We have left South Dakota. On Wednesday, July 11, 2012 we traveled from Lower Brule to Rapid City via Wall, on interstate 90. We arrived in Rapid with time in the afternoon to visit some sites and stores in the city.
The drive itself was uneventful, a good thing. We were quiet, taking in the scenery. The students napped in the back seat of the Suburban. It was been along two weeks for them. We passed down along the Missouri and out past Medicine Butte, a site sacred to the Lower Brule tribe. We passed a group of dilapidated aged trailers, called “Malfunction Junction”; an alcohol town just off the Lower Brule reservation. We drove through the small western village of Reliance and picked up 90 west. The scenery gradually changed from the rolling and agriculturally farmed land to stark and more desolate carpeted grazing grassland.
We made a quick stop at Wall Drug, just to stretch our legs and pick up some coffee. Wall, SD interestingly enough is host to the Wounded Knee Museum; to put it in context, Wall, SD is about 100 miles from Wounded Knee, SD. When we were at Wounded Knee we spoke to some of the local artisans selling their wares and heard that the museum was originally supposed to be in Wounded Knee but for some reason ended up in Wall. No one is quite sure why. I have to be honest, I enjoyed the Wounded Knee site without the museum, it was quiet and reflective. Maybe having the museum in Wall encourages people to think about stopping on the reservation. More people certainly pass through Wall than Wounded Knee or Pine Ridge. While I support the idea of more visitors to Wounded Knee, I am not sure a museum would be appropriate for the site, but that is my opinion.
Rapid City seemed large, even though it only has about 67,000 people, after spending two weeks on the reservations. We checked in and headed downtown for some food and last minute shopping. We stopped at Prairie Edge, a rather well known store in Raid City that sells Native American crafts. If the craft was made by a Native American, it is certified and noted as such. There were brochures around the store highlighting the artists that contribute to Prairie Edge. The artists are not only Lakota, but represent tribes from all over North America.
I was really glad that we bought directly from the artists on the reservations. While I think Prairie Edge fulfills an important role in Rapid City (after all, many of the people who stop in will never make it to Cheyenne River, Pine Ridge, or Lower Brule), the artists most likely receive less per piece that is sold. I also think that the locations on the reservations that sell crafts are more in tune with the people. For example, when we were at Singing Horse Trading Post, there was an artist there making her jewelry. The owner of the trading post, Rosie, announced that we should, if at all possible, buy directly from the artist that was there before looking through the wares in the Trading Post. How cool is that? You would not find that happening in Rapid City. On the reservation, people are more in tune with the way everyone has to live.
I have since left South Dakota. It was a wonderful trip. If you have been reading the blog, I thank you very much. I have gotten some great comments from people. I do plan to continue with more thoughts and information as time goes on, but the posting will not be as prolific. I still have about six or so posts bouncing around my head for posting. I also plan to keep up posting about news from the reservations as well. So please check back every once in a while for new posts and keep the comments coming, it is good to hear from you. If you would like anyone information about anything I posted about, please let me know and I can email you.
I will be going back to South Dakota next summer.
Some awesome graffiti art from Rapid City
A statue at a Rapid City street corner.
Bee hives we passed on the way back to Rapid City. It wasn’t just this day, but we saw bee hives ALL over the place. We also noticed a lot of local honey for sale. What great pollinators.