Congressman Johnson introduces bill to protect land of Wounded Knee Massacre

WASHINGTON, D.C.(Press Release) – On Tuesday, U.S. Representative Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.) introduced the Wounded Knee Massacre Memorial and Sacred Site Act to preserve a section of the land where hundreds of Lakota Indians were massacred by the U.S. Army.

“The Wounded Knee Massacre is a stain on our nation’s history,” said Johnson. “The Wounded Knee Massacre Memorial and Sacred Site Act provides greater tribal sovereignty to this sacred tribal land. Memorializing the Lakota lives lost will ensure this site remains sacred for generations to come.”

Specifically, the Wounded Knee Massacre Memorial and Sacred Site Act places the purchased land into restricted fee status to be held by the Oglala Sioux Tribe and Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. Restricted fee status allows the tribes to own the land outright, while also keeping protections in place, such as a restriction on alienation and taxation from any state or local government. In September 2022, both tribes purchased the field where an old trading post was located. On October 21st, 2022, the tribes signed a covenant, stating that this property shall be held and maintained as a memorial and sacred site without any development.

This bill states that the land will continue to be owned by both tribes, subject to civil and criminal jurisdiction of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, may not be sold without the consent of Congress and both tribes, and is not subject to taxation by any state or local government. This land currently resides within the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation’s boundaries.

“We the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe view the 1890 Wounded Knee Massacre as one of the most atrocious acts of genocide against the innocent 350 Lakota children, women, and men who were brutally attacked and murdered after being disarmed by the United States Seventh Calvary. It is with great respect to those that came before us and those that will come after us that fuels our work to continue to create a stronger Lakota Nation. We are proud descendants of our Lakota ancestors, and we will never forget their sacrifices for us to be here today. We extend a heartfelt thank you to Congressional Representative Johnson and Staff for diligently working to bring the truth to light in honor of the original stewards of the sacred lands. We stand in strong solidarity in memorializing this sacred site, that will be honored as such forever more,” said the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Chairman Ryman LeBeau, Manny & Renee Iron Hawk (Hawk 1890) Wounded Knee Survivor Descendants.

“We must remember the sacrifices our ancestors have suffered for us. What happened at Wounded Knee is a reminder that we as a Oyate (people) have succumbed incredible odds to survive, so we must honor our ancestors by preserving the land for future generations to come,” said Ogalala Sioux Tribe President Frank Star Comes Out.

Read full bill text here. Find the Covenant between both tribes here. Find the map here.

Wounded Knee Massacre Background:

In the late 1880s, a movement called the Ghost Dance swept across the nation. Indians believed that this dance would give stolen land back to the Indians, bringing about a renewal of Native society. Indians would join together, wearing shirts they believed would protect them from bullets, to dance for this renewal, all at the protest of the federal government.

On December 29th, 1890, a group of Lakota Indians led by Chief Spotted Elk had made camp near Wounded Knee Creek on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. There, U.S. Army 7th Calvary troops were sent to disarm the Lakota. A struggle occurred between the U.S. Army and some of Chief Spotted Elk’s band – a majority of which consisted of women and children. A shot rang out, and the U.S. Army opened fire on the largely unarmed group, massacring an estimated up to 350-375 Lakota Indians. Twenty-five U.S. soldiers also died.