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SD Wounded Knee Museum reopens a year after fire

WALL (AP) -- A year after a fire destroyed the Wounded Knee Museum in Wall, it has reopened in a new location in the western South Dakota city.

An electrical malfunction was blamed for the Sept. 2, 2012, fire that destroyed the museum and also took 30 museum exhibits linked to the Wounded Knee massacre of Dec. 29, 1890.

Insurance did not come close to covering the loss, but some items that survived the blaze are now housed in the new museum in downtown Wall, museum co-founder Steve Wyant told the Rapid City Journal.

One item that survived is a collection of 300 simulated eagle feathers suspended from a Lakota medicine wheel. Each feather represents one of the 300 men, women and children killed by U.S. Army soldiers at Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation south of Wall. The medicine wheel broke loose from its supporting cables during the fire and landed on most of the feathers, protecting them from the fire, Wyant said.

The fire also spared 30 letters identifying medal of honor awards given to soldiers after the massacre and bronze glass plates etched with the names of victims. Cleaning the smoke-damaged bronzes was time-consuming, Wyant said.

"I learned more about smoke damage than I wanted to," he said.

New features in the museum include an enhanced photographic reproduction of a historic treaty.

By next summer, Wyant hopes to convert the burned-out shell of the old museum into a Native American Visitors Center, which would serve as a link to American Indian reservations.