In 2006, I visited Wounded Knee, South Dakota. It was a grim few hours, as the site is part of the Pineridge Indian Reservation, and home to hundreds of impoverished Native Americans. In 1890, three hundred men, women and children were massacred by General Custer's old regiment, the US 7th Cavalry in what is widely regarded as the last battle in the 'Indian Wars'. Little remains at the Wounded Knee site today, apart from a lone cemetery on top of a small hill. A museum dedicated to the massacre, lies several miles away.
In recent months, there have been several calls to sell the land, much to the anger of the Native Americans on the reservation. The asking price of $3million will never be enough to compensate for the lives lost on that cold, December day in 1890.
But what should the local residents do? The Oglala Sioux tribe, who live on the reservation, are millions of dollars in debt and would have to borrow money to fight off investors. Should they develop the land for tourism, or continue to use the land in memoriam of those that died?
When visiting historic sites, you can sense that something took place there. That feeling is ever present at Wounded Knee, but there is an added weight to it: a heavy realisation that the conflicts of the past are ever present today. Driving through that dusty reservation is not something I am likely to forget. Thousands of Native Americans live in poverty, as a direct result of the government's policies in the nineteenth century. These debates show that in all corners of the world, history is very much alive, and often, it is painful and difficult.