SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) – One of the country’s poorest Native American tribes wants to buy a historically significant piece of land where 300 of their ancestors were killed, but tribal leaders say the nearly $4 million price tag for a property appraised at less than $7,000 is just too much.
James Czywczynski is trying to sell a 40-acre fraction of the Wounded Knee National Historic Landmark on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation to the Oglala Sioux Tribe. The land sits adjacent to a gravesite where about 150 of the 300 Lakota men, women and children killed by the 7th Cavalry in 1890 are buried.
Czywczynski, whose family has owned the property since 1968, recently gave the tribe an ultimatum: purchase the land for $3.9 million or he will open up bidding to non-Native Americans. He said 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_ 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,” said Kevin Yellow Bird Steele, a tribal council representative from the Wounded Knee district, who 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.”
Czywczynski insists the site’s historical significance adds value.
Along with its proximity to the burial grounds, the land 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. The 71-day standoff that left two tribal members dead and a federal agent seriously wounded is credited with raising awareness about Native American struggles and giving rise to a wider protest movement that lasted the rest of the decade.
Czywczynski, who also is trying to sell another 40-acre piece of nearby land to the tribe for $1 million, also noted a coalition of Sioux tribes raised $9 million in December to buy land about 100 miles away in the Black Hills _ although the Oglala Sioux Tribe did not contribute to that effort.
“I’m getting older now and my family and myself want to dispose of this property,” said Czywczynski, 75, who now lives in Rapid City. “We just want to see it in the hands of the Indian people rather than put it on the open market to the public.”
Craig Dillon, a tribal council member on the Land Committee, said he would like to see the tribe buy the land at Wounded Knee because then they could build a museum commemorating the massacre with artifacts, food vendors and a place for local artists to sell their art to visitors.
“But with the price the way it is, I don’t think the tribe could ever buy it,” Dillon said.
Follow Kristi Eaton on Twitter at
(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
- The Pac-12 football season nears kickoff
- Tips to get ready for a pain-free golf season
- Protect your family with these 7 home security features
- How to train like an Olympic swimmer
- 2016 Olympics: A guide to must-see TV events
- The bride's guide to feeling your best on your wedding day
- Deciding when you need knee surgery
- Celebrating Fourth of July is much cooler in these AZ towns
- Top ten road trip bathrooms in America
- Six things causing a pain in your neck
- 5 things to make your summer move easier
- Three elements of a strong timeshare exit guarantee
- Stretches and exercises for carpal tunnel syndrome
- The best Major League ballparks have their own personality
- Comparing the best regular seasons: The '96 Bulls and '16 Warriors
- 3 Arizona road trips and the vehicles to get you there
- Colon cancer is preventable. Check these signs and symptoms to stay healthy.
- 6 of the biggest skin cancer myths
- Affordable small home makeover ideas
- Locals helping locals: 6 success stories you need to know about
- Sunscreen facts that could save your life
- 6 energy saving hacks for your home
- 5 tips for choosing a company to end your timeshare
- Overlooked water tips to save you money
- 5 of the most adored gentlemen in professional sports today
- The real danger of sitting at your desk
- Most surprising NBA playoff performances of the last 40 years
- 11 classic baseball movies you must see again
- Finally getting rid of fat: 3 methods that actually work
- 4 reasons cancer survivors should focus on food