AP File Photo
A historical marker commemorates the Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890 near Sacred Heart Catholic Church.

Wounded Knee Sale Deadline Looms

Vincent Schilling


As the May 1 deadline approaches for the Oglala Sioux Tribe to purchase the historic site of Wounded Knee for millions of dollars, the tribe has made no statement that they plan to buy the land. The owner of the 40-acre parcel, James Czywczynski, has told the press he has several interested parties.

Tribal officials have consistently denied purchasing the land for Czywczynski’s asking price of over $3 million because the 40-acre parcel of land has an appraised value in the thousands, not millions.

The Rapid City Journal reported that there are five parties who want to purchase the land: Two California investment groups, an overseas investor, an American who offered $1 million cash, and a group in Wall, South Dakota that wants to raise grant money to buy the land and gift it to the Lakota.

Czywczynski says he will not consider any offers until after May 1 and would only sell Wounded Knee and another parcel at Porcupine Butte, as a package deal and for no less than $4.9 million.

Some Lakota activists, including tribal member Garfield Steele, are offering a warning to Czywczynski.

“This is our backyard; this is our homeland,” Steele told the Rapid City Journal. “This has historical value for our people, not to any non-Indian. We will fight to keep it, as is, by all means.”

Steele mentioned his opposition to the development of the land as a tourist attraction, and the action to sell could involve protests because the tribe views any building on the land as an exploitation of their tragic history.

Floyd Brings Plenty, Oglala Sioux tribal member and chairman of the Oglala district, feels Czywczynski is most likely selling for one of two reasons.

“He is a greedy old man who wants a lot of dollars and money off the Wounded Knee site, which is land that was appraised for a little over $7,000. He knows that people will buy this because the land is Wounded Knee,” Brings Plenty said.

“Either that or this guy is so full of hatred, resentment and anger that he is making the tribe pay. He couldn’t do it back then so he is doing it now. I have read that this guy is very determined.”

Alex White Plume, a tribal member who has lived on Pine Ridge his entire life, says the selling of Wounded Knee by Czywczynski is an insult.

“Wounded Knee is a sad place where they killed our relatives. In the American way they called it a massacre but that hardly gives the meaning of what took place. Those are our relatives that were killed. We are trying to deal with historical grief and trauma and here this man comes trying to sell it. We cannot have a tourist attraction at a sacred place,” says White Plume.

“I saw a Supreme Court judge come here one time. He made contact with this grief and was crying. He knew the significance, this is a healing place. No one should be talking about selling it.”

Brandon Ecoffey, the Native Sun News managing editor who broke the story, says the Wounded Knee Survivor's Association agrees that development on the land, or even purchasing it is not right.

“We cannot support any development or exploitation of the land. For us as Lakota we cannot sell the sacred,” Nathan Blindman, of the Wounded Knee Survivor’s Association, a group that speaks for a small number of Wounded Knee Massacre survivors, told Native Sun News.

White Plume questions how Czywczynski acquired the land back in 1968. He spoke of rumors that accuse the owner of buying the land with a $300 debt owed at his grocery store. White Plume also claims Czywczynski was a rude man who took advantage of Indian people.

Czywczynski says the rumor about purchasing the land with a store credit is ridiculous and adds that he and his family were friends with many Indian people. “We had a very good relationship with Indian people; we work with them every day. They were all friends of ours.”

“Our property was bought in the 1930s by Woodrow Wilson who signed the deed. Clive Gildersleeve’s father bought the land and store in 1935, which included 40 acres of the national historical site of Wounded Knee. In 1968, I bought the property from the Gildersleeve's which included the Trading Post Museum, a home, four cabins and museum artifacts. The 40 acres we bought included the ravine and the area where the massacre took place in 1890,” Czywczynski said.

Czywczynski and his family were there from 1968 until 1973, but when the American Indian Movement activists came to Pine Ridge and occupied where his family lived, the series of events that transpired never enabled him to live there again.

“Forty carloads came in February of 1973 to Wounded Knee and took over the complex. They stayed there for 71 days,” he said. “When I got it back, it was all destroyed, burned. Everything was burnt to the ground, my home, my store and my trading post. They stole all of the artifacts, they burned my museum, and they burned four cabins and all my vehicles to the ground.”

“A lot of people say I should give the land back and I would if I was a multimillionaire. But I am not; I lost everything at Wounded Knee in 1973,” he said.

“What makes them think that I should give it to them? Everything is given to the Indians anyway,” Czywczynski said. “There are hundreds of millions poured into the Pine Ridge reservation every year.”

Tomorrow Czywczynski will begin to consider offers. If the Oglala Sioux Tribe decides not to purchase Wounded Knee, the land will be sold to the highest bidder. As of April 30, neither the Oglala Sioux Tribe, nor the Great Sioux Nation as a collective body, has issued a formal statement about their intentions.

(Related story: "A Conversation with Wounded Knee Owner James Czywczynski")

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Tara Martin's picture
Tara Martin
Submitted by Tara Martin on
“What makes them think that I should give it to them? Everything is given to the Indians anyway,” Czywczynski said. “There are hundreds of millions poured into the Pine Ridge reservation every year.” Hey Czywczynski, you are a total IGNORANT BUTTHEAD. Where do you get your facts from? You know nothing about what the reservation gets, and it is far from "hundreds of millions". You should take your ignorant butt out and go play in traffic.

Renita Madrid's picture
Renita Madrid
Submitted by Renita Madrid on
I pray that our Government would purchase this land and give it to the First Nations People. The Pope apologized to the 6 million Jews who were killed. Many hearts were healed.This is a wound that was never repented for. The voice of the Blood cries out from the ground. It is time for Healing to begin.What Mr.C lost in 1973 is little compared to the loss of Lives at Wounded Knee. He still deserves an apology for his losses. I pray his heart is able to forgive. I pray for his restoration. I pray for the healing of the Land and the restoration of the !st Nations People. Will our Gov. man up? I pray so.

Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on
He lost everything in 1973 and needs to be compensated for it. I would like our Nations to be compensated too! Free education for all Native Americans, why the hell not, when illegal immigrants get discounted tuition for higher education?

Jim's picture
Submitted by Jim on
Another white person making the rest of us look bad. As if it's not bad enough that we stole the whole country from them... can't we at least pull together and make sure that this kind of thing doesn't happen? If this was happening in another country, you can be sure the US Military would be there to stop it. Here in our own country, just a greedy old wasichu making a buck.

Sell It's picture
Sell It
Submitted by Sell It on
Sell it and be done with it. No one will go see it and pay money anyway. This on and on method of using the media to get money is going on too long. It was just yesterday another lot was sold and bought, that was sacred. Who will be next? Offer the seller a big tax break and let it go at that.

M.Karhakeron's picture
Submitted by M.Karhakeron on
Occupy the land once again - 40 years later. Czywczynski does not belong there nor should he profit whatsoever from such tragedy in Oglala history and in American history. In Brotherhood!

Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on
If Czywczynski had any integrity at all, he would DONATE the land to the Great Sioux Nation.

tmsyr11's picture
Submitted by tmsyr11 on
A 2nd occupation? Whose willing to go 'first'? Whose willing to risk their livlihood, lose their family, give their life?

Quilt's picture
Submitted by Quilt on
I am disgusted with this man Mr. Czywcynski. Wounded knee is sacred and should be given back to the Ogalala Sioux Tribe.

Jan's picture
Submitted by Jan on
No One ! Absolutely NO ONE has a right to that land and historical site except for the Great Sioux Nation, the Oglala's. It is a disgrace to humanity and history to even consider the thought that any other entity should or would have rights to that land. If this is a historical, national monument how are other entities even allowed to offer purchase prices? If it is not a national monument it should be made one and everyone needs to contact their congressmen/woman to make it one to preserve and protect it.

Jane Grace Taylor
Jane Grace Taylor
Submitted by Jane Grace Taylor on
It was wrong to burn down your store,but the intense sorrow that emanates from wounded knee reaches across this land. The spirit of the unjust murdered innocent children screams for justice even now.This place above all others should be used for the benefit of the native Americans who were cheated out of it every time someone else wanted it.

John's picture
Submitted by John on
This article has more info than an earlier one I read elsewhere. It appears to be privately owned land. Moreover, it also appears to be land that was illegally occupied and damaged by Indians in the early '70's. Did the Indians ever offer to pay this property owner for any damage he suffered? Why does one Indian comment that they (Indians) cannot sell sacred ground? Sounds like it was sold way back in the '30's. If legal ownership isn't a question, it's his land to do what he pleases with. Either buy it, request Federal Government intervention in the sale, or leave him alone. So long as his property taxes are paid up he can do what he wants with it. America has enough federal property tied up in battlefields, parks, historic sites already.

Vicki Clemons's picture
Vicki Clemons
Submitted by Vicki Clemons on
How can any citizen of the USA sell property that is designated as a National Historic Site? By title, it belongs to everybody in the United States. Since it was Native American owned to begin with, and the current owner doesn't want it any more, shouldn't that portion that is the National Historic Site be disallowed in the sale of the property? Why isn't the government stopping this?

Thomas "White Bear" Hickey's picture
Thomas "White B...
Submitted by Thomas "White B... on
It is too bad that nothing has changed for the "Red People" even today they continue to want to take all livlihood away from us. Why can't people just understand that places like this should remain sacred and not profited on. People were massaccred here, never thought I'd live to see the day when someone would find it respectful and profitable to sell a concentration camp! We shall never forget the "Red Holocaust"!

Denver Fleming's picture
Denver Fleming
Submitted by Denver Fleming on
that is why they came up with the name DUMB POLOCK. Give the land back or build a museum for them and keep the entrance fee until the land is paid off then give the land back

Autumn White Eyes's picture
Autumn White Eyes
Submitted by Autumn White Eyes on
There is so much to say about this... ugh.. on one hand I can empathize with his anger of AIM destroying the property but on the other hand I feel like he is taking it out on us. Selling 40 acres of land for millions of dollars is ridiculous, and at a massacre site of our people no less. Its just annoying, especially as he ridicules Pine Ridge for receiving millions of dollars. Where is that money that he is talking about? I've never seen it. Over half of the population grows up in poverty. Ugh it just pisses me off. Just another non-native person thinking they know what goes on. And what if someone buys it and turns it into a tourist attraction? Its so ironic to me that hundreds of women and children died at this site (that contributes to so much of the historical trauma at Pine Ridge) and now this white man is trying to make millions of dollars off of it. I'm annoyed. But I have no solution because our Tribe doesn't have that kind of money to buy it, and we shouldn't have to buy it!

Wayne Rasmussen's picture
Wayne Rasmussen
Submitted by Wayne Rasmussen on
I am the direct decendant of the Vikings, I say pay the man and move him out. It is the Ogalala's land paid in blood many times over...but...to be fair pay the man and maintain the digatee of those that passed before us. Perhaps those that can, should take to the streets in colorful peacful dance to furthure the truth and educate the " Other ", American peoples of not only the history but the need to give monies to protect this spirtitual lands for generations to come. FOR THERE IT GOES, WE ALL GO. peace to all

ps's picture
Submitted by ps on
It is going to be hard to spend any of the money where you're going. I'll be watching.