Deep in this Daily Mail feature on Johnny Depp, the actor who portrayed Tonto in Disney’s Lone Ranger re-boot expresses a desire to buy the site of Wounded Knee and return it to the Oglala Sioux Tribe. While landowner James Czywczynski and tribal president Bryan Brewer say the purchase would be a noble gesture, neither have heard from Depp.
“It’s very sacred ground and many atrocities were committed against the Sioux there. And in the 1970s there was a stand-off between the Feds and the people who should own that land,” Depp told the Daily Mail. “This historical land is so important to the Sioux culture and all I want to do is buy it and give it back. Why doesn’t the government do that?”
Brewer, upon hearing the news from Indian Country Today Media Network, welcomed the possibility and said the tribe would be more than willing to meet with Depp. “The fact that Johnny Depp would say this is really something,” he said. “If he would like to speak with us that would be great. We certainly appreciate his concern for this matter and the respect he is demonstrating to our people. The possibility of his goodwill effort toward keeping this land intact and in tribal hands is amazing.”
When Czywczynski put the site on the open market for $3.9 million in May, he never imagined the international exposure he would receive. He certainly never expected a celebrity like Depp to get involved. “I just got the news about [Depp’s interest] an hour ago and I don't know what to think about it,” he said.
Czywczynski reiterated that his top priority is that whoever purchases the property give it to the tribe. “I really don’t care who buys it and donates it to the Oglala Sioux Tribe as long as somebody does it,” he said. “Johnny Depp has a lot of money. He could probably raise this money in a heartbeat. So I was kind of glad to see some national and international exposure.”
Czywczynski said there are a few anonymous donors attempting to raise the money to buy the site for the tribe. “Right now we have several possible donors. There is someone on the West Coast… We are also working with another group and now this has come up. So there are three or four groups right now. I guess whoever comes up with the money first is going to be the winner.”
Brewer, meanwhile, said the tribal council is still attempting to reclaim the site through legal means. “Our tribal council wanted to try and get this land back through the court system because they feel that this man [Czywczynski] will get so much money over what it is worth. Whoever purchases this land will never be able to use it because it is surrounded by tribal land. They would never get an easement to use it for anything. James Czywczynski said he was going to put this land up for sale, the deadline passed and no one bought it.”
When asked what she thought about Depp buying Wounded Knee, Georgine Looks Twice, of the Tribal Land Office, said: “This is awesome—I was really waiting for someone to step forward… More than anything, I just want to get to see him.”
But as the Daily Mail asked, is Depp really prepared to buy the land? “I am doing my best to make that happen,” the actor told the paper. “It’s land they were pushed on to and then they were massacred there. It really saddens me.”