James A. Czywczynski of Rapid City, South Dakota bought the 40-acre plot where the Wounded Knee massacre occurred, in 1968. He moved away in 1973 after the American Indian Movement occupation, and now he’s asking $3.9 million for the land.
Czywczynski tells the New York Times this is a fair price considering the land’s historical value.
“That historical value means something to us, not him,” Garfield Steele, a member of the Oglala Lakota Nation tribal council who represents Wounded Knee, told the New York Times. “We see that greed around here all the time with non-Indians. To me, you can’t put a price on the lives that were taken there.”
This land being for sale raises all the same questions raised last year when the sacred site of Pe’ Sla in the Black Hills went on the auction block. The Great Sioux Nation was able to purchase the land for $9 million, but should they have had to buy back land that was theirs to begin with? The same question applies here.
Some still call the Wounded Knee Massacre of December 29, 1890 a “battle,” but by the end of it at least 150 Lakota men, women and children had been killed. Some estimates put the death toll closer to 300.
Czywczynski tells the New York Times that he’s been trying to sell the land to the Oglala Sioux for three decades.
“They never could agree on anything,” he said. “They either did not have the money; some wanted it, some didn’t want it; it was too high, too low. I’ve come to the conclusion now, at my age, I’m 74 years old, I’m going to sell the property.”
He told the newspaper that if the tribe doesn’t buy by May 1, he’ll put the land up for auction. But the Oglala Sioux can't afford his asking price. Treasurer Mason Big Crow told the New York Times the tribe would have to borrow money to purchase the land.
And there’s discord among tribal members about how to proceed. Some want to build a memorial, others feel there needs to be some sort of economic development.
“Whenever we discuss this Wounded Knee massacre topic, it takes us into a deep, deep psychological state because we have to relive the whole horror,” Nathan Blindman, 56, one of whose ancestors survived the massacre, told the New York Times. “Anything that might indicate that as descendants we’re profiting from our ancestors’ tragedy, we can’t ever do that.”
Read the full story at NYTimes.com.