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Let Crazy Horse Rest in Peace!

I have gotten e-mail recently asking what is up with me and Tim Giago since I had not written articles criticizing him over the past year. Actually I had unilaterally declared a moratorium on criticizing Tim; and I must confess, it felt good.

Much or most of my criticism of Tim in the past had been over what I perceived as abuse of the power of his position as editor and publisher of a powerful national Indian newspaper. I feel strongly about the trust that readers place in members of the press, and their expectations of honesty and truthfulness from us. And I will continue to criticize Tim (or any other journalist) when I see him doing something I think is unethical or otherwise harmful in his use of the Indian press for his own fame or fortune.

In past columns I have expressed concern over the attempt of Mr. James Czywcynski to hold hostage the sacred grounds on which the massacre of Wounded Knee took place. Those acres were taken by a Nebraska bank in foreclosure when the then-owners, the Gildersleeve family, could not pay debts that were secured by that property. The Gildersleeves had earlier lost all their physical property, which was destroyed by the American Indian Movement in what AIM termed the “liberation” of Wounded Knee in 1973. Shortly thereafter, Czywcynski purchased the land at an estate-sale price – probably five figures or less. Now Mr. C is asking the tribe to pay nearly four million dollars for that acreage and another tract near Porcupine Butte, not far away from Wounded Knee.

Giago, in his newspaper Native Sun News has been favorable to the Oglala Sioux Tribe’s purchase of the land for Czywcynski’s asking price. Now it even appears that Tim is brokering a deal between Czywcynski and the OST. My gut feeling is that he will make a hefty percentage off the profit for brokering the sale. I have been informed by one tribal leader involved that Mr. Giago has hosted several meetings between OST leadership and Czywcynski in an attempt to get the tribe to buy the property.

Last May 30, I e-mailed Giago the following: “Tim: I'm curious: I have heard it surmised that you are in on a deal with Jim Czywczynski on the sale of the Wounded Knee property. Is there any truth to that?”

Giago responded: “Jim is an old friend and has given my writer Brandon Ecoffey exclusives on his efforts to sell his land. Where do these rumors start? I would like to see a Holocaust Museum at Wounded Knee, but I don’t think Jim cares one way or the other. All he wants to do is sell his land. I’m going to be 80 in July and hardly have the time to get involved in anything else.”

I appreciate the apparent candor in Tim’s response about his relationship with Czywcynski; but from his latest column in (Boyhood friend knew where Crazy Horse was buried MONDAY, OCTOBER 13, 2014), and from the information on Tim’s brokering efforts, it appears to be more a business deal than merely a favor for an old friend. And here is why I criticize the use of his newspaper Native Sun News and to issue as news a story that would certainly “sweeten the pot,” so to speak, to entice the Oglala Sioux Tribe to purchase Czywcynski’s land: For aside from being made sacred by the blood of those men, women and children who were killed at Wounded Knee in 1890, those lands may also hold the precious remains of Crazy Horse himself.

Giago writes that he was shown a document written by a person named Bob Morrison, whose Lakota name was Holy Dance, in which he describes being told by Lakota holy man, Chips, exactly where he had buried Crazy Horse’s bones. Chips was one of Crazy Horse’s closest friends, and his holy man as well

Giago tells that, “In the Lakota way Bob was the son-in-law of Chips, a Wicasa Wakan (Holy Man) and the childhood friend of Crazy Horse…. Bob (Morrison) was married to Annie Randall, a close relative of Chips. The old Medicine Man loved to visit with Bob and Annie and they would talk late into the night about his friend Crazy Horse. Chips told Bob that a lady named Whirlwind Bug had kept the bones of Crazy Horse and buried them near a place owned by Felix Bald Eagle near Manderson close to the site of the Wounded Knee Massacre.”

Over the past year I have been deeply immersed in Crazy Horse, assisting a good friend who is considering producing a dramatic work on the final months of the Chief’s life. I have on hand several authoritative books and interviews with elders who knew Crazy Horse personally, including the holy man Chips. Wanblee village in which I was born and where I grew up is the home of the Chips Tiospaye and I knew them well, and Annie Randall, who Mr. Giago tells was a close relative to Chips, would be a cousin of my mother since my mother was a Randall. I had never heard that the Randalls were close relatives of the Chips.

In all the books I have on the subject, I could find no reference to anyone named Whirlwind Bug or Bob Morrison, or of Morrison’s Lakota name Holy Dance. My suspicion of the Morrison story comes from irregularities that emerge against the accounts of all those elders referenced in the books.

It could be that the remains of Crazy Horse are, indeed, where the Morrison story describes. That’s not the point I am trying to make. The point is that it is nobody’s business where he rests. Lakota people in the old days would carefully and lovingly prepare the body and wrap it and place it on a scaffold (one erected with poles nearby or in the crook of a tree). Then whether it deteriorated from weather or was eaten by birds, the body returned to nature, and its spirit was freed.

Crazy Horse’s body was buried because his parents did not want it disturbed, or taken as a trophy or featured in a museum. They placed no marker at the site, because it was not important. To the Lakota people Crazy Horse’s grave is of no consequence, because his spirit is everywhere, it is a part of us and inspires us and helps us cope with a new and alien world.

Mr. Giago concludes his column thus:

“I present the comments in this column that I garnered from an unpublished manuscript that has been kept under wraps for many years.”

“If the details in the manuscript are correct, the bones of Crazy Horse are buried near Porcupine Butte on the Pine Ridge Reservation on the property owned by James Czywcynski, property that is now up for sale.”

It is my fervent hope that the leadership of the Oglala Sioux Tribe will continue to resist paying the outrageous price that is being asked by Mr. Czywcynski and apparently being brokered by Mr. Giago. You don’t have four million dollars of discretionary funds, and you can have the land at any time if you are determined to take it.

Let those spirits rest—at Wounded Knee and in the sacred ground that holds the remains of Crazy Horse.

Charles “Chuck” Trimble is a member of the Oglala Lakota Oyate, born and raised on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. He was principal founder of the American Indian Press Association in 1970, and served as Executive Director of the National Congress of American Indians from 1972 to 1978.