Today, a 40-acre parcel of land is going up for sale in one of the most impoverished parts of the U.S. Based on the quality of the land, and comparable sales in the area, the asking price should be around $7000. But because the land has a unique legacy, the owner of the land is asking for a much higher price: $3.9 million.
That legacy includes two of the most notable events in Native American history: The Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890, in which U.S. Calvary killed 150 Lakota; and the Wounded Knee Incident of 1973, in which 200 American Indian activists seized and occupied the town of Wounded Knee. The final stand-off of the latter event just happens to be celebrating its 40th anniversary this month.
The man selling the land is named James Czywczynski. He’s not Lakota. And he sees it as his right to sell the land for any price he chooses, to anyone he likes.
Some Lakota in the area say they should try to find the money to buy the land from Czywczynski, and develop it as a historic site. But others believe that doing so would be the equivalent of paying for something that's already rightly theirs.
Stew Magnuson has reported extensively on Wounded Knee and the land dispute there. He’s the author of “The Death of Raymond Yellow Thunder” and “Wounded Knee 1973: Still Bleeding.”