If there are racists in South Dakota, Larry Pressler is taking a dig at them. The Independent Senate candidate today announced that his first action if elected would be to sponsor legislation to create an international North American indigenous holocaust museum at Wounded Knee.
Based on his overseas teaching experience, Pressler says an indigenous holocaust museum could draw huge interest from overseas:
“Such a holocaust memorial would become a major international tourist attraction, perhaps exceeding Mount Rushmore in drawing tourists and visitors,” said Senator Pressler. “I learned of the intense interest internationally in the Native American holocaust when I was a part-time Fulbright professor the last few years in Europe. I would give a carefully-prepared lecture in foreign policy, only to have European students come up to me afterward and say they had noticed I was from South Dakota. They would demand a lecture on the Native American Indians, not just from South Dakota but nationwide, and in Canada too. I was amazed at the level of knowledge and interest in Native Americans at Humboldt University, Germany, and at Sciences Po in Paris (which is referred to as the Harvard of France). These European students know much more about Native Americans than we Americans do. In fact, they gave me some books on Red Cloud and other Native American Indians as a going-away present. If there were a large, world-class Native American holocaust museum at Wounded Knee, people from all over the world would come” [Larry Pressler, press release, 2014.07.17].
History, justice, and tourism all in one shot—well done, Larry!
Now where did candidate Pressler get an idea like that?
Pressler is taking his idea from Tim Giago, publisher of the Native Sun News, the nation’s largest Native American newspaper. Pressler and his wife Harriet were guests at Giago’s 80th birthday party in Rapid City last Saturday night and discussed Giago’s idea. Giago, a Harvard Nieman Fellow journalist and long-time Native American publisher in South Dakota, developed the idea over the years [Larry Pressler, press release, 2014.07.17].
Sure enough, Giago has been promoting a museum to commemorate the genocide of the Americas' indigenous peoples since 2013, if not earlier. Giago says we European invaders may have killed five to ten times as many Indians as Jews killed by Hitler (Columbus and Jackson didn't have gas chambers; Hitler didn't have four centuries). How much culpability we bear for the cause of most indigenous deaths following 1492, the introduction of European diseases, is open to debate and would make one heck of an exhibit at an indigenous museum in Wounded Knee.
Pressler signaled his candidacy last November in Giago's paper. Pressler's Wounded Knee proposal adds more substance to his pitch for the progressive vote that he need to take away from Democrat Rick Weiland.
But Pressler says the museum would need startup money from the federal and state government (What?! Dennis Daugaard bumps his head, looking up from under his desk where he was looking for that EB-5 folder. State money?!). Giago didn't envision the American holocaust memorial as a white man's project:
It would be prophetic if the Oglala Sioux Tribe would build a holocaust museum to educate and to remind the world of what happened to the indigenous people of the Western Hemisphere. From South America, Central America and North America, millions of indigenous people died protecting and defending what was theirs.
What happened to the Native people everywhere in the Western Hemisphere is one of the most shameful chapters in the history of mankind on this planet called earth.
...It is time to stop talking about the genocide foisted upon us and to do something about it. This idea is one that is achievable. We now need the Lakota people of vision to [seize] upon it and make it happen. It is time to tell the true history of the invasion of the Americas and about the millions of deaths that ensued.
And the Lakota People should be the leaders in this endeavor because for all intent and purposes, the holocaust of the indigenous people ended on the Sacred Grounds at Wounded Knee [Tim Giago, "Holocaust Museum of the Indigenous People Should Be Built at Wounded Knee," Huffington Post, 2013.04.29].
Even if Giago and Pressler can agree on funding, they will still run into some people who don't like the use of the words genocide or holocaust to describe what we colonizers did to the folks we found here. But Pressler is using such terms, and that verbiage, along with his amplification of Giago's museum proposal, opens the door for a bigger discussion of white–tribal relations in South Dakota's U.S. Senate race.