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Wounded Knee landowner renews bid to sell property

RAPID CITY (AP) — Oglala Sioux President Bryan Brewer plans to meet this week with a Rapid City landowner in what could be a last-ditch attempt to avert the public sale of land at one of the most sacred sites on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

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James Czywczynski, 76, is again accepting private bids on a 40-acre parcel he owns in the vicinity of the 1890 Wounded Knee massacre, after months of negotiations with the tribe, KOTA-TV reported this week.

"It's still open to (the tribe) if they want to acquire the property," Czywczynski told the Rapid City Journal. "But it's kind of like first come, first served now."

Czywczynski's family has owned the property since 1968. Its assessed value is about $14,000. Czywczynski wants $4.9 million for the parcel at Wounded Knee and 40 acres at Porcupine Butte, saying the historical significance adds value.

The land is near where 300 Native American men, women and children were killed by the 7th Cavalry in the final battle of the American Indian Wars. It also includes the site of a former trading post that burned down during the 1973 Wounded Knee uprising, in which hundreds of American Indian Movement protesters occupied the town built at the massacre site. The 71-day standoff, in which two tribal members died and a federal agent was seriously wounded, is credited with raising awareness about Native American struggles and giving rise to a wider protest movement that lasted the rest of the decade.

Czywczynski said a family home and museum were destroyed during the uprising, and he wants to cover his losses, according to KOTA.

The tribe has repeatedly spurned Czywczynski's asking price, calling it an exorbitant.

Czywczynski is accepting sealed bids on the properties until Oct. 15. If those bids aren't high enough, he said, he plans to put the site up for public auction, possibly as soon as November.

Czywczynski said he plans to meet with Brewer at the office of the Native Sun News in Rapid City, at Brewer's request.

"I have no clue what he's coming to do Friday," he told the Journal.

Tribal spokeswoman Toni Red Cloud offered few specifics on the nature of the meeting.

"The purpose would be to discuss Wounded Knee," she said in an email to the Journal.