Mario Gonzalez: Protecting sacred sites from commercialization

The Wounded Knee memorial gravesite on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Photo by egyptspice

Historical Indian massacre sites and cemeteries
Part 2
By Mario Gonzales
For The Native Sun News Today

Some tribal officials have talked about condemning the Gildersleeve property. Language was placed in one of the draft Wounded Knee bills to do just that, but was removed from the draft when local residents and other tribal members objected to any eminent domain language in it.

The Oglala Sioux Tribe has the power of eminent domain, as recognized in the 1968 Indian Civil Rights Act (25 U.S.C. § 1302) and Article XII of the Tribal Constitution. Although the District Court in Seneca Constitutional Rights Organization v. George (1972) found that the Seneca Nation likewise has the power of eminent domain and upheld the Nation’s condemnation of use rights of tribal members for an tribal industrial park, it is questionable whether the Oglala Sioux Tribe’s power of eminent domain would be upheld in federal court for the condemnation of fee patented land in tribal court that is owned by a non-Indian.

The better approach is to purchase the Gildersleeve property, if possible. But what is a fair price for the property? Has the property been appraised? Would an appraisal include its commercial value, if any? A fair price can never be determined if all people want to do is sit around and complain, make false defamatory accusations, and never talk to Mr. Czywczysnki and try to understand his perspectives. If a purchase cannot be negotiated, a museum and cultural center could always be built on nearby tribal land as contemplated in the third alternative of the NPS Study of Alternatives.

I believe, however, that the descendants of the massacre victims should be involved in any fund raising efforts; that if the property is eventually purchased, it should be held in the name of the Oglala Sioux Tribe since it is located on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation; and that the Oglala Sioux Tribe should have it placed in trust status and dedicate it to the exclusive use of a National Native American Holocaust Museum and Cultural Center.

It should also be mentioned that I assisted the WKSAs repatriate a Ghost Shirt taken from a massacre victim from the Kelvingrove Gallery and Museum in Glasgow, Scotland in 1995. I made the arguments as to why it should be repatriated to the WKSAs. With the assistance of Marcella LeBeau, and Iain Sinclair and Susanne NcNeil, two of our support people in Scotland, the shirt were eventually returned to the WKSAs and I believe it is the first successful repatriation of a Native American cultural item internationally. The Ghost Shirt is presently kept in a museum at Pierre, S.D. and will be returned to the WKSAs when a museum is built at the massacre site and it can be housed there.

Read the rest of the story on the Native Sun News Today website: Historical Indian massacre sites and cemeteries

(Mario Gonzalez is an Oglala Sioux attorney that practices law at Rapid City, South Dakota. He is the first recipient of the Distinguished Aboriginal Lawyer Achievement Award, given by the University of Saskatchewan in 1995, at Saskatoon, Sask., Canada. He has also been chosen as one of the role models for high school students by the Speaking Truth, Watershed Moments In Global Leadership Project in Washington, D.C. He is also the co-author with Elizabeth Cook-Lynn of the POLITICS OF HALLOWED GROUND: Wounded Knee and the Struggle for Indian Sovereignty (1999). He can be reached at gnzlaw@aol.com).

Copyright permission Native Sun News

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