After leaving Wounded Knee Memorial our group went into Badland National Park by bus. There, on the outer limits of Pine Ridge Reservation, we drove down a dirt road and hiked into The Sanctuary. The place is sacred to the Lakota, and though it is part of Badland National Park, it is Lakota land. (It was part of Pine Ridge Reservation taken by the Defense department after WWII, which the Army turned into a bombing range) At The Sanctuary we split up, each going our separate way, and sat quietly amidst the jagged mountains – there we digested what we learned at Wounded Knee Memorial.
The silence of the earth, with it’s wind swells and meadow larks, was profound. It reached into the limitless horizon. I sat on a rocky outcrop and rolled myself a smoke. Then I scattered tobacco with my finger tips as an offering to the Place. Firing up my smoke, I poured a cup of strong black coffee and listened. The quietude had this depth to it, then out of the silence of the terrestrial landscape, teeming with the sound of insects, the wind would rise out of the depths. I asked the Spirit of the Wind to carry away all my unnecessary thoughts.
I loved being in The Sanctuary on a Sabbath morning of the Earth.
On Sunday morning Re-Member went to Wounded Knee Memorial.
Three hundred Lakota men, women, and children lay buried here. They were massacred by the U.S. 7th calvary on Decmber 29th, 1890.
There were prayer flags blowing in the wind. In my heart I felt solidarity with the Oglala Lakota Oyate (people), who are suffering much injustice.
I came to the grave of Lost Bird who was found crying beneath the body of her murdered mother after the massacre. She was adopted and integrated into white society, but her life was tragic.
Please Re-Member the Lakota who died at Wounded Knee Creek, and in doing so know there is much poverty and injustice today on the Reservation – the Lakota are a hurt people. Pine Ridge is one of the poorest places in America with people living in 4th World conditions.
Early this morning I arrived at the Greyhound Bus Station in Rapid City South Dakota. Soon I’ll be meeting my ride to Pine Ridge Reservation an hour and a half South of towards the Badlands. This evening we will be going to a “veterans” powwow and tomorrow we will be touring the Wounded Knee mass grave and beginning our work on the Rez.
A little about the history of this place and the historical context of what brought me back here: Rapid City is set on the Eastern slope of the Black Hills mountain range, which is the oldest range in the nation. For many the Black Hills are the home of Mount Rushmore, and of illegal gold mining towns the likes of Deadwood (now a casino town), for others the Black Hills are known as the Paha Sapa, mountains dark with Ponderosa Pine and white stone in the shape of a human heart. To quote Wikipedia – “In 1868, the U.S. government signed the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868, exempting the Black Hills from all white settlement forever. However, when European Americans discovered gold here in 1874, as a result of George Armstrong Custer’s Black Hills Expedition, miners swept into the area in a gold rush. The US government re-assigned the Lakota, against their wishes, to other reservations in western South Dakota.”
Here’s a photograph I took last June when I ascended Harney Peak to stand where the Black Elk, the famous Lakota Sioux medicine man, had his vision of Universal Peace. It’s the highest peak east of the Colorado Rockies.
I’m hitting he road with nervous excitement after my sister dropped me off at the Greyhound bus station this morning. Thus begins the long road to Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
This afternoon I went to the Greyhound bus terminal at the train station and purchased my ticket to Rapid City South Dakota. Since Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is an hour and a half South of Rapid City towards the Badlands, staff from the Re-Member organization will pick me up after my arrival. Round trip I’ll be on the Greyhound for a total of three and a half days with four transfers each way – one in L.A., another in Vegas, Denver, then somewhere in Wyoming of all places. I’m looking forward to the feeling of the Road , to the mileage and to the distances and the strange people and places. It wouldn’t feel the same by air – the Road can be deep and the Greyhound strange. (One night on the Greyhound I found myself sitting next to a Big Foot tracker from Russia for example.)
I want to thank those who’ve helped make my promise to return to Pine Ridge and volunteer a reality. This trip wouldn’t be happening without you.
A vulture dives over the Road to Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. It’s June of 2011 and I’m on my way to pay respects to the hundreds of Native Americans gunned down at Wounded Knee Creek on December 29th, 1890.
The Lakota Sioux were also known as “Horse Nation”.
The fundraising letters went out yesterday. In light of spiritual blessings upon my journey to Pine Ridge, I have perfect confidence in the results. Here is a picture of my Native American friend Manu after he finished helping me format the letter on Adobe Illustrator. He was so much help – thanks Manu!