01 May 2013


December 19, 1890 ~ the Wounded Knee Massacre resulted in the deaths of up to 300 Lakota men, women, and children by members of the U.S. 7th Cavalry (20 of whom received the Medal of Honor).

1903 ~ Descendants of those who died in the battle erected a monument at the mass gravesite in which the victims were buried.  (Above, click to enlarge)

1965 ~ The massacre site, located within the present-day Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, was designated as a National Historic Landmark.  It includes a church and a mass grave.

1970 ~ The book Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee by historian Dee Brown expressed "a Native American perspective on the injustices and betrayals of the U.S. government" in the late 19th century American West.  It raised awareness of the battle among many who had never heard of the events of that time.

February 27, 1973 ~ about 200 traditional Oglala Lakota people, along with members of the American Indian Movement (AIM), occupied the town of Wounded Knee, SD, in an armed standoff with hundreds of U.S. marshals, FBI agents, and thugs from the tribal police.  The protesters accused tribal government of corruption, voter fraud, and violence against opponents, and also accused the U.S. government of failing to fulfill treaty obligations.  There was widespread public sympathy for the goals of the occupation, which ended with the arrest of its leaders, and escalating violence on the reservation.

April 11, 2013 ~ Joseph Brings Plenty, former chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, published a NYTimes article detailing the proposed sale of the Wounded Knee Cemetery by its white owner, James Czywczynski, for the sum of $3.9 million.  (The property fell into white hands because the federal government fragmented most western reservations under the Dawes Act of 1887, which allocated between 40 and 160 acres of land to each Indian resident, leaving large tracts of non-allocated land which were sold, mostly to non-Indians.  This system of allotments led to fragmentation of ownership as Indian land was passed down through generations.)

The Brings Plenty article detailed the history, and issued the following plea ~ "The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is one of the poorest places in the United States, and the Oglala, who are deeply in debt, would be hard-pressed to meet the price.  Many elders properly ask why any price should be paid at all.  The federal government should buy this land and President Obama should then preserve it as a national monument ~ just as he did last month at five federally owned sites around the country .... "

April 27, 2013 ~ Matt Wells of BBC News fleshed out the history of the tribe and the land considered for sale in To Whom Does Wounded Knee Belong?  Among other things, he noted that the 40-acre parcel being sold is worth less than $10,000 on the open market.

April 30, 2013 ~ Vincent Schilling of Indian Country Today Media Network interviewed the property's nominal owner, James Czywczynski.  Schilling's questions were dispassionate, while Czywczynski seemed defensive, embellished and contradicted his own answers, and oh by the way, announced that the asking price has gone up to $4.9 million.  He claimed to have an anonymous management group and a venture capitalist lined up if the Oglalas can't or won't pony up the new asking price.

The deadline for the Oglalas to make an offer was today.  There is no word on whether federal intervention is in the offing.

If the sale is made to whites who want to profit from the sad and sacred history of the site by building a monument, a motel, and a restaurant tourism complex (with zero proceeds going to the Oglala tribe), it will be one more chapter is the long history of massacres, desecrations, thefts, and violations visited upon native peoples by white culture.

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