Native Sun News’ Brandon Ecoffey Says Deal in Works for Wounded Knee
Oglala Sioux Tribe President Bryan Brewer’s plans to meet with Wounded Knee owner James Czywczynski have been cancelled after Brewer met with a representative from the Bush Foundation and the Trust for Public Land. Brewer told ICTMN that, “There was nothing to talk about.”
The meeting that was to have taken place today was a possible attempt to avert the public sale of the site of Wounded Knee by Czywczynski. After initial attempts to sell the 40-acre parcel of land to the tribe for $4.9 million, Czywczynski now says he will accept sealed bids on the property until his imposed October 15 deadline.
If bids are not acceptable to him, he’ll put the site up for sale at a public auction as early as November.
An October 3 article by Native Sun News’ Brandon Ecoffey said, “The immediacy of this deadline has caused one heavy hitter in the business of historical site preservation to step forward.”
That heavy hitter is Nelson Mathews. According to Brewer, Mathews is a representative from the Trust for Public Land who was brought in by the Bush Foundation to negotiate. In addition to meeting with Brewer, Mathews met with Czywczynski on September 26 at Minerva’s Restaurant in Rapid City before he met with the tribe.
According to the TPL website, the organization is a nonprofit that “conserves land for people to enjoy such as parks, gardens, historic sites, rural lands, and other natural places.” According to Ecoffey’s article, TPL has raised $34 billion for conservation efforts and that for every dollar that was invested into the program it has yielded more than $2,000 in new public lands.
In an interview with ICTMN, Czywczynski spoke about his meeting with Mathews.
“We had a very nice meeting and he [Mathews] indicated that he will work very hard to acquire this property for and on behalf of the Oglala Sioux Tribe,” Czywczynski said. “They buy Indian sites and massacre sites and all kinds of things to keep them in the public trust.”
Though he claims the meeting went well, Czywczynski criticized the Trust for Public Land for wanting to assess the site of Wounded Knee for its value.
“TPL wants to do an appraisal and a survey. There is nobody that can properly appraise this site. You can appraise a car, a house, a road or a factory,” Czywczynski said. “You can appraise anything, but find me someone that can appraise a national historic site worth 300 Indian men, women and children [who] were killed and I would like to talk to him. How would you appraise the Washington Monument or the Statue of Liberty?”
Czywczynski says the bid process has been slow but he has heard from a few potential buyers including the Century 21 office in Hot Springs, South Dakota who said they represented a donor from the West Coast who flew an attorney out to meet with Czywczynski.
“The attorney came to Rapid City and asked for a first right of refusal, which we gave him. They indicated they were going to make an offer, but they didn't make one,” Czywczynski said. “They are just sitting back now because they have the first right of refusal. If somebody else steps up to the plate and it is a home run and they are satisfied that this owner will turn it over to the tribe, they will say go ahead and do it. If they don't like it, they will say no deal and they will buy it.
“If somebody wants to buy this and put condominiums there for X amount of dollars, the company can say no, and match the price. They will buy it and turn it over to the Oglala Sioux Tribe. That's what they want to do. We have people in place who will donate to make up the difference,” said Czywczynski.
In the meantime Czywczynski is sticking to the October 15 deadline.
Brewer says the tribe is seriously looking into eminent domain to obtain the land. They have submitted a proposal to the Native American Rights Foundation (NARF) in Boulder, Colorado to start the process.
“They have a litigation committee that will be meeting next week,” he said. “We will be taking our proposal to them to see if they will be interested in taking it on.”
Overall, Brewer seems undeterred by the process.
“How many deadlines has he had so far? There is no sense in even talking with him.”
According to Tim Ahern, TPL’s director of media relations, “we’ve done a lot of working with tribes across the country to preserve lands important to them. We don’t have a formal role here yet, but like everyone else, we’ve read all the media around this parcel of land, and we’re trying to see if we can be helpful in finding a solution which works for everybody involved.”