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Johnson announces Wounded Knee Massacre Memorial and Sacred Site Act

Office of Dusty Johnson

U.S. Representative Dusty Johnson introduced a bill he said will protect the land where the Wounded Knee Massacre took place by placing it into restricted fee status.

Johnson announced the Wounded Knee Massacre Memorial and Sacred Site Act Tuesday.

The Oglala Sioux and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes purchased the land, which is located on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, in September 2022. They signed a covenant to maintain this property as a memorial and sacred site.

The proposed bill ensures both tribes will continue to own the land, according to a press release from Johnson’s office. It also ensures the land remains under the civil and criminal jurisdiction of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, cannot be sold without consent from Congress and both tribes, and may not be taxed by state or local governments.

“Memorializing the Lakota lives lost will ensure this site remains sacred for generations to come,” Johnson said.

Representatives from both tribes have spoken in favor of the bill.

“We extend a heartfelt thank you to Congressional Representative Johnson and staff for diligently working to bring the truth to light in honor of the original stewards of the sacred lands,” said the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Chairman Ryman LeBeau and descendants of survivors of the Wounded Knee Massacre Manny Iron Hawk and Renee Iron Hawk. “We stand in strong solidarity in memorializing this sacred site, that will be honored as such forever more.”

The Wounded Knee Massacre occurred on Dec. 29, 1890 near Wounded Knee Creek on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. U.S. Army 7th Calvary troops were sent to disarm a group of Lakota Indians led by Chief Spotted Elk. An estimated 350-375 Lakota people, including women and children, were killed after the U.S. Army opened fire. Additionally, 25 U.S. soldiers died.

“What happened at Wounded Knee is a reminder that we as a Oyate [people] have succumbed incredible odds to survive, so we must honor our ancestors by preserving the land for future generations to come,” said Ogalala Sioux Tribe President Frank Star Comes Out.

Elizabeth is an intern with South Dakota Public Broadcasting.