Keeping key historical locations from being destroyed is a way of preserving the nation’s memory, and the site of the 1890 Wounded Knee massacre in South Dakota is well worth protecting. In that incident, federal cavalrymen killed about 300 Native American men, women, and children. A man named James Czywczynski gained possession in 1968 of land next to where many of the dead were buried. He now wants to sell two 40-acre tracts, valued by federal officials at about $14,000, for $4.9 million. He set a Wednesday deadline for the Oglala Sioux tribe to buy the land.
Some tribe members have accused him of trying to profit from their ancestors’ troubles. In fact, Czywczynski’s motives appear complicated. In news reports, he has maintained that his goal has long been to sell the land to the tribe, and that no one took his effort seriously until he set a deadline. He’s also hinted at a level of bitterness that property he owned was destroyed in a 1973 protest at Wounded Knee by Native American activists.