am edt