I woke up this morning and headed into the popular and wonderful coffee room. I love the coffee room at the Harding Motel, except for one thing…it is also the smoking room. I did end up chatting with a few people for a while. A few were I town for a wedding that took place yesterday, one took part in the Sundance Ceremony that just concluded, and one was on their way to a Wacipi (dance) in Standing Rock.
On Pine Ridge, about 50% of all people smoke. I hesitate to say adults, because there are younger people that smoke too. On Cheyenne River, just from my personal observations it seems to be about the same. There have been some large scale campaigns among the Lakota to bring awareness to the health issues related with smoking. In fact, Oglala Lakota College is a smoke-free environment. However, it remains an important issue.
Cheyenne River Reservation is desolate. I thought that Pine Ridge was desolate, I hadn’t seen anything yet. I was really surprised by how isolated the communities are here. There are similarities and differences. Similarities: poor, isolated, housing issues, stray dogs, food desert, lack of health care, low life expectancy, alcoholism, drug use, and unemployment. None of these are great surprises, but there are some differences I have to describe in greater detail.
(1) Alcohol is allowed on Cheyenne River, NO ONE is permitted to have alcohol on Pine Ridge.
(2) There are banks in Eagle Butte. On Pine Ridge, the bank (in the form of a bus) comes to town twice a week to cash checks. However, I have seen at least two banks in Eagle Butte.
(3) The post office does not look like a fortress. On Pine Ridge the post offices were built like little bunkers to be defended in case of an uprising. Here the post office looks like a normal building.
(4) There is a lot more graffiti “tagging” in Eagle Butte (Cheyenne River). There is a lot of gang activity in the town.
(5) The number of visitors/tourists to Cheyenne River must be exceedingly low. The reservation is in the middle of nowhere. Pine Ridge has the advantage of being somewhat close to Rapid City and has been the site of resistance and uprising (Wounded Knee) which draws in tourists.
We will get to see some more of the Cheyenne River Reservation today, Sunday, July 8. We are meeting a friend’s aunt for breakfast and hopefully going to a Wacipi on Standing Rock Reservation.