Such is Depp’s commitment to the Native American cause, he is planning to spend millions of his own money to return land, Wounded Knee, in South Dakota, to their ownership.
The site, the scene of an 1890 massacre, is up for sale for $3.9 million. Local Native Americans say they cannot afford to buy it. Depp is outraged.
‘It’s very sacred ground and many atrocities were committed against the Sioux there. And in the 1970s there was a stand-off between the Feds (Federal government) and the people who should own that land. This historical land is so important to the Sioux culture and all I want to do is buy it and give it back. Why doesn’t the government do that?’’
Is he really prepared to pay for the land?
‘I am doing my best to make that happen. It’s land they were pushed on to and then they were massacred there. It really saddens me’ [Martyn Palmer, "'The last few years have been a bit bumpy': Johnny Depp on life after Vanessa Paradis - and cheating death on his new movie," UK Daily Mail, 2013.07.06].
The 40-acre site is officially appraised at $7,000. Any additional value to white owner James Czywczynski accrues from a historic act of barbarism. Then again, the American Indian Movement scored some payback in 1973 when it destroyed Czywczynski's home and the trading post he ran during their armed occupation of Wounded Knee. Who owes whom what?
I hate to see any member of the conquering race profit further from Lakota blood, even if that profit is taken from another (87.5%) member of the conquering race. Perhaps a better outcome would be for taxpayers to give Czywczynski the assessed value of his land, plus compensation for his verifiable losses during the 1973 violence, then take the land by eminent domain for historic preservation. South Dakota conservatives don't mind using letting a private Canadian corporation use eminent domain against South Dakota landowners to export profits, so they shouldn't get bent out of shape over using eminent domain for the benefit of Native South Dakotans. Congress has authorized the use of eminent domain for historic preservation of battlefields and cemeteries; that authority should include preserving the site of one of the American military's great crimes.