By Brandon Ecoffey
Nonetheless as the months have passed and several potential buyers are now negotiating a final deal on the land the Oglala Sioux Tribe has decided to take action and file in federal court under the premise of eminent domain to seize the land.
On Thursday, May16, the Oglala Sioux Tribal council voted 14-0 to file in federal court for eminent domain over the land that Czywczynski, a nonmember, owns at Wounded Knee. While many have praised the tribe for exercising an established right of any government, the legal efficacy of this action is still undetermined.
Speaking under the condition of anonymity one top federal Indian law attorney in Washington D.C. told Native Sun News that it would be highly unlikely that eminent domain could be used on the lands at Wounded Knee.
“It would be very hard for me to see the tribe pull this off,” the source said. “If this was truly a viable option for tribes than it would be extremely easy for tribes to consolidate their land bases. They could simply seize whatever they wanted from non-members within the confines of the reservation, provided they pay just compensation. Who determines what just compensation is?”
The lawyer also said that historically tribal jurisdiction is respected when the land is tribal land held in trust however when the land is owned by a non-Native and is not in trust the situation has been interpreted inversely by the courts.
Some tribal legal experts however feel that the tribe does have some legal standing to seize the land.
“The land in question is private, it is on the reservation and is needed for a public purpose, given its historical, cultural and traditional significance to the tribe,” said longtime tribal judge and law professor Patrick Lee. “Jurisdiction is always an issue when nonmembers are involved. Tribal ordinance 93-12 provides that nonmembers impliedly consent to tribal jurisdiction by owning land or by possession or use of any property situated within the exterior boundaries of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
Procedurally that is a very strong position for the tribe to be in should the owner challenge tribal jurisdiction” added Lee.
By Vincent Schilling
In addition to this development, a petition on a Care2 website claims that one of the parties interested in purchasing the site wants to build a horse slaughtering plant and has garnered more than 38,000 signatures.
According to Denise Mesteth, Tribal Land Office Director, the tribe is intending to seek recovery of the Wounded Knee site through eminent domain, however the claims that the tribe would allow a horse slaughterhouse to be built on or near Wounded Knee were false.
“That isn't right; it is definitely a misleading petition. It is amazing how rumors get around. This may have been an effort to hinder the eminent domain move,” said Mesteth.
For more on Wounded Knee, see Holocaust Museum at Wounded Knee? and Wounded Knee Sale Delayed.