For months, questions have swirled about whether developers, activists or tribes would be willing to plunk down millions to buy a portion of the Wounded Knee National Historic Landmark in South Dakota. Now there's a new potential buyer in the mix: Johnny Depp, The Associated Press reports.
But is the co-star of "The Lone Ranger" really preparing to be the one who buys the property where hundreds of American Indians were killed? Or is it just the latest rumor in the contentious debate over the landmark's future? Depp touched off the story when he told London's Daily Mail newspaper that he is working to buy a piece of the landmark on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation to give back to the tribe because it's important to their culture. The site is where 300 tribal men, women and children were killed by the 7th Cavalry in 1890.
"I am doing my best to make that happen," he told the newspaper of a possible purchase. "It's land they were pushed on to and then they were massacred there. It really saddens me."
Landowner James Czywczynski, whose family has owned the property since 1968, is trying to sell the 40-acre fraction of the historic landmark and another 40-acre parcel for $4.9 million. The two parcels of land have been assessed for $14,000. The sale has sparked outrage among tribal members who say Czywczynski is trying to profit from the killing of their ancestors.
Since the interview was published last week, Depp has been quiet, and there's been no record of an offer made for the land. Depp's publicist did not respond to repeated calls and emails seeking comment, while Czywczynski, who has said his goal has always been to get the land back to the tribe, did not return calls.
Oglala Sioux President Bryan Brewer, whose tribe lives on Pine Ridge, said he has not been contacted by anyone in Depp's camp and was first notified of the actor's interest when someone from England called him for reaction. Brewer said he and a group of descendants of Wounded Knee survivors are hoping to meet with Czywczynski soon.