By Tim Giago (Nanwica Kciji -Stands Up For Them)
In 1976 the Lakota Treaty Council tried to schedule a meeting with President Gerald Ford where they hoped to present to him several proposals and arguments including putting a stop to a forced acceptance of the money set aside in the Black Hills Claims Settlement.
It was just 3 years after the occupation and destruction of the Village of Wounded Knee and there were rumors that the government was about to use its powers to force the people of the Great Sioux Nation to accept the Black Hills money regardless of their objections. With the legal assistance of Oglala Sioux Tribal Attorney Mario Gonzalez, this attempt to push the settlement money on to the Sioux people was rejected.
The Treaty Council then determined that the unemployment rate on the Pine Ridge Reservation hovered around the 70 percent mark in 1976. They saw the lack of jobs and Indian-owned businesses as two of the major factors contributing to the continuous poverty on the reservation.
In hopes of building an economy that was virtually non-existent on the Pine Ridge Reservation, an economy that would bring badly needed jobs and create a cadre of Indian business owners that would keep many of the dollars spent off of the reservation at home they listed 6 ideas:
1) Improve and upgrade Cedar Pass Concessions
2) Develop a commercial campground
3) Construct a visitors center
4) Construct a commercial hotel
5) Develop the site of Wounded Knee
The Lakota Treaty Council envisioned these 5 projects as a small beginning and as projects the United States Government could easily finance. President Ford, although sympathetic to the proposal by the LTC declined to meet with the chosen delegates and Treaty Chiefs selected by them.
The Treaty Chiefs that signed off on the proposal were; Frank Fools Crow, David Flying Hawk, Luke Weasel Bear, Charles Red Cloud, Frank Kills Enemy, and Mathew Bear Shield.
Delegates from all 9 Districts on the reservation were also chosen by the Lakota Treaty Council, who's Executive Coordinator was Larry Red Shirt. Louis Bad Wound and Red Shirt also signed the proposal.
These traditional and spiritual leaders saw their proposal as doable and they set aside any personal misgivings and looked at the overall good that could come to the people of the Pine Ridge Reservation if their proposals were adopted and implemented. With the financial assistance of the government they hoped to raise the money to purchase the lands at Wounded Knee from the white owner Jim Cryzynski.
The proposal stated that all of the delegates chosen to represent the Pine Ridge Reservation were lifelong residents of the Pine Ridge Reservation and had proven themselves time and time again as leaders or spokesmen for the Oglala Lakota Nation.
It is important to remember that the ongoing efforts of the leaders and people of the reservation held no objections to developing the site of Wounded Knee as it was listed prominently in the proposal set forth by the Lakota Treaty Council.
It is time for those without the knowledge of the history of Wounded Knee to understand that is not a new proposal to purchase and develop the site as attested to by the signatures of the Treaty Chiefs like the highly respected Frank Fools Crow.
All of the documents used to validate this article are available in the archives of the Oglala Sioux Tribe.
(Tim Giago can be reached at Tim@wounded-knee.com)