By Brandon Ecoffey
The family of James A. Czywczynski, owners of two 40 acre sites of land where the slaughter of approximately 300 Lakota men, women, and children took place on Dec 29, 1890 has agreed to sell the land for $3.9 million.
“It is time for our family to sell the land. We would really like to see the land returned to the Lakota people and that is why I am giving them an opportunity to purchase the land before I open it up to others for sale,” said Czywczynski. “I could offer it up for public auction like the Runnels did with Pe’ Sla, but I would prefer that the Lakota people be the ones to purchase it,” he added.
The Czywczynski family has owned the property since 1968, when they purchased the property from the Gildersleeves who had owned the property prior.
During the 1973 occupation of Wounded Knee by the American Indian Movement, Mr. Czywczynski had his home, all of his personal belongings, the trading post he owned (including all of the artifacts inside), and several vehicles destroyed. At the time he and his family were returning from a high school basketball game and were told by the United States Marshall Service that he could not return to their home that night.
The losses the he incurred during the occupation have been included in the $3.9 million offering.
By Daniel Simmons-Ritchie
"I think the tribe should take all necessary action to purchase the land but at a reasonable price. I understand it's a historic site but that shouldn't be a means to take the tribe for a huge amount,” said Garfield Steele, who represents the Wounded Knee District on the tribal council.
Kevin Yellow Bird Steele, who also represents Wounded Knee, said the property is inflated to the point of insult and is an attempted exploitation of a dark chapter in U.S. history.
"As a representative of Wounded Knee District, I'm totally appalled," he said.
According to Shannon County records, the property has an appraised value of $7,000.
Czywczynski, however, cites a second event that brought national attention to Wounded Knee when explaining his asking price for a piece of property in a rural outpost on the reservation.
The asking price, he said, includes compensation for the damage done to his property in 1973 when the American Indian Movement and others occupied the community of Wounded Knee for 71 days in a violent standoff that drew national attention.
Charles Trimble: Attempting to profit from hallowed grounds
Comment: It's kind of ridiculous to ask $3.9 million for land worth $7,000. It's a shame Czywczynski lost so much, but he should sue the people responsible. Why should anyone pay millions of dollars to make up for pain and suffering they didn't cause?
For more on Wounded Knee, see Fire Totals Wounded Knee Museum and Pine Ridge Needs Tourism.