Tag Archives: pine ridge indian reservation

Hopefully it looks like Wounded Knee land sale strategy is working. Johnny Depp not required

So the owner of land at Wounded Knee has again seen another deadline pass without the sale of the land. I’ve blogged a couple of time before about how the tribe should be aggressive over this.

I am delighted when I read this from President Brewer of the Oglala Lakota Nation “Brewer said Czywczynski’s claims are nothing new. “He has been threatening to sell this land for years. This isn’t the first time.”

He added that even if Czywczynski sold Wounded Knee to an outsider, it would be unusable. “One of the problems is that our tribal lands completely surround his 34 acres. There is no way anyone could ever get to this land to do any type of development or anything else… the tribe would not allow it.”

“He wants to sell it, and it has only been valued at about $8,000,” Brewer said. “The owner has valued this land at $6 million, so I say to him, ‘Then why aren’t you paying taxes on land that is valued at $6 million?’ I and some of the descendants of Wounded Knee met with him and I told him, ‘No one will ever buy this.’”

This to me is the ideal stance. Earlier in the year when folks were getting defensive about this I emailed everyone in the Oglala administration I could suggesting the denial of business permits and threatening an eminent domain purchase rendering the land relatively valueless in the market. It is thrilling seeing these stances adopted and working. This is not just about Wounded Knee but all sacred sites. After the Bear Butte sale the concern was that other land owners with land sacred to Indian Country would look to cash in on that. Fingers crossed that this strategy continues to pay off. Ultimately I think the timing of the sale being announced shortly before the 40th Anniversary of the Wounded Knee occupation had much to do with it as he successfully stole the headlines.

I am also glad that the much talked about potential involvement of Johnny Depp has subsided as hopefully he has realized the additional implications of paying anything over the odds for this land. Such behavior of that of the seller cannot be endorsed in any manner.

Read more at Indian Country Today

I detailed more about the timing of the announcements etc in my more in depth blog here. http://rezbomb.com/blog/?p=691

Wounded Knee 1890 and 1973 are both detailed in A Thunder-Being Nation the most comprehensive look at Pine Ridge Indian Reservation made over 13 years. 10 hours of extras are on the Ultimate Edition DVD.

Our DVD’s are available at amazon or www.inyoentertainment.com where you can save 15% using the coupon code Blog15 to save 15% or Blog20 to save 20% when spending $60 or more. The closer we get to recovering our costs on our films the quicker we can start looking to invest more in other projects in Indian Country although it’s an uphill battle finding an audience (as discussed in my previous post).


Find out more about the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty here. (Great Sioux Nation)

This is what is on wikipedia and there is obviously more to it so always good to research further. Click here and it comes up.

Treaty of Fort Laramie (1868)

The treaties are touched upon in our epic Pine Ridge Indian Reservation documentary A Thunder-Being Nation made over 13 years. 10 hours of incredible extras are on the Ultimate Edition DVD.

Our DVD’s are available at amazon or www.inyoentertainment.com where you can save 15% using the coupon code Blog15 to save 15% or Blog20 to save 20% when spending $60 or more. The closer we get to recovering our costs on our films the quicker we can start looking to invest more in other projects in Indian Country although it’s an uphill battle finding an audience (as discussed in my previous post).


In depth promo about the doc

Excerpt of the work in progress on housing.

An early promo for the project

The sale of the land at Wounded Knee and why everyone took the bait

So the 1st of May deadline for the proposed land sale at Wounded Knee came and went and the supposed number of bidders interested in the land don’t seem to have jumped to do a deal. No surprise to me.

Ever since the owner of 40 acres of land on the sacred land at Wounded Knee was announced at the beginning of the year with a 3.9 million dollar price tag (offered exclusively to the tribe till May 1st) I was sure this was just an opportunity of land owner James Czywczynski to steal the headlines away from the 40th Anniversary commemorations of the Wounded Knee occupation that was just weeks away. The store, gas station and “museum” that was on his land that he had invested in were destroyed during the occupation and so he clearly would want his grievance highlighted during this anniversary.

The fact that the market value of the land in less than $10,000 makes it clear that the price tag was an obscene attempt to fleece the tribe. After the fundraising to buy Bear Butte the year before was successful he perhaps saw a way of manipulating sentiment into a similar action here.

What got me was how much credibility he was being given (even in the New York Times) and also that the response was not as aggressive as it should have been to shut this down.

As the deadline loomed I started emailing many people in the tribal administration on Pine Ridge from the President and Vice President to others in political and influential life there that they should go on the offensive with an eminent domain action to see if that could get traction but also and perhaps more decisively with a proclamation that no business licenses would be issued to anyone for that land, thus rendering the land valueless and making any purchase, pointless.

Interestingly a few days later reports start appearing in the media that both actions were being pursued. I have no idea if this is as a response to my correspondence or just coincidence but what is most important is that the tribe started enforcing its sovereignty more around the issue.

I think at the end of the day it is interesting to see how people got swept up so much in the rumor (a horse slaughterhouse being put there was one) and not just looking at the bare facts and motivations. The land under his ownership has laid there unmolested for 40 years. To think it would have millions of dollars of value in the open market when unused by him through this time would be preposterous. I am sure this will probably just slip away as a little footnote of a man trying to grab the headlines and manipulate truly sacred land.

See my most recent post regarding Johnny Depp’s interest in purchasing the land here

Our DVD’s are available at amazon or www.inyoentertainment.com where you can save 15% using the coupon code Blog15 to save 15% or Blog20 to save 20% when spending $60 or more.

White Clay, A Time for Tough, Level Headed Decisions for the People of Pine Ridge Indian Reservation

Firstly, we would all like to see alcoholism end on Pine Ridge as everywhere else. Though that reality is not likely. It’s destruction on Pine Ridge is seismic in so many dark ways it is hard to bear. An alcoholic may recover but a child abused by one may not ever.

We are all sitting in a very real world and need to acknowledge a pragmatic solution to improve the reality. I’d like to see White Clay disappear as it is but let us also be real that alcohol will still be bought by people on Pine Ridge. This has happened before when there have been roadblocks shutting off access to White Clay for sobriety checks. But if White Clay was shut down tomorrow and Pine Ridge remains dry then I want people to answer how they will deal with an increase in road deaths and incarcerations as that is exactly what will happen as people drive the 24 miles to Rushville or other border towns rather than walk the 2 miles to White Clay. The Sheridan County cops are the ones you are watching in these video clips aggressively arresting President Brewer and others. They are the ones that will be busting the Oglala on the roads. Even if sober, many don’t have tags on their car, insurance etc..

To me the only viable way of closing White Clay and its exploitation is to legalize alcohol sales on the Rez. It can be limited to weaker beers and could only be bought in tribally administered stores so as to ensure a sizable amount of revenue stays on Pine Ridge rather than run straight off. Alcoholism is a big problem but so also is the lack of economy as the money goes outside. Treatment centers being funded by it would certainly be a bonus.

The time I’ve spent on Rosebud didn’t make me feel like it was in a worse position by being a “wet” reservation, though that is not for me to say. Countries like Portugal who changed their drug laws drastically by decriminalizing possession had a great increase in people moving into treatment and lowering health problems because by having a more open culture they could deal with things better. Assuming alcoholism is a disease as those in the know tend to state it is then those that are alcoholics will be so regardless of whether the rez is wet or dry until they tackle it personally. I can imagine it would be easier to tackle it with family around if they are not forced to waste away their days in White Clay or hold up in homes out of sight with their other alcoholic buddies. The isolation can only worsen the despair.

I have spoken with many prominent leaders and business people from Pine Ridge and many privately talk about the advantages of it being a wet reservation but many won’t talk openly about it. Lets also be honest that many are also playing politics as may we know are also susceptible to taking a drink.

A sovereign nation should take full responsibility for it’s actions and people. I don’t see how things can get much worse than the current situation with White Clay, other than if people are forced to go further afield and there is more carnage on the roads. Anyone who thinks closing White Clay will stop drinking is living in a fantasy land. The bootleggers also already exist. Though the other White Clay exploitation I’d love to see people talk about is the Pawn Shop that is also seeing a lot of money sucked out of the reservation for nothing.

One pattern that has been proven in life over and over is when you start treating people with more respect as adults they tend to start acting that way and take more personal responsibility. I have great friends from Pine Ridge soaring ahead in the world. They are the definition of people who have taken total personal responsibility and have soared because of it. For me it’s time to move forward. Time to bankrupt White Clay through lack of custom rather than push the customers further afield.

White Clay creates more divisions within Pine Ridge. There are already too many divided within this wonderful community. I want nothing more than to see the quality of life for people there to soar. There are so many amazing things about Pine Ridge. A shame we’re not spending more time talking about that, celebrating that. Lifting the resonance of the whole community up rather than constantly seeing White Clay and all it’s negativity suck people down.

Russell Means talks about women/matriarchy (video clip)

Taken from the 48 minute long exclusive interview only available on the special edition of the DVD of the movie Rez Bomb set on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation starring Tamara Feldman, Trent Ford, Russell Means, Chris Robinson, Tokala Clifford, Moses Brings Plenty, Arlette Loud Hawk

Our DVD’s are available at amazon or www.inyoentertainment.com where you can save 15% using the coupon code Blog15 to save 15% or Blog20 to save 20% when spending $60 or more. The closer we get to recovering our costs on our films the quicker we can start looking to invest more in other projects in Indian Country although it’s an uphill battle finding an audience (as discussed in my previous post).

Wounded Knee Ghost Shirt Repatriation – A Thunder-Being Nation Pine Ridge Indian Reservation outtake

An out-take from A Thunder-Being Nation a new Pine Ridge Indian Reservation documentary and part of the 10 hours of extra features on the Ultimate Edition DVD. Other extras include full interviews with elders that had passed on etc.

our DVD’s are available at amazon or www.inyoentertainment.com where you can save 15% using the coupon code Blog15 to save 15% or Blog20 to save 20% when spending $60 or more.

My blog on going to Russell Means’s Sundance this week

It’s a funny thing to say that Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota with its abject poverty, 80-85% unemployment, a life expectancy in the mid 40’s for men is actually probably my favourite place on earth and when I’m there I spend most of my time laughing my head off with the wonderful group of friends that I’ve gotten to know from all aspects of life on the reservation. But this is how it is for me. There is no denying that I’ve built a special connection with the reservation in the eleven years I’ve been going there on a regular basis after the repatriation of a Ghost Shirt from the Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow first brought me there.

So I am heading back for three weeks and this time it is for a very special reason. Back in 1998 when I started to learn about Pine Ridge it had a lot to do with reading the remarkable autobiography of legendary American Indian Movement leader Russell Means. When I say legendary and many of you scratch your head in wonder of why you do not know the name is that racism is alive and well in the USA and you can see that most evidently in the reporting of current events and recent history. Russell instigated bigger civil rights actions than Malcolm X ever did. Some equalled the scale of activities of Martin Luther King and often exceeded the Black Civil Rights movement in terms of the violence thrown back at them by the US Government. Most famous is the Wounded Knee Occupation over 71 days in 1973 when members of AIM occupied the small village of Wounded Knee while residents still lived there and the Government with armoured personnel carrier and fighter planes flying overhead fired up to half a million bullets in on the activists. Amazingly only two AIM supporters were killed.

In the aftermath of 1974-76 Pine Ridge (where Wounded Knee is located) had a comparable rate of political murder and disappearance as Chile did under Pinochet. Of course this is not taught in Schools, the only thing that is remembered about the occupation today is that Marlon Brando turned down the Oscar for the Godfather in solidarity with AIM and began forging a close personal friendship with Russell. Amazingly I started to get to know Russell in 1999 and now we are very good friends and I am arriving to join him and others for his Sundance in the Black Hills of South Dakota, the most sacred of land for his people the Oglala Lakota. I dreamed about being at a Sundance in 1999 with Russell, their culture places great significance on dreams and it is truly a great honour to be invited by this great man to an event that was banned for many years by the US Government and thus for a non-Indian to be invited is a great gesture of trust and honour.

The Sundance starts on the 8th with the ceremonial Tree Day where the grounds are formally set for the dance and it finishes on the 13th with a feast and give away. Traditionally the leaders of the tribe had the least as it was considered a great honour to give away their goods. Something the Christian European settlers could never understand and tried to force the suppression of and enforce the ownership of land and property. But today give aways are still practised by the traditionals, horses, bison, etc. The final act of the Sundance is the host to give away to the participants. In spite of all the hardships people face purely to survive on the reservation to see such generosity still practised by some is a beautiful sight.

I am a bit in the dark over what to expect at the Sundance. We shall all be camping together for the time where Bison (often described as Buffalo on the Great Plains) roam freely. During the ceremony some of the men will pierce their flesh and have a sinew tied from their flesh to a Bison skull and then they’ll drag it around dancing till the flesh is torn free. Other similar offerings are made. For me I see a lot of Cultural Tourist from Europe with an idealised view of the traditional Lakota way of life for whom going to a Sundance would be their wet-dream. For me it is very different. For me my connection with the Lakota is not cultural but purely human and direct in an indescribably way but it’s a very clear thing that I and my Lakota friends feel. For me attending the Sundance is a great honour being bestowed by a great man upon me. But excitement I feel is spending a week in the wilderness disconnected from the insanity that has become modern life with all the fictions that we worry ourselves over. For me to shut my brain down from the fog of how many emails have come in since I last logged on and concern about a political situation in some far flung land. Just to commune with those around us and to get in tune with the natural world. The great beauty of the traditional Lakota is that they understand the different about what is real and what is an assumed reality. Of course the only downside is that I miss the kick off of the World Cup, but life is full of sacrifices :).

What amazes me most is that thing most glorious in life, how things you could not have imagine arise into reality. Twelve years ago Russell Means became a hero of mine when I read his book in my home in Scotland. Now I am sharing another chapter in our friendship together. How magical life can be. Oh and by the way, Marlon Brando and I have something in common, we’ve both helped bail Russell Means out of jail. Pity it wasn’t his looks or his talent very cool all the same.

Somehow I feel that this experience is going to lead to a shift in my evolution. Stay posted to find out.