Brandon Ecoffey: Hoping for the best with sale at Wounded Knee massacre site

Brandon Ecoffey

A note from the editor’s desk
By Brandon Ecoffey
Lakota Country Times Editor

A very interesting occurrence took place when Tim Giago announced that he was taking it upon himself to “purchase” land located near the site of the Wounded Knee Knee massacre currently owned by Rapid City business owner Jim Czywczynski.

In 2013, I broke the story of Czywczynski’s plans to sell the land after I followed up on a lead that I thought was simply a rumor. Regardless of my obviously inaccurate hunch, “Jimmy Z” quickly confirmed to me that he did intend to sell two tracts of land near the site of the 1890 Wounded Knee massacre.

For the land located just across the highway from the mass grave and memorial, Czywczynski wanted $3.9 million, for land near Porcupine Butte he was asking a cool $1 million. Originally, Czywczynski stated that the only way that he would sell the land near the mass grave was if it was packaged with the second piece of land for a final price tag of $4.9 million.

The announcement was met with criticism from both tribal government and citizens of the Lakota nation who viewed the sale as an effort to profit off of tragedy. Former Oglala Sioux Tribal President Bryan Brewer was so agitated by the sale that he was willing to pursue eminent domain proceedings to seize the land and if that didn’t work he was prepared to remove all access to entry points to the land. Such a move would render the land unusable.

The behind closed door meetings that took place between tribal officials, descendents, media, and other with Czywczynski will probably be detailed in a book at some point, but the societal issues that surrounded the initial offering are still very real and present.

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The problem with Giago’s plans to erect a museum at Wounded Knee is that the community of descendents are split regarding the development of the site. Some think that a museum and cultural center are appropriate additions, while others feel that the land should be left as is.

Additionally, many relatives of those murdered there by U.S. troops live either in Cheyenne River or Standing Rock, Many of these descendent felt like their concerns were not given proper weight by the Oglala Sioux Tribe or the media around the time the story originally broke.

What was also interesting about the story was that many of the old wounds that our people carry as a result of the 1970’s were again rehashed. One of the most interesting conversations I witnessed while covering the story was between Czywczynski and members of the Hollow Horn family who were present in Wounded Knee in when it was occupied by members of the American Indian Movement in 1973. The context it provided to me was invaluable as their accounts from inside Wounded Knee village were told from a perspective that was far different than what was captured by authors who have published books on the incident.

The truth of the matter is that our people still suffer from the trauma that was engrained in all Lakota DNA that day. I hope that this story turns out with a happy ending.

(Brandon Ecoffey is the editor of LCT and an award winning journalist who was born and raised on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Brandon earned his education at Dartmouth College where he studied in Native American Studies and Political Theory.)

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