Charlotte Foster


“It broke my heart”: Native Americans outbid to buy back their own sacred site

“It broke my heart”: Native Americans outbid to buy back their own sacred site

Over 290 prehistoric Native American glyphs that depict people, animals, and mythological figures adorn the walls of Picture Cave in eastern Missouri. 

The cave has been deemed an “ultimate sacred site” by the Osage Nation, who were pushed out of the land as a consequence of the Indian Removal Act of 1830.

Since the 1950s, the land has been owned by the extremely wealthy Busch family, who mostly used it as a hunting ground. 

When the Busch family announced last year that they would be selling the cave, and the 43 acres of land surrounding it, the Osage Nation began a campaign to procure their land back. 

They teamed up with the Conservation Fund, as well as Fish and Wildlife Services, on the account of endangered bats living in the cave. 

Despite their mammoth efforts, the Osage Nation could not gather enough money to buy their sacred land back. 

“[Picture Cave] is our ultimate sacred site,” says Andrea Hunter, a member of the Osage Nation and director of its Historic Preservation Office.

“It was our land to begin with and we then had to resort to trying to buy it back. 

“And we’ve got landowners who don’t understand the history of the place they live in and whose significance doesn’t amount to more than monetary value [for them].”

The Busch family sold the land to an anonymous buyer for $2,200,000USD, just $200,000 more than the Osage Nation offered. 

“Watching it get to $2 million stopped my heart,” said Hunter. “It broke my heart.”

Hunter and her team are currently trying to contact the anonymous bidder from Nashville to explain the historical and cultural significance of the land. 

So far, they have not been successful in their communications. 

Image credit: Youtube - Selkirk Auctioneers & Appraisers

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