The Heart of the Lakota Nation

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December 7th 2007
Published: December 8th 2007EDIT THIS ENTRY

The Huckleberry Hideout!The Huckleberry Hideout!The Huckleberry Hideout!

When we stopped in Broken Bow for lunch, we spotted this sign on our way out of town and it was too good to pass up. We propped my camera up on a backpack and bam! don't we look good?
So it turns out I live in the U.S. and travel here as well! This is another domestic entry.

Over fall break (Oct. 19-23), a group of student photographers and myself along with our professor traveled to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in Shannon County, South Dakota. Our focus was to do a series of photo essays on women who are leaders in the Lakota community, because we decided that the whole drugs and alcohol and violence thing was way overdone.

It was a wonderful experience. Our first night on the "Rez," we went Red Cloud school where a reservation-wide pow wow was held. What struck me first was the color! The traditional dress is lovely, and I have to say, modern fabrics and dying techniques have certainly made the outfits even more vibrant. The feathered and beaded headdresses were remarkable.

We went to Wounded Knee while there, too. It was viciously cold, probably something like the conditions when the massacre happened. We spent a few solemn moments walked in the graveyard, looking at the tombstones - some were so old the letters had been brushed away by the elements and time; other stones were fresh, the earth around them freshly turned. A little girl ran up to me while I was poking around, a shy, little yellow dog at her heels and asked if I would buy a bracelet. Her hair was windblown and her eyes were downcast. Poverty haunts that place in more ways than one.

It is interesting to experience poverty in my own country. Strange how poverty wears so many faces depending on the country but the suffering is the same. And the fact that is should not be ignored is paramount.

I focused on three women during my stay. I will tell you about Betty O'Rourke, who is the great-granddaughter of Black Elk (Black Elk Speaks) and who owns a restaurant (out of her home) on the land where the book by John Neihardt was completed. She was a nurse for ten years, then a nutritionist and now, in addition to running her restaurant just outside Manderson, she is the matriarch of her family, which is struggling. Both her sons have died in the past few years, her daughter-in-law is a quadriplegic, and her granddaughter Katie is also helping to be "mom" for everyone. Betty was a lovely woman and I can't wait to go visit her again.

The landscape on the Rez and in the Badlands is gorgeous. It is stark and painted, and especially striking at sunset. At night it is dark. I mean, really really dark. And the winding highways are spooky - the flashing, iridescent eyes of deer and foxes on the side of the road get your adrenaline pumping!

Pine Ridge (or its sister reservation Rosebud) is one of my top choices when I apply to Teach for America.

I apologize, but I cannot post most of my pictures here; my group is putting together a multimedia Web site and I guess that means our pix are technically copyrighted and need to appear only there.

Additional photos below
Photos: 11, Displayed: 11



Old, meet new.
Betty O'Rourke and her granddaughter KatieBetty O'Rourke and her granddaughter Katie
Betty O'Rourke and her granddaughter Katie

This is my favorite photo from the trip. Meet Betty O'Rourke, great-granddaughter of Black Elk. She owns a restaurant that is located on the land where John Neihardt finished the book "Black Elk Speaks" and she is an amazing woman.
Nancy Kelsey (right) and MyselfNancy Kelsey (right) and Myself
Nancy Kelsey (right) and Myself

Yay photographic evidence of my life.
Yours truly in the BadlandsYours truly in the Badlands
Yours truly in the Badlands

Sunset and cool lighting. We got out of there pretty quick after that, though, because the Lakota believe the Badlands are where evil spirits live, and I can see why!

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