EBCI voices support for Wounded Knee legislation

by Apr 5, 2024NEWS ka-no-he-da0 comments


One Feather Asst. Editor


CHEROKEE, N.C. – The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) is standing in support of federal legislation that will protect a sacred site in South Dakota.  During the regular session of Dinilawigi (Tribal Council) on Thursday, April 4, 2024, representatives unanimously passed Res. No. 177 (2024) that states the EBCI “supports the Wounded Knee Massacre Memorial and Sacred Site Act (S. 2088, H.R. 3371) and calls on federally recognized tribal nations across the United States to support the Act and calls on the U.S. Senate to pass the Act and move forward enacting it into law”.

Kolanvyi (Big Cove) Rep. Richard French said he met recently with Frank Star Comes Out, Oglala Sioux tribal president.  “They asked for our support in this because they mentioned our Senator (Thom Tillis) and how he was blocking all these bills.”

“When we met with them in D.C., they even went to speak with him, and he told them that they needed to go check with the chairman of the Lumbee – asking their permission and it didn’t set well.”

Rep. French added, “President Star Comes Out’s words were, ‘We will not give in.  They will not hold us hostage.  We’ll wait them out.  We’ll be here longer than they will.  We’ve been here for years, and we’re not going anywhere.”

H.R. 3371 was agreed to by a voice vote on Sept. 20, 2023.  The following day, it was read in the Senate and referred to the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.

In a column on his website, Congressman Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.), who submitted the legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives, called the Wounded Knee Massacre “a dark stain on our nation’s history”.

He describes the events in the column, “On Dec. 29, 1890, a group of Lakota Indians led by Chief Spotted Elk made camp near Wounded Knee Creek on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.  There, U.S. Army 7th Cavalry 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, tragically massacring an estimated 350-375 Lakota Indians.”

The Act calls for the Secretary of the Interior “to complete all actions necessary for certain land to be held in restricted fee status by the Oglala Sioux Tribe and Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe” meaning it will be owned by the tribes, made subject to the civil and criminal jurisdiction of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, and cannot be transferred without consent of both tribes and Congress.

The Act also has the support of the Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association (GPTCA), and the Coalition of Large Tribes (COLT).

Res. No. 177 states, “The EBCI has federal legislation called the Eastern Band of Cherokee Historic Lands Reacquisition Act (H.R. 548) that would transfer historic Cherokee lands in Tennessee to the EBCI in trust, and Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) is blocking both the Wounded Knee Sacred Site Act and the EBCI’s Historic Lands Act to force tribes to give up their opposition to the efforts of the Lumbee group in North Carolina to become a federally recognized Indian tribe.”

The legislation continues, “Sen. Tillis is also blocking other federal legislation important to federally recognized Indian nations as punishment for insisting that groups of people who claim to be American Indians and tribes should be required to go through the existing regulatory process developed by the Department of the Interior over many years, to achieve federal recognition, and that these groups should not be allowed to circumvent this process through federal legislation.”

The Senate Committee of Indian Affairs approved the Act on Nov. 15, 2023.  Following a hearing on the Act, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Committee vice chairperson, commented, “This legislation will ensure that the sacred lands of the Wounded Knee Massacre will be forever protected by the Oglala Sioux Tribe and Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe.  Memorializing this land in no way absolves the U.S. Army of its actions in one of the deadliest massacres in our nation’s history, but it is an important step in honoring those who were lost on that dark day and promoting healing for their descendants.”