Tim Giago, Lakota, renowned journalist, publisher and founder of publications such as the Lakota Times, Native Sun News and Indian Country Today, has told ICTMN he has signed an agreement to purchase the historic site of Wounded Knee from James Czywczynski for $3.9 million.
Giago told ICTMN, “I signed an agreement to be the sole purchaser of Wounded Knee. The reason is that it has been sitting there idle and doing nothing for over 40 years.”
Giago, who says he grew up and lived at Wounded Knee, where his father worked at the Trading Post and played with JoAnn Gildersleeve, the daughter of Clive and Agnes (the owners of the Wounded Knee Trading Post), is making the purchase for the benefit of the nine Sioux tribal nations.
“I am 81 years old and I am at that age where I am not looking for any personal gain. I figure the best place for Wounded Knee to be is not just owned by the Oglala, It should be owned by all of the nine tribes of the great Sioux nation.
“I am going to raise the money, buy it from Czywczynski and then put the land and trust for the tribes of the great Sioux nation,” says Giago.
Czywczynski told ICTMN Giago is the perfect person to purchase the historic site.
“There is no man in South Dakota that knows more about Wounded Knee then he does. He is an elder with three doctorates in journalism; He rode his tricycle on the steps of Wounded Knee when his father worked at the Trading Post.”
Giago says he has already created a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization called the National Historic Site of Wounded Knee Inc.
“There is already a lot of interest generated and we are getting a lot of people who are inquiring on how to donate. My attorney is Mario Gonzalez, who is Oglala Lakota, and he will be putting together the trust for all the tribes.
“Czywczynski is asking for $3.9 million; I think we can raise it. The man who owns the trading post here in Rapid City has already made a sizable donation for us to get an office, equipment and everything else in order to get rolling,” he says.
Giago has also talked with former U.S. Senator Tom Daschle in Washington DC and several friends in New York City to begin fundraising efforts in Washington DC and New York.
Why Not an Eminent Domain Takeover?
In ICTMN interviews with Sioux Tribal leaders, the process of reclaiming the historic site of Wounded Knee included the possibility of a takeover via eminent domain. Giago says that process could prove troublesome and laden with red tape.
“There has been talk for several years that we should just take this land using the process of eminent domain. They legally own the land; they have title to the land. If a similar instance happened on tribal land… there would be so many legal issues, and it would drag on for 100 years,” he says.
“There is just no way you could take someone’s land that has title, even if it is on a reservation.”
“The only way we’re going to do this is if we do it ourselves. I am Lakota, I was born and raised on the reservation and I went to school there so let’s just buy the land back and give it back to the rightful owners.”
What will happen to Wounded Knee?
Giago says his vision for the historic site is to get the land into trust for the nine Sioux tribes and eventually build a museum.
“I’d like to see a Native American Holocaust Museum built on the site. Not just for the people who were killed at Wounded Knee but for all those who suffered at Bear Creek, Washita, Sand Creek and every tribe that had a similar massacre could have a room where they could display their history.”
He also says purchasing the historic site and building of a museum would do much to improve relations between Indian and non-Indian people.
“People in Germany, France and Italy probably know more about Indian country than people living here in America. Can you imagine a really beautiful Holocaust Museum and a big trade pavilion for Indian artisans and craftspeople? They could set up booths year-round and sell their arts and crafts to the tourists. We would have tourists come from all over the world and stay in Rapid City go to the restaurants and hotels, Take buses to Wounded Knee, It would create over 200 jobs For the people down there. It would be also a boost financially to Rapid City, South Dakota,” he says.
“There is nothing but positive things that can come from this. This will surely open the door for better relations between Indians and whites, because we be sharing a whole lot together that we didn’t have before.”
“This is something that needs to be done and we have to preserve the history and use this facility to educate the world.”
Follow Vincent Schilling on Twitter – @VinceSchilling