Sunday, April 14, 2013

Adventures in South Dakota - with text from Jim Leach

I have written and talked a great deal about the generosity of both friends and strangers a like.  The following post is a perfect example of how excited people are to show me their communities. 

After deciding to drive the Northern Route back to Maine, and after realizing it was a black whole of Facebook friends, my parents offered to contact an old friend from their days of organizing around Wounded Knee in the early seventies.  Jim and I exchanged several emails back and forth and he invited me to stay an extra night (and I invited myself to stay another this morning) so that I could explore the Badlands and Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.  He then sent me this great guide as a 4 page pdf (a hard copy was waiting when I arrived).  I have illustrated his text with pictures from my incredible day.

Tanja’s Super Travel Guide for Saturday, April 13

I will give you a map.

I’ll lead you down to Hermosa, about 15 miles from Rapid City, so you get started at the right place.

When you leave Hermosa, in about 25-30 miles or so you will cross the Cheyenne River.


Red Shirt Table (a village) will be on your right. The road then goes up a long hill.

At or near the top of the hill—as the surroundings start to take your breath away—you will see a stopping area. Stop, get out, let the awestruck-some-ness overtake you. Historical note: I proposed, successfully, to Ann here.

Continue on same road. In maybe 40-45 miles you will come to a stop sign. Turn left. Look for graffiti on right side that could still be there, left over from a recent election: “Custer was a Republican.”
A couple miles before you get to Pine Ridge, the village (you are already on Pine Ridge, the reservation), you will pass Red Cloud Indian School on your right.

If you wish, drive down the driveway to the amazingly gorgeous chapel, and have a look inside. Factoid: in several recent years, the Red Cloud Indian School has had the highest number of Gates scholars of any school in the country.
Back in car, proceed a couple of miles to the center of Pine Ridge, the village. You will know you are “downtown” when you come to the stoplight. It is the only stoplight on the reservation, so to say that you can’t miss it would be an understatement.   On your right is a gas and snack opportunity at Big Bat’s, the center of much social activity on the reservation (or “res” as it is universally called by its residents). Called “Big Bat” because that’s the owner’s name.
Side trip option: drive two miles south, on the same road you’ve come into Pine Ridge Village on, to Whiteclay, which is just over the Nebraska border. Several stores there sell an ungodly amount of alcohol to Indians every year, something like four million cans of beer. It is illegal to possess
alcohol on the res, so all that booze comes illegally onto the res. Highly controversial, google for more info. Many reservation residents would like to shut it down. Other residents would like to abolish the reservation’s prohibition on alcohol, which would put Whiteclay out of business but bring
alcohol sales onto the res. Note on terminology: Indians, at least around here, have never called
themselves “Native Americans,” except perhaps occasionally when around white people. In the past ten years or so, “Indians” has become the preferred term even in what could be called “high culture” (e.g. law review articles).

When back from your side trip to Whiteclay, or if you chose not to make it, drive east out of Pine Ridge, in about 15 (?? all distances highly approximate—consult map) miles look for left turn toward Wounded Knee.


When you get to Wounded Knee, stop, get out, feel. 1890 Massacre site and 1973 occupation site. A real “wow” experience.

Back in car, take road toward Porcupine/Sharps Corner/Scenic (all the same direction).  When you get to Scenic, you will have left the reservation. Scenic is almost completely a ghost town. On your left is a closed bar. Look for the “No Indians Allowed” sign, on which the “No” may or may not have been
painted over (I can’t remember).


Just slightly (maybe .25 mile) after you left Scenic you will come to a stop sign. Here you have two options:


Option A: Turn left, drive 40 miles back to Rapid City, call Ann on her cell or me at the office when you are close, we will figure things out from there.
Option B:  Turn right, and gape at the next 20-or-so incredibly awesome miles, some right through the middle of badlands. Look for a sign on your left pointing to “Wall” (the town). Turn left onto it, and gape again the next 20-or-so incredibly awesome miles, many of which again are right through the middle of badlands.

Eventually you will leave the badlands, and then drive through approx ten miles of prairie and come to the interstate, which is  just on the south side of Wall.


Take interstate west about 50 miles back to Rapid City. (Don’t forget to marvel at the amazing  Cheyenne River valley as you pass through it. It starts perhaps 3 miles west of wall.)


Time check:
Our dinner reservations are at 6 pm. If you’re back by then, please come. It’s a Corn Exchange which is in the 700 block of Main Street. But if you don’t make it, that’s fine too. We would love to have you, but don’t feel obligated. We want you to do what you want to do, and the places you have to see on Saturday are amazing.
Starting at Hermosa, if you were to just drive, without stopping, and take Option A at Scenic, the entire trip would take about four hours. With Option B, if you were to just drive, without stopping, the entire trip would take about 5 hours. So when you finish it will depend on how much stopping and enjoying you do during the trip—and how long it takes you to regain your breath after seeing and experiencing some of these places.

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