History for sale? Man seeking $3.9 million for site near Wounded Knee memorial

2013-02-10T06:30:00Z 2013-04-15T12:07:43Z History for sale? Man seeking $3.9 million for site near Wounded Knee memorialDaniel Simmons-Ritchie Journal staff Rapid City Journal
February 10, 2013 6:30 am  • 

A decision to sell 40 acres of land near the site of two of South Dakota’s most historically notorious events has opened old wounds on the Pine Ridge reservation.

James Czywczynski of Rapid City wants $3.9 million for the property that sits next to the Wounded Knee memorial site where an estimated 150 Native Americans are buried after being gunned down by members of the 7th Cavalry Regiment on Dec. 29, 1890.

Elected tribal officials said the Oglala Sioux Tribe is interested in purchasing what is considered sacred ground to the tribe but not at a price that far exceeds its actual value.

"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.

"They burned my home," Czywczynski, 74, said. "They burned my trading post. They burned my museum. They burned three cabins I had. They wrecked and stole three of my vehicles."

It was a devastating end to a growing family business, he said.

Czywczynski said he was working as an accountant in Rapid City when he purchased the land in 1968 from the Gildersleeve family.

"I thought it was a wonderful opportunity to get into private enterprise," he said.

After moving his family to the property and expanding a trading post and museum there, Czywczynski said as many as five busloads of tourists, domestic and international, would visit each week.

That all began to change on Feb. 27, 1973, when activists occupied the land, protesting what they said were long-standing treaty breaches by the federal government.

Czywczynski and his family were returning from a basketball game when they were stopped by U.S. Marshals who had cordoned off the area. It was the beginning of the end for their enterprise, they would realize later.

"We thought it would be over tomorrow and tomorrow never came," he said. "71 days later it came."

Czywczynsk said he received a $55,000 insurance payout, a paltry sum compared to his losses. He would rebuild his life in Rapid City where he owned and operated a mobile home park until he sold it in 2000 and retired.

The parcel near Wounded Knee has remained undeveloped for the past 40 years.

Czywczynski said he has offered to sell the land to the tribe since it was destroyed in 1973. But the tribe has consistently rejected his $3.9 million asking price.

In December, he gave the tribe an ultimatum: Buy it or watch it fall into the hands of a private investor.

The tribe now has until May 1 to accept his offer or he will look for other suitors. Tribal officials say they are now doing their own appraisal of the property.

Czywczynski is also offering a 40-acre parcel on Porcupine Butte for $1 million. He said he is building a website to market both parcels to national and international bidders.

He adds that he has the utmost respect for the Wounded Knee burial site and the Lakota people. He would prefer the tribe develop his parcel into a tourist attraction rather than leave it at the mercy of an unknown entity.

"Say you buy it, you could do anything with it. You could set up apartments or a condominium or a casino; you could do anything of that nature," he said. "But it should be done correctly — the hallowed ground where these people died."

But Steele said if Czywczynski's concerns are genuine he would donate the land to the tribe or sell it at a reasonable price.

As it stands, he said, Czywczynski is simply extorting the tribe.

"We don't want no kind of development with that area," he said. "We don't want somebody to purchase it and get rich off it."

[This story has been changed to reflect a correction. A pair of FBI agents died in a separate incident at Wounded Knee in 1975.]

Copyright 2015 Rapid City Journal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(39) Comments

  1. j wade
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    j wade - November 03, 2013 12:42 pm
    This is a disgrace
    The land should be taken from this man, if this site was next to ground zero there would be an outrage.
    How long will it be until this planet wakes up
    One Nation under who? with what and what for all.
    Blasphemy! The only God in this w
  2. hillshunter
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    hillshunter - February 17, 2013 10:59 am
    Good post!
  3. ManCalledHorse
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    ManCalledHorse - February 15, 2013 2:57 pm
    HAHA! this man is retarded! They call it Indian country for a reason, just ask your uncle sam who assigned it to us Lakotas! This man does not respect us. Offering us first so he can say we had a chance to buy it. He sounds like he has future buyers lined up, just another lier. Anyways this man is form a world thats practices protestant thesis, makes him think he has rights ! Natives don't live that way son! Money is not a power to us, just another obligation to hurdle. 1492, 1973, 2013? looks like things are not changing anytime soon as for land on the rez! If your really wanting to complain about AIM burning your property, then take it to federal court cause your right in the middle of a reservation ( meaning there is a federal agency aka BIA ).
  4. Calvin Spotted Elk
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    Calvin Spotted Elk - February 14, 2013 11:55 pm
    Hannah,

    That is because it isn't in the article. It was part of his comments on Facebook. My ancestors and my father and brother are buried there so I have followed this since December 24 of last year went Mr. C first started coming around the Pe'sla (Black Hills) fundraising campaign and leaving remarks. I screen-captured a few of his remarks because I didn't trust him. I emailed him twice and got no response and no response to comments either. He left some cutting remarks on the Facebook page of one of the Lakota sacred sites protectors when he wouldn't agree to Mr. C's 'offer'. He has since removed those remarks but he's showing two faces here... one to certain Lakota people and then another to the public. The asset bit came from a different discussion when he was trying to convince them to help him sell the properties. He is misleading the public by saying he is the owner of the National Historic Site. No he isn't. You can read the paperwork for yourself on my Facebook page where I've copied relevant material up there. As I mentioned before, I am tired of seeing people trying to exploit Wounded Knee. This is a grave site, not a circus. Take your tourism elsewhere. This is a sacred place where children and babies, women and elderly were murdered. Unless you are a true descendant, you will not ever fully be able to understand how it feels. This man, Mr. Czycwzyinski, while trying to sell these parcels is showing people photographs of my grandfather lying frozen in the snow, not in a manner to educate people but in an attempt to get $3.9 million dollars for one 40 acre plot and another million for another 40 acre plot. His behavior and his actions make it perfectly clear what he is trying to do.
  5. Born2fish
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    Born2fish - February 13, 2013 11:10 pm
    Ask yourself why there's no successful businesses on your reservation. Many many have tried. BUT the Tribe wants MORE MONEY from businesses for them to to even consider it. GREED? Then there's the problem with responsible work force.
  6. Born2fish
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    Born2fish - February 13, 2013 10:55 pm
    Maybe the Lakota people can pool their resources and purchase this little piece of violent history and keep it nice with native Pride like the cemetery right next to it. Oh wait.....

    It's his land. He can and will sell it for whatever he wants. Buy it and you can do the same. Anytime I hear anything about greed mentioned I just laugh. Especially coming from Mr. Steele. Isn't America beautiful.
  7. cc88
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    cc88 - February 12, 2013 11:27 am
    I'm only able to reply to my own comment on this thread.,but come on, hillshunter. Broad generalizations are never "fact." This is basically the first thing you learn in college.

    Accusing an entire race of not helping themselves for a hundred years ignores the thousands of Natives who have gone to college, opened businesses, took what they had and made it 1000x better. It also ignores the thousands who have persevered on reservations.

    I was pointing out the hypocrisy in your first comment, not claiming that it was ok to call a white man a white man (would you prefer "Caucasian individual?"). How do you know that the OP wasn't white him/herself?

    In short, your entire "argument" was dismissible from the get-go. Broad racial generalizations are never okay..and often reek of racist tendencies.
  8. punchclock
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    punchclock - February 12, 2013 6:41 am
    meagain says "making the tribe pay more" ? Everyone is whining about "fair market value"? Fair markwt value IS and ALWAYS will be....WHATEVER THE MARKET WILL BEAR! Nobody is "making" anyone do anything! All of you hypocrites would do the same, and should, because capitalism works and will sort itself out without Govt. interference...As for "respect", I will volunteer my time to give a tour to anyone with Rose Colored glasses, and within hours you will see the reality of modern tribal culture. All reservations should be eliminated and ALL AMERICANS of ALL COLORS from sea to sea should be ONE!! You have the choice to LEAVE!
  9. akicita win
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    akicita win - February 12, 2013 3:55 am
    spot on!!!!
  10. akicita win
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    akicita win - February 12, 2013 3:54 am
    Yup the fight for Pe 'Sla was a hard one but thanks to many concerned folks, Native or not, it was bought back. CC88 I right, I agree with this 100%.
  11. akicita win
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    akicita win - February 12, 2013 3:51 am
    Kudos, Adam
  12. akicita win
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    akicita win - February 12, 2013 3:50 am
    I'm with ya, CC88. Hillshunter, where do you get your facts from when you state they have not helped themselves? Where is this fact located? Please put it here or a link so we can see this. As for the People, they were doing just fine until IMMIGRANTS floated over and got greedy.
  13. akicita win
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    akicita win - February 12, 2013 3:44 am
    oh hillshunter, you know this for a fact? Do you know the very first person who started the slide downhill with racism? Why refer to folks by "color" or "people of color"? White is not a color? Last I knew, there were white, black, red, yellow, and many shades of brown in a box of crayons. Why refer to people by color really? I don't see it as "color". Who cares? Too many racist people care. There is too much hate abound. Truly, why not just refer to them as He or She? Leave color out of it because like it or not, We Are All Related.
  14. akicita win
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    akicita win - February 12, 2013 3:38 am
    That was then, this is now. If he failed to carry the proper insurance on his investments, he wouldn't be whining about it now. I still stand with my statement he had no business being there in the first place. Placing blame on an already oppressed culture is not the way to go. If the government goobers had given what was promised in the first place, there would have been no need for the "uprising" known as AIM. Would you be a sitting duck if someone attempted to get you to forfeit your rights as promised you?
  15. akicita win
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    akicita win - February 12, 2013 3:30 am
    And once again, history repeats itself. Did we not just deal with this reference Pe 'Sla? As someone else said, " so if someone steals my car, and it is located, I should have to BUY it back?"

    This person, I cannot call him a man, at 74 years of age, is now trying to extort a ridiculous amount of money once again from the folks who were here before him. Sounds to me like owning a "trading post" was just another white mans' way of making money by ripping off anothers' culture. I can imagine all the travelers who purchased junk made in China in the image of sacred items and make a total mockery of the Native culture.

    So your house and cabins and store were burned down? I would consider yourself lucky, as you are still here to complain about it. Perhaps if you hadn't wedged yourself into a place you had no business being, that would never have happened to you. You should not only be ashamed of yourself, so wrapped up in greed, but you should spend at least a week thinking about what really needs to happen here. If you want all those millions for the property, and plan on leaving it all to the people who were there first (not you) and you will put that money in your will stipulating the money goes to the tribal folks there, back to the tribal folks who truly were here first, and now their ancestors (also not you) then fine. Sell it and put that money in trust in your will to the People. If not, I suggest you take a week or so and figure out why you are such a greedy individual. I am a firm believer of what goes around comes around. Do I wish you harm? No. I pray for you to see clearly the error of your ways and change your heart.
  16. hillshunter
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    hillshunter - February 11, 2013 9:26 pm
    Again a double standard.
    To call someone a White man=OK
    To call someone a Red man=Not OK

    "As for things changing for the indian population in the last 100 years the indians have not helped themselves and blame everyone but themselves." Only placing blame on "The white man"
    This is a fact!
    Prove me wrong!
  17. hillshunter
    Report Abuse
    hillshunter - February 11, 2013 9:20 pm
    Yes, you are absolutely free to do that. If you could, does that make it ok for him to sell the land for that price? Can't have it both ways.
  18. arthuro112
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    arthuro112 - February 11, 2013 1:06 pm
    That property is not his and never was! The Government stole it then took money from people from selling stolen goods.That is a crime punishable by law.
  19. cc88
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    cc88 - February 11, 2013 10:43 am
    I love your KKK analogy. It's ridiculous to set the price so high after 30-something years. It reeks of greed...and the timing makes me suspicious. How many months has it been since the Sioux successfully raised millions of dollars for Pe'Sla? Didn't the sale go through just 3 months ago?
  20. cc88
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    cc88 - February 11, 2013 10:39 am
    I find it painfully (and at the same time hilariously) ironic that you're upset that the OP used "white men" in a way that you felt was derogatory, and then go on to deride the the Natives. "As for things changing for the indian population in the last 100 years the indians have not helped themselves and blame everyone but themselves." Yeah, sure. Pot, meet kettle.
  21. 1stDownDash
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    1stDownDash - February 11, 2013 10:38 am
    The houses did not get built because none of the funds from this particular grant were allocated for that purpose, actually the first step was to secure land for homes to be built then other sources of funding were going to be pursued to complete the project.
    The OST historic preservation office was never contacted. Also there was actually no $ to take by the board as the funding agency would only release project funds on a case by case basis. However the board did change its mind and is going to use the land for a casket factory and to build a gas/ station grocery store.
    again
  22. meagain
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    meagain - February 11, 2013 6:09 am
    Unreal, and absolutely disgusting!!! I can't believe that this man is making the tribe pay much more than what the land is worth. I wish I had the money to buy the land, then donate it to the tribe! Absolutely ridiculous!!!
  23. Istaskawanche
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    Istaskawanche - February 11, 2013 1:16 am
    I agree with what you said about people using Wounded Knee for financial gain, my grandmother is a descendent and she didnt like seeing people siting at the grave site and selling false stories for money. We live in Wounded Knee and i dont think we should be held respnsible for damages aim did, As community members everyone lost property and personal items because of the occupation. I see people using Wounded Knee for gain everyday, not only is the gravesite popular so is the name Wounded Knee and its for sale for a price. As a community member i wish someone would put a end to the exploiting and one of our tribes take over the gravesite and put a end to the panhandling that goes on there. If everyone is so comcerned why does the council allow alcoholic up there to beg for money and fight over the gravesite.
  24. rcsdlakota
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    rcsdlakota - February 10, 2013 11:32 pm
    hillshunter, it is sad when your words in general are derogatory. We pray for our enemies, unlike you. Wait, yes we do own homes and thrive in modern society so live with it, this is our land. You have good advice, sell at fair market value.
  25. snowflake
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    snowflake - February 10, 2013 9:54 pm
    whose fault is it there is no memorial or anything else at Wounded Knee proper? It is the tribe's fault. simple.
  26. snowflake
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    snowflake - February 10, 2013 9:53 pm
    It is too bad these "activists" are so narrow minded. They love to talk about how impoverished Shannon County is, yet when companies have tried to come in, these "activists" have run them off with threats, violence and intimidation.

    So did the houses get built with the federal grant? I'll bet not but it's not because of the historic preservation office, it's because some of the tribal board took the money.
  27. snowflake
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    snowflake - February 10, 2013 9:48 pm
    If you are so concerned about the Indian condition, why don't you insist that the tribe's greed and graft stop so the people who are supposed to get help, do get help. It is no different than the "foreign aide" the US gives any other "country" and those at the top take and skim and the needs are not met.
  28. hillshunter
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    hillshunter - February 10, 2013 9:29 pm
    There is a lot of deeded land owned by "white men" as you say. A bit of a derogatory statement but we'll let that one slide....
    If you were to sell your house would you sell it for fair market value or appraised value or would you sell it at a profit? Wait, you don't have to answer that.
    As for things changing for the indian population in the last 100 years the indians have not helped themselves and blame everyone but themselves.
    . End of discussion.
  29. hillshunter
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    hillshunter - February 10, 2013 9:21 pm
    I'm guessing the tribe will scrape together the 4.5 Million dollars and buy the land instead of spending it on their own people.
    If I had land there I would do the same! The tribe has a history of being more interested in paying far above market value for dirt than helping their own people.
    Prove me wrong!!!!!
  30. rcsdlakota
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    rcsdlakota - February 10, 2013 7:38 pm
    Great point 1stDownDash, it will be very interesting. As a member of the Oglala Lakota Nation I am disrespected by Mr. Czywczynski's offer, primarily on the price. I do respect one aspect of Mr. Czywczynski's offer, that we are first in line. Mr. Czywczynski, please reconsider the price you are requesting and let my Oglala Lakota Nation purchase the land at a reasonable price. I apologize for the losses you incurred and understand how you would come to this price you've listed. Please reconsider. I was at Wounded Knee 4 days ago visiting my relatives and I felt forgotten in a sense. I realized this was no memorial that the we/US constructs for wars and tragedies. I also realize and Thank Mr. Eric Holder, our current US Attorney General for paying his respects to Wounded Knee. If you can believe it or not, the last time a cabinet official did was RFK decades ago. Mr. Czywczynski, I appreciate your offer to our people as a 1st option, but this will require a substantial reconsideration. I am asking you go back to the table with a lower price. Thank You for your time.

    Mitakuye Oyasin (We Are All Related)
  31. 1stDownDash
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    1stDownDash - February 10, 2013 5:41 pm
    Several years ago, a local non-indian rancher from the porcupine area, sold several tracts totalling just over a thousand acres of deeded land, including a 160 acre tract located adjacent to the Gildersleeve property on the south side.
    That particular tract sold for $250.00 per acre in a sale that was scheduled to be held at the Rockyford School, until local activists arrived at which time the auction was relocated to the store in Scenic SD, just off the reservation border.
    At this auction one tribal entity was successful in purchasing the largest tract in the sale located on the southern edge of Manderson for the purpose of building houses under the terms of a federal grant, whose funds were used for that purchase. This entity was also poised to buy the 160 acre Wounded Knee tract, but it would have had a tough time passing muster with environmental laws which include also requires the OST Historic Preservation Office to sign off on any proposed disturbing of the natural soil.
    If the purchaser is a not the tribe or one of its members, then I would not be surprised if local activists intervened and kept the purchaser from accessing and developing their property.
    Any"NON-INDIAN" purchaser really needs to complete their due diligence and obtain legal opinions before throwing down millions of dollars for land they may have trouble developing because of local activists (yes the same ones who stopped the convoy of trucks loaded with oil drilling equipment several months back) and because of the obvious environmental concerns.
    The OST wields great power in controlling what goes on or doesnt go in within the boundaries of Shannon County. If they didn't, you would see all sorts of liquor establishments in operation on deeded land withing the Shannon County borders.
    This will be interesting to watch as time goes on!!
  32. hannah
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    hannah - February 10, 2013 3:39 pm
    Mr Spotted Elk,
    I have read and reread the article and I still can't find where Mr C claims this as his only asset.
  33. Calvin Spotted Elk
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    Calvin Spotted Elk - February 10, 2013 2:56 pm
    The land that Mr. Czywczynski purchased from the Gildersleeves whose store was burned down in '73 is "non-contributory" meaning it is not part of the the land preserved by the National Park Service, according to Ms. Patricia Henry of the National Park Service.

    For photographs and land maps see Calvin Spotted Elk's public album on Facebook.

    Several descendants of those buried here attempted to contact Mr. Czywczynski but he did not reply.

    It should be known that the 1890 massacre and the 1973 AIM matter were two very different incidents in Lakota history. The grave site is part of the historic preservation effort. Unless Mr. Czywczynski has a nomination for historic preservation of his property, then it is misleading to try to sell it as Historically registered land.

    This is not the only plot he was attempting to sell. He was also asking 1.5 million for a plot in Porcupine Butte where he claimed Crazy Horse's remains were buried. He left disparaging remarks on the Facebook pages of at least one of the people heading up the campaign for the Black Hills when that person would not immediately agree to help him in his efforts to sell the land.

    I personally feel Mr. Czywczynski has not been genuine and was attempting to sell his property on the heels of the successful campaign by Sara Jumping Eagle to buy back land in the Black Hills for the Lakota People. Mr. Czywczynski has not been truthful when he claims this is his only asset.

    It is misleading to confuse the two historical incidents. The property the Gildersleeves sold for approximately $300.00 is not worth 3.9 million dollars. Those who were responsible for burning down the store were not local Lakota people descendants of those ancestors buried there so any damages he felt he lost should have been taken up with the people responsible for property damage. If this were a part of the historic register, then it should be taken up with the government because that would be destruction of federal property.

    Calvin Spotted Elk
  34. Calvin Spotted Elk
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    Calvin Spotted Elk - February 10, 2013 2:37 pm
    The land that Mr. Czywczynski purchased from the Gildersleeves whose store was burned down in '73 is "non-contributory" meaning it is not part of the the land preserved by the National Park Service, according to Ms. Patricia Henry of the National Park Service. For photographs and land maps see our Facebook album. Mr. Czywczynski did not reply to any of the descendants of the people buried here regarding his attempt to sell the land so this matter has not been cleared up, from our perspective.

    For those unfamiliar, it should be known that the 1890 massacre and the 1973 AIM matter were two very different incidents in Lakota history. The grave site is part of the historic preservation effort. Unless Mr. Czywczynski has a nomination for historic preservation of his property, then it is misleading to try to sell it as historically registered land. Shannon County, where this land is located is one of the most impoverished areas in the country. 3.9 million dollars for one 40 acre plot originally purchased for $300.00 and 1.5 million dollars for another nearby plot in Porcupine Butte which Mr. Czywczynski claims is where Crazy Horse is buried is not anywhere near fair market value for the land. We first read Mr. Czywczynski's posts on Chase Iron Eyes' facebook page where Mr. C. left disparaging remarks after having read posts where Chase and his wife were successful in their difficult campaign to come up with enough money to buy back some property in the Black Hills. It should also be known that the Black Hills Land Claim was a dispute in which the Supreme Court decided in favor of the Lakota people. It is my feeling, and the feeling of others that Mr. Czywczynski is not being genuine and is attempting a money grab. Several things Mr. Czywczynski said were not truthful (for example: that this land was his only asset when he owns a successful ATM business in Rapid City, and has owned a number of different business properties). I personally am tired of seeing Wounded Knee being exploited for financial gain. It is time we take a stand and have a proper memorial put in place.
  35. JackKnob
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    JackKnob - February 10, 2013 1:11 pm
    I'm not sure what property values were back when the AIM incident took place, wasn't alive then. But, if he got from his insurance what it was worth, $55,000, and didn't reinvest it into his property then he has no reason to try to get money for lost income now. And if the property was worth more than the $55,000 that he got then it is his fault for under-insuring his property. There are countless victims of crimes all over this nation that are not reimbursed for their losses. Thats life. Trying to recoup losses from the tribe is just plain greedy. There were a select minority that was responsible for AIM from what I understand. If everyone went off his reasoning then the KKK should have to reimburse hundreds of churches that were firebomed in the south during the civil rights movement.
  36. West River
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    West River - February 10, 2013 11:54 am
    The property is his. He owns it and at one time those who damaged his property were never made to pay for the damages. If he feels entitiled to put a high price on the property in an attempt to be reimbursed for damages, I don't blame him.

    He can sell it to whom ever he wishes to for what ever prices he will accept from that group or person.

  37. Adam
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    Adam - February 10, 2013 11:46 am
    Is this land on the reservation? If so, why is it owned by a white man? If he wants to sell it, sell it for fare market value. Sell the properties for their appraised value, or for what the amount you paid for them plus inflation. Either way they are not of much monetary value.

    What is wrong with people around here. I did not grow up here, but I have studied a lot of history, and I find it very sad how nothing has changed for the native population for the last 100 years. This contributed to the greed and corruption of the white man, and the greed and corruption of the elected tribal government. They all should be ashamed for what they have done to their native peoples. I have been to many states, and SD stands out as one of the worst for they condition of their reservations, and the way people are treated. Just like the days when the white man first entered the dakotas, the goal is to starve the native population till they all die or disappear.
  38. TJB
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    TJB - February 10, 2013 11:40 am
    Or he's looking to make up for the damages he sustained from the AIM incident, which is what the article says. That's 35 years of lost income from the damage they did to his investment.
  39. Chris Good Eagle
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    Chris Good Eagle - February 10, 2013 10:28 am
    What a horrible greedy man. Extorting the descendants of those people murdered there for his own gain.
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