Wounded Knee site goes on auction block May 1
RAPID CITY, S.D. – The owner of the two 40 acre parcels of land where the 1890 Wounded Knee massacre occurred, and where members of the American Indian Movement took on the federal government for 71 days in 1973, has set a final date for the tribe to purchase the land.
During an exclusive interview with Native Sun News, James Czywcznski, the owner of the land and the man who shook Indian Country two weeks ago with his announcement that he was putting the site up for sale at a price of $3.9 million, says that this is the only way that he will be able to get the land sold.
“I really have no choice but to place a timeline on when I want to sell the land,” said Czywcznski. “I feel like I am giving the tribe ample opportunity to buy it, but I may have to put it up for auction on the open market,” he added.
Czywcznski informed Native Sun News that he will give the Oglala Sioux Tribe or other Native American groups until May 1, 2013, to purchase the land. After May 1, he will begin to entertain offers from prospective buyers from all over the world.
“There have been people and organizations from across America who have attempted to contact me about purchasing the land, but I want to give the tribe every opportunity to buy it prior to me reaching out to those outside of the Native American community,” said Czywcznski. “This is a piece of history, and it is extremely difficult to put a dollar amount on what has occurred there,” he added.
The land where arguably the most atrocious single act of genocide in American military history took place, and also where the American Indian Movement cemented itself in to the folklore of the American civil rights movement has been appraised by a local official as being worth only $7,000 dollars, which is significantly less than the $3.9 million price tag that Czywcznski, has placed on the land.
However, Czywcznski responds to this appraisal by citing the significant historical events that have occurred there as something that the appraiser failed to consider when determining the monetary value of the land.
“We are looking at two historical events that happened at the site; the first being the horrible events that took place in 1890, and then there is the takeover by the American Indian Movement in 1973,” he said. “The before and after effects of those two incidents add value to the land that must be taken into account. You cannot place a dollar amount on history,” Czywcznski said.
Since Native Sun News broke the story that the land was for sale, word of the sale has gone global with the eyes of the world now turning towards the highly impoverished homelands of the Oglala Lakota. Tribal officials have stated that the asking price is just too high for the tribe to buy the land at its current price, and have said they might be interested in buying the land back if the price was lower.
“I am simply looking to get fair market value for the land. Demand plays a big part in the price of anything and this is a place where two historical events took place,”Czywcznski said.
There has been speculation that the tribe could use money from the Cobell settlement that recently awarded $3.4 billion to tribes from the federal government for the historical mismanagement of trust accounts held on behalf of tribes by the government.
A portion of the $3.4 billion was set aside for tribes to buy back highly fractionalized trust lands. A story released by the Associated Press reported that $20 million dollars was set to be awarded to the tribe. However, the amount is actually much higher. The Oglala Sioux Tribe is projected to receive somewhere in the range of $126 million dollars according to a report released by the Department of Interior as a result of the high number of fractionalized land interests on the reservation. The money is specifically earmarked for the buyback of fractionalized trust lands. The land owned by Czywcznski does not fall in to this category.
There have been reports from other news outlets that have speculated about the intentions of Czywcznski, however he asserts that this is the first time he has made public his decision to implement time restraints on the purchase of the land.
“I have not spoken with anyone about this yet, I am not sure where they are getting some of these reports saying that I have put a solid ultimatum on the tribe or anyone else. I haven’t done anything like that until now,” he said. “I have come to the decision that this is the best way to get the ball moving and I really hope that the land will end up in the hands of Native people. However, if nothing works out I have no choice but to auction the land at some point,” Czywcznski added.
Republished with permission of Native Sun News