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Tribe Turns Down Wounded Knee Sale


The Oglala Sioux Tribal President says the tribe will not buy the land for sale on the site of the Wounded Knee Massacre at the current asking price of nearly four million dollars.
The land owner gave the tribe until May 1st to purchase the property–or will it would be sold to the highest bidder.    SDPB's Charles Michael Ray has this story.

Bryan Brewer is the Oglala Sioux Tribal President. He says the current  asking price for the property is too high. He says the tribe must put its funds into more  critical needs.  Brewer adds that tribal residents see Wounded Knee as a sacred site, and they’re concerned over its potential sale to the highest private bidder.
“If this land was sold and someone did try to commercialize it in anyway I can guarantee them it will never happen.  The people will never let that happen.  They wouldn’t be able  to build anything there,”  says Brewer.  
Brewer says the tribe is willing to pay the assessed value which he says is many times lower than the asking price.   James Czywczynski the owner of the property says his museum and home on the site were destroyed in the 1973 Wounded Knee uprising.   Czywczynski says the tribe had over 30 years to purchase the land.  He says the asking price of $3.9-million is very fair considering the recent sale of the Pe'Sla site in the Black Hills that went for several million to a consortium of tribes.    Czywczynski  is selling the land with no restrictions on its future use, however he says this doesn't mean it will be exploited.

"Nobody wants to have a commercialized casino put there that is not applicable to that area," says Czywczynski

Czywczynski says he is sad the tribe didn't buy the land.  He says some potential buyers expressed interest in giving the land back to the tribe. He adds that he hopes a buyer can be found by the end of the month.

A SignOn.org petition asks the federal government to buy the land and set it aside as a national monument for the Lakota.  The petition is nearing one-thousand signatures.    

A non-native resident of Seattle, Washington started the petition.  Jeanne Bulla says she’s had very little negative reaction to the effort.

“You know, all the other comments I’ve seen have said yes please preserve this it would be a horrible thing if somebody made it into a roadside attraction,” says Bulla.

Some tribal residents are in support of the idea saying the land should not be sold to a private individual for profit or exploitation–but rather protected as a sacred site.  

But other tribal residents are expressing opposition to the idea of allowing the Federal Government to take ownership.  They cite 1868 treaty obligations and the history of the 1890 Massacre by the U.S. Army.

Chief Joseph Brings Plenty a former Chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe says the sale of the Wounded Knee site would add insult to injury.   In April Brings Plenty wrote an op-ed in the New York Times on the potential sale.  He says any future development at the site should come from the Oyate, or the people.  He adds that it must be  culturally appropriate and respectful of the history.