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Native Americans furious over plans to sell Wounded Knee

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
April 3rd, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

There's only one word to describe the reactions of Native Americans to this recent news -- infuriated. Wounded Knee, the South Dakota battleground in which up to 300 Native American men, women and children were killed by U.S. troops is now up for sale, to the tune of $3.9 million. 

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Land owner James Czywczynski wants to sell a 40-acre fraction of the Wounded Knee National Historic Landmark on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation to the Oglala Sioux Tribe.

However, tribal leaders say the price tag for a property appraised at less than $7,000 is just too much. The Oglala Sioux Tribe is one of the country's poorest Native American tribes. They want to buy the historically significant piece of land where their ancestors were killed.

The land sits adjacent to a gravesite where about 150 of the 300 Lakota men, women and children killed by the 7th Cavalry are buried.
 
Czywczynski, whose family has owned the property since 1968, has given the tribe an ultimatum: purchase the land for $3.9 million -- or he will open up bidding to non-Native Americans. He claims he has been trying to sell the land to the tribe for years.

The ultimatum comes right before the tribe is poised to receive about $20 million from the Cobell lawsuit, which is a $3.4 billion settlement stemming from a class-action lawsuit filed over American Indian land royalties mismanaged by the government for more than a century.

"I think it's ridiculous that he's putting a price on it like that," Kevin Yellow Bird Steele, a tribal council representative from the Wounded Knee district says. He thinks Czywczynski is putting pressure on the tribe because of the impending money. "We need to come down to earth and be realistic. We're not rich. We're not a rich tribe."

The land also includes the site of a former trading post burned down during the 1973 Wounded Knee uprising, in which hundreds of American Indian Movement protesters occupied the town built at the site of the 1890 massacre.

In the meantime, Czywczynski insists the site's historical significance adds value.

"You can't put a price on the lives that were taken there," Garfield Steele, a tribal council representative for the Wounded Knee district, told the New York Times.

The last major bloodshed of the American Indian wars occurred on December 29 when the U.S. troops went into the camp to disarm the men. A deaf tribesman named Black Coyote resisted attempts to disarm him that morning, and in the struggle a shot was fired according to official U.S. reports.

U.S. troops then opened fire in response and a small number of Lakota fighters who still had guns fired back.

In the melee, the 7th Cavalry overwhelmed the Lakota warriors and began shooting haphazardly killing men, women and children of the Lakota Sioux. Troops also wounded at least 51.

U.S. Military authorities awarded twenty troopers the Medial of Honor for the massacre.

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