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Pressler Vows Immediate Bill on Indigenous Holocaust Museum at Wounded Knee

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.


  1. Jerry 2014.07.17

    Damn man, just as I thought I was clear about my vote, Mr. Pressler steps up and knocks one out of the park. I not only support his idea, I think that it is fundamentally necessary to help forge and understanding of how the Native population has been abused and continues to be. Mr. Pressler stepped up and supported Johnson, President Obama and has been a supporter for the Affordable Care Act. Hard for me not to vote for this man, very hard. Now to get out the vote to show support in Indian Country, the road gets interesting and fun as the summer goes along.

  2. Steve Hickey 2014.07.17

    What's Pressler's history on native issues? If your quote above is accurate, twice calling them "Native American Indians" indicates to me he's not been around this conversation very long. He's after the native vote which tells me he's using them for personal gain.

    That being said, I'm 1000% behind a memorial at wounded knee. Maybe Larry will join me in saying let's give Bear Butte back too.

  3. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.07.17

    I check the original text in my inbox... yup! Copied verbatim from Pressler's original: "Native American Indians." Let's hope that's a minor faux pas that does not get in Pressler's way in opening a broader discussion on American Indian issues.

    Steve, I'd love to hear what you could get Pressler to say about Bear Butte. Buttonhole him at his next Sioux Falls event! He's asked for the conversation; bring it!

  4. grudznick 2014.07.17

    Mr. H, native American Indians could be construed as a valid adjective. There are, no doubt, some American Indians who were born in other countries and are citizens of them. I do not mean to anger or enrage you, but I know you are picky about language and accuracy and I am slovenly with it. But I think Mr. Pressler could still be using his words goodly.

  5. Bob Newland 2014.07.17

    "Verbiage," not "verbage."

    [Point taken, Bob! Correction made above. —CAH]

  6. Donald Pay 2014.07.17

    I don't think Pressler had a terrible bad relationship with the tribes, though he never stood out as a champion on Indian issues. I do recall that Pressler was a strong supporter of Mni Wiconi, the rural water system that brought Missouri River water to western South Dakota and the reservations.

    Here's my problem with Larry Pressler. I loved the guy who came into politics, took on the establishment and won with grassroots support using grassroots issues, but I hated the guy who sold out once he saw he could obtain a leadership position. Which Larry Pressler are you going to get? At least he's talking like the first Larry Pressler.

  7. Tara Volesky 2014.07.17

    Pressler is right on. I have a friend on the Pine Ridge who has a bed and breakfast and gets tourists from all over the world. The reservations and their colleges are an untapped industry for world-wide tourism, and education. Steve, quit worrying about your establishment candidates, Rounds and Daugaard and focus on the real issues that affect the people of SD. Where were Daugaard and Rounds when we had an all candidate forum on the Pine Ridge? Rounds didn't even respond to the invite. Daugaard made some excuse, but he could have sent a representative. The Myers campaign are for the little people. What would Jesus do? I honesty don't think he would be supporting Mike Rounds and Dennis Daugaard. He despises corruption.

  8. Roger Cornelius 2014.07.17

    I'm not going to parse words about Native American Indian, it a common mistake a lot of people make and it isn't necessarily offensive. Like Cory said, it was a minor faux pas.
    The first definition of holocaust is: great destruction resulting in the extensive destruction of property and loss of life, especially by fire.
    The events of history that abused and killed people are best left in place, for instance the Holocaust is mostly associated with the extermination by Nazi's.
    The history of slavery is always related to abuse and lynching of Blacks.
    Genocide has come to represent the prolonged slaughter of Indians by any means available, thank you President Lincoln and Jackson.
    Larry presents an interesting idea and hopefully, whether he wins or loses he will promote the concept. I don't know if he will win the Native vote with this proposition, maybe he will win that magical 500 that upset Thune a few years back.
    I have to stick with Rick for Senate, thus far he best representatives what I think is good for the country and for South Dakota.
    Rick seems to be popular on the reservations and practically speaking is the greatest challenge to Mike Rounds. If Independents and Libertarians took a realistic look at voter numbers they would see the best chance to sideline Rounds is supporting Rick Weiland.

  9. Jerry 2014.07.17

    Interesting article about the connection with Algonquin Indians in the late 1600's with Cadiz, Spain and Tangier, Morocco. I did not know about this and find it intriguing that there could be mixed bloods in Spain and Morocco of Native American ancestry that dates back centuries. Of course, the native populations of the lands that Spain occupied from 1492 until then would make sense, but here you have that of a native population that came from New England.

    Native American Spaniards? Native American Moroccans? Of course, now you know why South Dakota is a destination area for Europeans that know the history of the complete America as that is what North, South and Central America means to scholars. If you do not know history, then history can repeat itself. This place Pressler speaks of would most assuredly be a place for all to see but it would bring in the people of Europe and Asia to visit without a doubt.

  10. lesliengland 2014.07.17

    prolly a result of the oatmeal summit

  11. Tara Volesky 2014.07.18

    This is a good thing for SD and our Native brothers and sisters. It's time for Native American empowerment. They should not be treated like second class citizens. They have talents and can be great contributors to the state of SD. It's time to unite and give the disenfranchised a seat at the table.

  12. Tim 2014.07.18

    "It's time to unite and give the disenfranchised a seat at the table."
    Tara, good luck with that, the controlling party will never let it happen meaningfully.

  13. larry kurtz 2014.07.18

    It's important to remember that Tim Giago has as little credibility among ndnz as Larry Pressler has among Democrats.

  14. Tara Volesky 2014.07.18

    Tim, it will only happen if we overthrow the establishment. I was so impressed how Michelle who runs the Library, KILI radio and everyone else involved organized the best political forum that I have ever attended. Talk about professionally run at Oglala Lakota College in Kyle. Everyone who wanted to speak got to. There was no time limit and the questions were not censored. What a great experience. Unfortunately, Noem, Rounds, and Daugaard along with the mainstream media were no-shows. It would be great to have political forums on every reservation. Candidates need to listen to the people instead of always making false promises and not following through.

  15. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.07.18

    Well, Donald, Pressler is talking like his first self, and given that he's abandoned his party and promised one-term of Independent Senator-ship, he's cut off the route to realizing his second, leadership-power-seeking self. If he got elected, got to Washington, and succumbed to temptation again, he'd immediately lose the Independent mandate. Besides, he doesn't have enough moderate GOP pals left on the Hill to help him resume a position of leadership, does he?

  16. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.07.18

    Roger, I will be curious to see what language Rick Weiland would use to describe the conquest of the Native American population. I would be even more curious to hear Weiland, Rounds, and Howie state their position on building the museum Pressler proposes.

    (By the way, what is the proper term for people from India now living in America?)

  17. Roger Cornelius 2014.07.18

    Cory, I believe that the correct term for people from India living in the U.S. is East Indian, of course I could be wrong.
    Like you, I'm anxious to see what positions other candidates will take on the museum idea.
    Rounds is response will probably be we're $1,7 trillion in debt.
    Gordon's response, I'll have to check with God.
    Rick has spent more time on the reservations than any other candidate and I would expect him to support the idea.
    When Rick visits on the reservation he intently listens to the people about the troubling conditions many live under. Rick will likely take a strong position of support for Native American issues in our state and country.

  18. Jerry 2014.07.18

    Pressler seems to have kicked the door down to the elephant in the room, the Native Americans. By making the declaration that he just did, he is acknowledging the past treatment of Native Americans right here in the state. He is opening a dialogue with the other candidates as well regarding Native issues. I say bravo to that and eagerly await to hear what the other candidates say about those issues and what can be expected from the candidates on their views of the original "owners" of this land, if they get voted in.

  19. SDTeacher 2014.07.18

    Perhaps I'm being cynical here, but look at Pressler's actual words. It doesn't bother anyone that he's talking about state and federal run/funded museum and touting it as a tourist attraction? I'm sorry, but really isn't this just exploitative? I think such a museum would be fantastic, don't get me wrong, but he's talking about creating a tourist attraction, not fostering better relations between state and tribes or even necessarily educating our own citizens about our history.

  20. Jerry 2014.07.18

    Cynicism has always been a trait of politics. It ranks right up there with hypocrisy. You have to have the two together to open the door a little for the exposure of what happened. Having said that, it would seem to me that something provided as an interpretative setting at a place where an actual atrocity occurred, makes sense to have people understand what injustices have happened to the Native peoples. This, to me, could be the way to start to foster better relationships. These things are possible if there is an honest open approach. Federal and state funding were used a Mt. Rushmore and still are today as an example and we are not so squeamish about that.

  21. Bill Fleming 2014.07.18

    Cory, in general, I use the word "Indian" to refer to people from India and "American Indian" to refer to people who are descendants of the indigenous (pre-Columbian) folks of the Western Hemisphere.

    Closer to home, I usually just refer to the latter by their first and/or last name making no ethnic distinction, unless there is some compelling contextual reason to do otherwise.

    That said, my American Indian friends tell me they prefer the term "Indian" when referring to their general ethnicity, or their specific tribe (Lakota, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Inuit, etc.)

  22. SDTeacher 2014.07.18

    I don't object to state or fed kicking in money per se and I certainly don't object to the museum...that's long overdue. My concern is that typically, s/he who controls the money controls the narrative. Now, at Mt. Rushmore, this is not a problem- those who control the money have no issue with sprucing up Mr. Borglum and glossing the history behind getting the land etc. With a museum about native history, created by the state and feds as a tourist attraction, I see more troubles. Our governments have no qualms about rewriting history and I guess I'd have preferred to have seem him talking about teaching our children the truth rather than about enticing European tourists. But again, this could just be my cynicism coloring his words.

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