SIUOX FALLS, SD (Associated Press) — Two Indian tribes in South Dakota have agreed to buy land near the Wounded Knee National Historic Site, where the Wounded Knee Massacre took place in 1890. In that massacre, soldiers Americans killed hundreds of Lakota men and women. and children in an effort to suppress the Lakota religious movement, the Ghost Dance.
The victims were buried in a mass grave in a nearby Catholic cemetery.
The Oglala Sioux Tribe will pay $255,000 and the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe will pay $245,000 for the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation site.
The bloodshed marked a pivotal moment in the battles the US military waged against Indigenous peoples.
“This is a small step towards healing and we are really making sure to protect our important territories and assets as a tribe,” Kevin Killer, president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, told The Associated Press.
Killer said the tribes’ resolve to purchase the land demanded that it be preserved as a sacred site. “There are still many unresolved artifacts and objects that need to be left untouched,” he said.
Marlis Fear of Hawke, a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe, whose grandfather, Albert Fear of Hawke, survived the 1890 massacre when he was just 13, said she was happy to confront the tribes. She said she continues the oral tradition of telling her grandchildren how her grandfather escaped from a ravine after an American horseman’s rifle misfired and was unable to shoot him .
The woman said she hoped the site could be used to “educate people visiting the site of the massacre”.
“They need to know the story. It has to go through the real Lakota people,” he said.
As Indian Country Today reported, the two tribes agreed to ask the US Department of the Interior to take back the lands from the trust on behalf of both tribes.
The Ministry of Interior oversees the country’s natural resources and environment, including national parks and offshore drilling. Its functions do not match the functions of ministries of interior in other countries.
The agreement ends a decades-long dispute and title to the land will remain in the name of the Oglala Sioux tribe.
James Czywczynski purchased the property in 1968. His wife, Jeanette Czywczynski, became the sole owner of the land when she was widowed in 2019.
The Czywczynski family operated a museum and booth there until 1973, when American Indian Movement protesters occupied the site and destroyed Stahl and Czywczynskis’ home.
The 71-day standoff, in which two tribal members were killed and a federal agent seriously injured, brought greater national attention to the country’s indigenous issues and sparked widespread protest.
The family left the area and put the land up for sale, demanding $3.9 million for a 40-acre (16.2-hectare) plot closest to the site of the massacre. The value of the land, including another adjacent 40-acre lot, was estimated at $14,000.
In 2013, movie star Johnny Depp announced his intention to purchase the property and donate it to the Oglala Sioux Tribe. Depp, who played Tonto in the remake of “The Lone Ranger,” has come under fire for trying to take advantage of the film by making baseless claims about his Native American ancestry. Ultimately, Depp did not pursue the purchase.