National News

May 1, 2013

SD tribe faces ultimatum on sale of massacre site

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — A small patch of prairie sits largely unnoticed off a desolate road in southwestern South Dakota, tucked amid gently rolling hills and surrounded by dilapidated structures and hundreds of gravesites — many belonging to Native Americans massacred more than a century earlier.

The assessed value of the property: less than $14,000. The seller’s asking price: $4.9 million.

Tribal members say the man who owns a piece of the Wounded Knee National Historic Landmark on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is trying to profit from their suffering. It was there, on Dec. 29, 1890, that 300 Native American men, women and children were killed by the 7th Cavalry in the final battle of the American Indian Wars.

James Czywczynski, whose family has owned the property since 1968, is trying to sell the 40-acre fraction of the historic landmark and another 40-acre parcel for $4.9 million. He has given the Oglala Sioux Tribe until Wednesday to agree to the price, after which he will open it up to outside investors.

Earlier this month Czywczynski said he had three offers from West Coast-based investment groups interested in buying the land for the original asking price. He didn’t return calls this week to The Associated Press seeking information about the prospective buyers.

The ultimatum has caused anger among many tribal members and descendants of the massacre victims.

“I know we are at the 11th hour, but selling this massacre site and using the victims as a selling pitch is, for lack of a better word, it’s grotesque,” said Nathan Blindman, 56, whose grandfather was 10 when he survived the massacre. “To use the murdered children, the murdered teenagers, the unborn, women screaming and running for their lives, using that as a selling pitch ... that has got to be the most barbaric thing ever to use as a selling pitch.”

Czywczynski acknowledges the historical significance adds value to each parcel of land, which have each been appraised at less than $7,000 apiece, according to records reviewed by the AP.

Besides 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 massacre site. 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.

The land sits on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, home to the Oglala Sioux Tribe, but many of the descendants of the massacre victims and survivors are members of several different Lakota tribes, said Joseph Brings Plenty, a former chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and a traditional chief.

Brings Plenty said the tribes are not in a position to pay millions of dollars for the land. Although tribal members are not opposed to development that would preserve, beautify or better educate the public about the land and its history, they are opposed to commercialization, he said.

“You don’t go and dance on grandma and grandpa’s grave to turn a hefty dollar sign,” he said.

Tribal members and descendants have reached out to President Barack Obama to make the site a National Monument, which would better guard it against development and commercialization, Brings Plenty said.

But even if an outside investor buys the land with intent to develop, there will be obstacles, said Craig Dillon, an Oglala Sioux Tribal Council member. The tribe could pass new laws preventing the buyer from actually building at the site.

“Whoever buys that is still going to have to deal with the tribe,” Dillon said. “Access is going to be an issue. Development is going to be an issue. I’m not threatening anybody, but my tone is be aware you have to deal with the tribe if you purchase it.”

There are nearly 2,500 national historic landmarks across the country, with the vast majority of them owned by private landowners, said Don Stevens, chief of the History and National Register Program in the Midwest Region for the National Park Service.

“We advocate for preservation and we always express concern about potential harm for their care,” Stevens said, adding that the NPS does not have any legal authority.

Still, a site can lose its designation if it does not retain its physical integrity, he said. One example is Soldier Field in Chicago, which lost the designation when it was remodeled a decade ago because it changed its physical character.

As for the Wounded Knee site, Stevens said any development could potentially affect the Historic Landmark designation.

“Certainly you would hear a hue and cry about that type of thing,” he said. “And certainly if we saw something going up, we’d express our concern, even if we don’t have a legal jurisdiction to intercede, we’d express our concern.”

1
Text Only
National News
  • Afghan hospital guard kills 3 American doctors

    An Afghan government security guard opened fire Thursday on a group of foreign doctors at a Kabul hospital, killing three American physicians and wounding a U.S. nurse, officials said.

    April 24, 2014

  • Nevada rancher condemned for racist remarks

     A Nevada rancher who has become a conservative folk hero for resisting the federal government’s attempts to round up his cattle faced sharp criticism Thursday for racist comments published in a New York Times article.

    April 24, 2014

  • NRA seeks universal gun law at national meeting

    With concealed weapons now legal in all 50 states, the National Rifle Association’s focus at this week’s annual meeting is less about enacting additional state protections than on making sure the permits already issued still apply when the gun owners travel across the country.

    April 24, 2014

  • 10 Things to Know for Thursday

    Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Thursday.

    April 23, 2014

  • US weighs clemency for inmates jailed for 10 years

    The Justice Department is encouraging nonviolent federal inmates who have behaved in prison, have no significant criminal history and have already served more than 10 years behind bars to apply for clemency, officials announced Wednesday.

    April 23, 2014

  • High court tosses $3.4M award to child porn victim

    The Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected a plea to make it easier for victims of child pornography to collect money from people who view their images online, throwing out a nearly $3.4 million judgment in favor of a woman whose childhood rape has been widely seen on the Internet. Two dissenting justices said Congress should change the law to benefit victims.

    April 23, 2014

  • Airport security vulnerabilities not uncommon

    For all the tens of billions of dollars that the nation has spent on screening passengers and their bags, few airports made a comparable investment to secure the airplanes themselves.

    April 23, 2014

  • Deal signs bill expanding gun rights in Georgia

    Gov. Nathan Deal has signed legislation expanding where people with licenses to carry can bring their guns in Georgia.

    April 23, 2014

  • Indian film awards arrive in Tampa, Fla., but why?

    The so-called Bollywood Oscars have been held in Macau, Singapore, London — and now, Tampa?

    April 23, 2014

  • Indictment: Prosecutor targeted in kidnapping plot

    A North Carolina prosecutor was the intended target of an elaborate kidnapping plot, but the kidnappers looked up the wrong address on the Internet and abducted the prosecutor’s father instead, according to an indictment released Tuesday.

    April 23, 2014

AP Video