Written by RoBoNC on 24 Sep, 2013
There is so much to see in the Black Hills that we could have used another day or two. While we made sure to visit all of our must see destinations, we tried to sneak in a few extra places along the way.…Read More
There is so much to see in the Black Hills that we could have used another day or two. While we made sure to visit all of our must see destinations, we tried to sneak in a few extra places along the way. A few of those places turned out to be very fun and interesting and it was a shame that we couldn’t spend more time there. My family and my wife’s sister’s family took our first vacation together. My brother-in-law and nephew are avid Harley-Davidson enthusiasts. They try to visit every Harley-Davidson store as each one sells poker chips that have the store’s location printed on them. Many Harley-Davidson fans collect these chips to frame. Our quest to collect poker chips took us to Sturgis, the most famous motorcycle town in the US. Sturgis, South Dakota is a small town of 6000 people but in the first week of August, the town grows in size to nearly 500,000 people. Motorcyclists from around the country make the journey to Sturgis to attend the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, the largest motorcycle rally in the US. The rally originally started in 1938 and it continues to grow in popularity every year. Although we were about two weeks too early for the rally (thank heavens!), we still got to experience a little bit of the rally fever. Businesses were already getting prepared. Merchandise trailers were already set up, banners were being hung, and many of the local residents were already planning to leave town. I spoke with a person who was born and raised in Sturgis and she said that she has never seen the motorcycle rally. Since she was born, her family has always left for that week for vacation so that they could avoid the crowd. She said that is common among most of the residents who live in Sturgis. Our brief stay in Sturgis began with lunch at the Easyrider’s Saloon, located in the center of town. It was one of the few saloon type restaurants that were appropriate for children. Although my family is not the motorcycle type, we had planned to pretend that we were hard core bikers even if only for a couple of hours. After lunch, we stopped by the Mecca (so to speak) for motorcyclists, the Sturgis Harley-Davidson store. We shopped for some Sturgis gear and although I am not a collector, we grabbed a poker chip for the kids to mark our visit to the legendary town. We left Sturgis and headed about 14 miles to Deadwood to visit our next Harley-Davidson store. Had it not been for the Harley Davidson store and needing a poker chip, we would probably have skipped Deadwood and that would have been a mistake. The town is smaller than Sturgis of just over 1000 people. Deadwood became synonymous with the Wild West. It was a town of lawlessness and it attracted gamblers, prostitutes, gunslingers, and criminals. Saloons and brothels were staples on Main Street. The saloons are still there but the brothels have been replaced with hotels and the street is filled with shops, small casinos, and of course, the Harley Davidson store. After a quick visit to the Harley-Davidson store, we strolled along Main Street checking out some of the shops. I quickly learned some of the history of the town as I walked down Main Street. It appears that Deadwood became famous after the murder of Wild Bill Hickok. A hero of the American West, he was shot in the back of the head by Jack McCall while playing poker. He was captured and tried for the murder, but Deadwood lived up to its reputation and he was found not guilty. McCall then fled to the Wyoming territory where he was tried again for the murder of Hickok. He argued that double jeopardy applied and that he could not be tried again. But Wyoming officials stated that he could be tried again because Deadwood did not have any law enforcement or court system. McCall was found guilty and hanged for the murder. All along Main Street, sites related to the murder of Wild Bill Hickok still remain. Starting with No 10 Saloon (originally called Nuttal & Mann’s saloon) at 624 Main Street is where Wild Bill was murdered. No 10 Saloon has since moved to a different location on Main Street along with some of the original items including the chair that Wild Bill was sitting in when he was shot. In front of the Goldbergs casino hangs a sign marking the location of the capture of Jack McCall on Aug 2, 1876. The Masonic lodge in town is also the site of the first trial of McCall. Mount Moriah cemetery is the final resting place of Wild Bill. During the summer, history comes to life on Main Street. We happened to be in Deadwood to witness one of the street show re-enactments that occur three times a day at various locations along Main Street. At 4pm in front of the Celebrity Hotel, we were treated to a poker game that resulted in a shootout that left two dead in the street. The re-enactment was taken from historical records as a news reporter was there the day it happened. The other shows occur at 2pm in front of the Four Aces and at 6pm in front of the Franklin Hotel. Visitors can also relive the shooting of Wild Bill inside No 10 Saloon at 1pm, 3pm, 5pm, and 7pm. At 7:30, the capture of Jack McCall is re-enacted and then visitors can head to the Masonic Lodge at 8pm to witness the trial. Although we only got to experience a small portion of what Deadwood has to offer, it is amazing that we almost didn’t make it there. Close
Written by Mandan Lynn on 09 Sep, 2007
1. Harney Peak. At 7,242 feet, it's the highest point east of the Rockies and west of the Pyrenees. Make sure you go on a nice, clear day - the views will take your breath away. With a round-trip of about six miles, it's not…Read More
1. Harney Peak. At 7,242 feet, it's the highest point east of the Rockies and west of the Pyrenees. Make sure you go on a nice, clear day - the views will take your breath away. With a round-trip of about six miles, it's not a difficult hike, but you do want to be aware that you have to climb over one little mountain in order to get to Harney...so on the way back, there's some uphill work to do! People often forget about that. Find the trailhead at Sylvan Lake. Go early, before it gets hot.2. Bear Butte. It's located by Sturgis and gives you a view of four states on a clear day. Hiker beware: it's a difficult, rocky trail with lots of steps and, thanks to the fire that burned there some years ago, no shade. We hiked on a hot, hot day, and that took a lot of the enjoyment right out of it. But when you get to the top...wow. Take care not to disturb the prayer clothes left by the Native Americans.3. M Hill. Located right there in Rapid City - you don't even have to leave town! Find the trailhead across the creek by the Abourezk law firm. It's a fairly easy hike, but it's secluded - we only saw one biker (BIKE it? are you CRAZY?) and we had the M all to ourselves as we sat and watched the busy street below.4. Skyline Drive. You can follow the road or trek off through the many trails in the woods. Come to the top by the communications towers or Dinosaur Hill! On the way back down, trudge through the woods and see the amazing examples of petrified wood. This is an easy, short hike, and you'll have to share the road with some speeding cars, and you'll probably have to share the lookout points with horny teenagers, but watching the sunset from up there is a lovely experience, indeed.5. Old Baldy. Near Deadwood, it's a fairly easy hike with mediocre views of the prairie and hills. So why did it make the top five? I was keeping phenomenal company the entire way up and back, we had a delightful picnic at the summit, the weather was lovely, and someone else carried my water. It just goes to show, it doesn't matter so much where you go - just so you're with people you really enjoy. Close
Written by Mandan Lynn on 28 Aug, 2007
I grew up on a ranch in South Dakota, so all the new experiences my Dutch friends had when they visited me felt like just another average day to me. Unfortunately, it has been a very dry summer, so there is very little grass --…Read More
I grew up on a ranch in South Dakota, so all the new experiences my Dutch friends had when they visited me felt like just another average day to me. Unfortunately, it has been a very dry summer, so there is very little grass -- and what is left is brown and brittle. I kept telling them, "Believe me, it often looks much more beautiful than this." But I don't think they heard me. They come from the Netherlands, where wide open spaces are filled with houses and people in Europe's most densely populated country. Out at the ranch, they could see for miles and miles, sometimes without even spotting a cow, let alone another person.The first thing they wanted to do was shoot guns! They figured they'd never get a chance for that over there. So we hauled out a bucket and a handful of firearms: a 30.30, a .22, and a shotgun. They had a great time, and Bas put a big ol' hole in that bucket with the 30.30.I insisted they go horseback riding, and Bas and Rik were eager to do so. Ruud had been dreading it since arriving in the States, but even he had a good time. Unfortunately, we only have one "safe" horse at the ranch nowadays, so we couldn't take them all out on a long ride across the prairie; instead, we settled for taking turns on our gentle horse Buddy in the corral. The guys still got the general idea of what it's all about.We only had one short day at the ranch before we headed back to Rapid City, where we would base ourselves for the remainder of their time in South Dakota, but I couldn't let them leave without giving them a roping lesson. Bas took right to it and caught the roping head after a few tries. Ruud's lesson took much longer and was much more frustrating, for him and his teacher: me. He finally caught that thing, though.Before they left, we made sure they tasted some good beef as well as some Rocky Mountain Oysters. We let the boys taste them before we explained exactly what they were, and a good thing -- they all enjoyed them and had a second helping, but admitted that if they had known what they were, they wouldn't have tried them.It's fun to share my ranch home with my friends. Growing up, it wasn't always easy to appreciate -- such as on the days that started at 6am helping dad fix a fence, or when we bundled up in all the clothes we had in the middle of a snowstorm to watch the gate while dad fed the cows. Of course, now it's easy to see that growing up there was one of the richest experiences of my life -- and that is only re-enforced by experiencing it along with my friends as they experience it for the first time. Close
Written by Mandan Lynn on 26 Aug, 2007
The Black Hills Playhouse holds a special place in my heart, and not just because I’ve been attending plays there since I was 10 years old. I’ve also spent two summers working there.The BHP is unique in that the company members live there as well…Read More
The Black Hills Playhouse holds a special place in my heart, and not just because I’ve been attending plays there since I was 10 years old. I’ve also spent two summers working there.The BHP is unique in that the company members live there as well as work there. It’s like a college campus -- we have dorms and a cafeteria. We’re with each other all the time. We wake up in bunks above or below each other, we eat with each other, we work with each other, and we play with each other. Each day looks more or less the same from the outside. Breakfast is at 8:30. Work starts at 9 or 9:30, depending on how much we have to do and how much progress we’re making. This means different things to different people: the actors head off to the Old Theatre for rehearsal, the painters, carpenters, prop people, and costumers hole up in their respective shops, the electricians get busy in the theatre, the ticket clerks open up the office, and the snack bar workers put the coffee on. Lunch is at 12; work resumes at 1 or 1:30, again depending on whether we’re behind or not. Unless we’re really struggling to get the next show ready, we quit work at 4:30 and have dinner at 5:30. Meals are usually followed by intensely competitive games of volleyball. Sometimes we have teams of three, sometimes teams of 12, but it’s always a lot of fun. The old standard rules of volleyball apply, but we have a few of our own, as well -- such as that balls are playable off the building to which the net is attached, unless it hits the building below the line of the net.By 6:30pm or 7pm we’re all focused on that evening’s show. Cars are sometimes pulling up by 7pm, a full hour before the curtain goes up. Actors take their post-volleyball showers and start the costuming and make-up process. Workers from all the shops take on their duties as designated for this particular show -- maybe as a spotlight operator or set crew member, maybe as an usher or car park. Very few people are left with nothing to do before the show, and if someone is, you can bet he or she will be busy the next night!In addition to the jobs we’re hired for, we all have other duties to help keep the camp running. There is a rotating duty schedule which has us washing and drying dishes or cleaning the theatre and bathrooms. We only get seven days off the whole summer: Mondays in the middle of the runs. There are no shows on Monday, so if we’re in the middle of a play, there’s no work to do on those Mondays that can’t wait until Tuesday. However, if we’re opening a new show this week, Mondays are very busy! The plays close on Sunday afternoon, and we start immediately, even before the last audience member has driven away, tearing down the old set and putting up the new one, which has to be ready for the Wednesday night preview. We have no specific hours (and definitely no volleyball) during these intense few days -- we work straight through, often late into the night, stopping only for meals. The work is serious, but we keep it fun. In the paint shop, we had dance breaks -- if a certain song came on, we all had to put down our brushes and start shakin’ it. Once, as one painter acted out her favorite part of the play we were rehearsing, an entire bucket of paint was knocked onto a set piece that another painter had spent a couple of days working on and had finally finished. In the face of such devastation, there’s only one thing to do: laugh. Another time, we had large tubes to use on a set as columns, and the carpenters invited us over to their side of the yard for a few minutes of rolling down the hill in them. I’ve met amazing people, many of whom I count among my dearest friends. I’ve also had the opportunity to bump elbows with a little bit of fame! I played volleyball with Broadway star Jenny Fehlner and worked directly under designer Ahna Packard, who has worked on the television show Monk. Others, famous or not, are so remarkably talented, whether as actors, directors, designers, carpenters, or whatever. I am honored to say I know them, let alone call them my friends.I look forward to more summers at the Playhouse. There’s nothing like working so hard with people you get to know so well to put something like a play together. There’s great pride in knowing that even if maybe you aren’t on stage, those people wouldn’t be, either, if it weren’t for you and the work you’re doing behind the scenes. It makes me giddy to hear the audience members talk during the intermissions about what a good play it is or how beautiful a certain set piece is or how they’re making plans to come out to the next show. I’m proud to be part of bringing such quality theatre to the Black Hills. Close
Written by btwood2 on 30 Oct, 2004
Only 14 miles from Hill City, Keystone has chosen a more hit-‘em-over-the-head, commercial presentation of itself. It’s very centrally located, so it’s difficult to avoid it when driving anywhere. Our first introduction to Keystone was on the way to Mount Rushmore.…Read More
Only 14 miles from Hill City, Keystone has chosen a more hit-‘em-over-the-head, commercial presentation of itself. It’s very centrally located, so it’s difficult to avoid it when driving anywhere. Our first introduction to Keystone was on the way to Mount Rushmore. I was appalled by the excessive advertising in the form of billboards, large, garishly ugly signs, and gimmicky, fake-looking "frontier" and "mining" motifs in front of virtually every business. Stop lights, crowds, congestion, and gridlock; avoid Keystone if you’re looking to get away from these.
I must admit, though, that we finally purchased a wooden plaque for our motor home in Keystone, at a little stand in front of Keystone House. You’ve seen them, identifying the inhabitants of the motor home, often including pets. Since we don’t have pets, we had the craftsperson etch in a few cacti, reminiscent of our winter times in Arizona.
Keystone was founded in 1891, named after Keystone Mine along Battle Creek. In 1894, the more profitable Holy Terror Mine began operations, yielding $10,000 worth of gold per week, and the coming of the railroad in 1900 increased mining activities. After numerous cave-ins and a disastrous mine fire in 1903, the Holy Terror was closed and filled up with water. Through the years, draining attempts were unsuccessful. Nearby mines produced other minerals, such as tin, spodumine crystals, and feldspar.
But it was the building of the Mount Rushmore Memorial that established Keystone as a tourist hotspot. In the 1920s, the area immediately around Mt. Rushmore was restricted from further development; Keystone filled the gap, only too eager to supply the needs of Mt. Rushmore visitors. Rushmore Borglum Historical Center provides more information about the sculptor of the Presidents’ memorial. We didn’t stop there, because we felt we got enough information at the memorial itself and hated the excessive billboards advertising them literally all over the Black Hills, even into the Wyoming Devil’s Tower area. Presidents Alpine Slide promises thrills by taking you in a chair lift to the top of a hill, where you can eat a cheeseburger while looking at Mt. Rushmore, then take a speedy sled ride or a tamer chairlift back down the hill. The National Presidential Wax Museum is where you can find wax reproductions of US presidents in period costume amidst historical settings. Another billboard offender we didn’t visit was Beautiful Rushmore Cave, advertising a one-hour guided tour, gift shop and snacks. Big Thunder Gold Mine offers "free" samples of gold ore when you take the tour. There are also plenty of shops selling curios, t-shirts, and mostly cheap (and some expensive) souvenirs.
Keystone has lots of places to eat, and we ate quick lunches at two of them: Trail Drive Barbecue and Eno’s Pizza and Pub. The bison burger at the Trail Drive was tasty, but there was an extra charge for lettuce, onion, and tomato slices. At Eno’s, we split a big sub sandwich. It filled our stomachs but wasn’t anything special. During the weeks we spent in the Black Hills, it didn’t take many drives through Keystone to get our fill of that town as well.
Written by btwood2 on 09 Nov, 2004
After our visit to Crazy Horse Memorial last summer, thoughts were spilling out of my brain at lightning speed. It’s four months later, and now that I’m in Arizona for the winter, it’s almost as if my thoughts have congealed. Not congealed, exactly,…Read More
After our visit to Crazy Horse Memorial last summer, thoughts were spilling out of my brain at lightning speed. It’s four months later, and now that I’m in Arizona for the winter, it’s almost as if my thoughts have congealed. Not congealed, exactly, but struggling and groping to express themselves in ways that aren’t stereotypical, humorless, or too weighty.
Indians in the Black Hills -- vying with presidential themes, their presence is all-pervasive commercially, in motifs, t-shirts, souvenirs, and the very names of both Dakota states. They’re at Korzak Zielkowski’s Crazy Horse memorial and Kevin Costner’s Tatanka tribute. They’re standing sculpted on street corners in downtown Rapid City, those sculptures (pictured below) in front of stores selling Native American arts, crafts, jewelry, drums. Undoubtedly, there’s some money being made here, but evidently not much of it is ending up in the nearby Pine Ridge or Rosebud Reservations, from what we could tell driving through them. Statistics from a Pine Ridge Reservation website are chilling. Pine Ridge Rez, predominantly Oglala Lakota, population about 40,000, straddles the two poorest counties in the United States, Shannon and Bennett Counties. The unemployment averages 86%; 63% live below federal poverty level. Average life expectancy is only age 48 for men and age 52 for women, and the rate of infant mortality is double that of the rest of the nation. That’s right, a third-world country only miles away from countless tourist attractions where well-fed, adequately-accommodated tourists such as ourselves are spending our tourist dollars, obliviously having a good time.
How things got to be this way, as well as solving the situation, are both achingly simple and frustratingly complex. Between 1850 and 1875, the bison herds, the spiritual heart and economic basis of the Lakota tribes, were almost exterminated by white men. Stolen land and repeatedly broken treaties (Fort Laramie, 1851 and 1868), frequent and ongoing misguided federal policies, and severe reduction of much-needed funds, worsening during the current federal administration, only exacerbate the multiple problems. Due to abysmal funding, health care is second-rate or worse; housing is woefully inadequate in the severe plains climate of hot summers and freezing winters, with too many elderly living off by themselves, dying every winter from hypothermia; and suicide, alcoholism, and diabetes take their toll across the age spectrum, as well. Social services from the outside remove countless children from Lakota homes, terminating extended family rights without reason, ignoring the Indian Child Welfare Act and causing even more disruption and anguish to the families. Lately, some efforts have been made to discuss and begin to understand these and other problems facing the Rez, but much of it comes far too late and much too slowly.
One obvious answer for us as tourists would be to spend at least some time and tourist dollars on the Reservations. Pine Ridge’s Red Cloud Heritage Center displays Indian-made paintings, graphics, and sculptures, as well as traditional beadwork and quillwork. A simple stone monument marks Wounded Knee Massacre Site, where hundreds of Lakota people peacefully traveling with Chief Big Foot were woken out of sleep by a Seventh Cavalry attack to be senselessly slaughtered. The day was December 29th, 1890, almost 114 years ago. Wounded Knee was also where the American Indian Movement (AIM), together with some traditional Lakota and elders, took a stand in 1973, seizing the hamlet to protest federal policies and injustices, resulting in an FBI siege that lasted 71 days. At Little Wound Living History Village and Museum in Kyle, 13 teepees comprise a village where traditional dances, songs, foods, and games are demonstrated by student guides. For casino buffs, Prairie Wind Casino, west of Oglala, and Rosebud Casino, south of Mission on the Rosebud Rez, have slots, tables, bingo, and food. Both casinos also feature live entertainment and special events.
A few weeks later, when we’d moved further along, the shiny Walmart Supercenter in Valentine, Nebraska, was virtually empty in mid-afternoon, with the ratio of employees to customers about 1:1. We asked an employee and learned that, at the beginning of each month, the store fills up with customers from the Rosebud Rez just across the South Dakota border. In fact, the employee confided to us, if it weren’t for its Rosebud customers, this store would probably fold. Even more ominously, a small Nebraska outpost, White Clay, a few miles off the reservation across the state line, exists solely to sell alcohol to people from the Rez, where alcohol can’t be legally sold.
Tourist attractions on the Rosebud include the Sicangu Heritage Center at Sinte Gleska (Spotted Tail) University, in Antelope. The Buechel Memorial Lakota Museum in St. Francis contains many Lakota artifacts and a gift shop.
I have been so confused about what to call Lakota people. They used to be and often still are called Sioux, not their original name for themselves, but the name they were called by another tribe further eastward, meaning "the enemy". When I asked our Indian-looking waitress if she was Lakota, she responded, "No, I’m Sioux." "But I thought Lakota and Sioux were the same tribe," I ventured. "Actually, it’s really complicated," she said, "and it depends on variants of the language too." I may or may not have it quite right, but from what I was able to ascertain, Lakota, also sometimes called Teton Sioux, include seven bands: Oglala, Sicangu, Hunkpapa, Miniconjou, Sihasapa, Itazipacola, and Oohenupa. The Oglala predominate on Pine Ridge Rez. The Sicangu live on the Rosebud Rez. Dakota, also sometimes called Santee Sioux, include four bands: Mdewakantonwon, Wahpeton, Wahpekute, and Sisseton. Dakota reservations include the Sisseton Wahpeton, in northeast South Dakota, and the Flandreau, on the Big Sioux River. Dakota also live in Minnesota and Nebraska. Nakota bands include Yankton, Upper Yanktonai, and Lower Yanktonai, with a small reservation along the Missouri River, in the southern part of South Dakota, and larger Standing Rock, on Lake Oahe, straddling the South Dakota - North Dakota border.
Written by btwood2 on 22 Aug, 2004
Probably the best way to get a feeling for the real Paha Sapa is to attempt to escape civilization by taking to the trails. There are lots of trails that run through the hills. On one of our first drives into the hills,…Read More
Probably the best way to get a feeling for the real Paha Sapa is to attempt to escape civilization by taking to the trails. There are lots of trails that run through the hills. On one of our first drives into the hills, we spied the George S. Mickelson Trail next to Highway 385. This rails-to-trails project was started by a group of local residents in 1983 when the Burlington Northern pulled out. Named after Governor George Mickelson, a strong supporter of the trail, it was completed in Fall 1998. Accessible by 14 trailheads, its 109 miles traverse 7 towns, 4 tunnels, over 100 bridges, numerous old mines and historic structures, the ghost town of Mystic, and the old townsite of Redfern. At the trailheads are toilets, water, and self-registration stations to pay the $2 daily registration fee for the required trail pass. You’ll also find water fountains, shelters with picnic tables and benches, and interpretive signs along the trail. Foot and bike travel is permitted year round, horseback riding only when the trail is dry, and snowmobiling in winter from Deadwood to Dumont, on 16 miles of trail. The only disadvantage to this Cadillac of trails is that it does parallel the roads and highways fairly closely, as the railroad did, so you don’t fully get away from the sounds of cars. You can download a trail map, see photographs, and check on special events at the Mickelson Trail website. The state Department of Game, Fish & Parks publishes an excellent brochure about the trail available at visitor centers. Mickelson Trail Affiliates also publishes a brochure describing visitor facilities and services in the towns on the trail.
Passing through more rugged country is the 111 mile long Centennial Trail. Beginning in the prairie grasslands north of the Black Hills, Centennial Trail cuts through Black Elk Wilderness (only foot and horse travel allowed) west of Mount Rushmore, and continues south through the entire length of Custer State Park, ending in Wind Cave National Park. You’ll find a variety of developed and primitive campgrounds along this trail. The agencies involved publish a trail users guide you can find at visitor centers. The Mickelson and Centennial trails are but 2 of 38, covering 465 miles in the Black Hills National Forest. Its 1.2 million acres contain 31 developed campgrounds, and they also allow dispersed camping in most of the forest. Pactola Reservoir, Deerfield Lake, and Sheridan Lake allow boating, fishing, swimming, picnicking, and camping.
We took a number of scenic drives through the Black Hills. Iron Mountain Road, running 17 miles southeast from Keystone to Highway 36 in Custer State Park, features 3 "pigtail" bridges and 3 tunnels. These unusual wooden rustic bridges were conceived and designed by self-taught architect and builder C. C. Gideon. Each bridge loops around to a tunnel, a picturesque method of dealing with a steep elevation change. The road also splits up into one-way lanes on occasion, making its way through stands of light barked birch trees. At the summit, there are far views of Mt. Rushmore, Peter Norbeck Wildlife Preserve, and Black Hills National Forest.
We drove Needles Highway at waning light, bathing the dramatic spired granite peaks in warm evening colors. Thankfully, there were many pullouts. Around every bend, the views of these pointed igneous granite formations change. Their core is believed to be 10 miles deep. The "Eye of the Needle", pictured below, was formed by the forces of wind, rain, freezing, and thawing. Both Iron Mountain Road and Needles Highway are part of Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway, a loop drive through the heart of the Black Hills. Thankfully, no billboards have been allowed to be placed on the best parts of these drives.
Purple bee balm was blooming in every meadow and alongside the roads. Looking up, we’d often see solitary hawks or eagles sailing in the high breezes. Off road, we saw striped squirrel and tiny chipmunks. If we’d gone out further on the trails, we might have seen white-tailed and mule deer, although some white-tails occasionally visited the campgrounds. The hills are also home to coyote, bobcat, elk, and mountain lion. White mountain goats were introduced to the Black Hills in 1924, and like to climb the peaks around Rushmore and Harney.
Even before going to see Crazy Horse Memorial, I thought it was pretty cool that his "image" was being carved into the Black Hills, if for no other reason than to give some balance to the Rushmore Four. I was mildly surprised…Read More
Even before going to see Crazy Horse Memorial, I thought it was pretty cool that his "image" was being carved into the Black Hills, if for no other reason than to give some balance to the Rushmore Four. I was mildly surprised when I learned that the sculptor wasn’t Native American, much less Lakota. When we first entered the Memorial, looked at the face in the mountain, and walked around in the very impressive Indian Museum of North America, I was enthralled. But gradually, a sense of disquiet began to encroach on my positive feelings. A sense of something being wrong here, something not quite fitting, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.
Plenty of Native American people, including Lakotas, seem to endorse the project. The dancers from Rapid City that perform several times a day are wonderful to watch, and their performance ends with a Circle Dance, including all in the audience who wish to participate. But while the drummer/MC is explaining the dances, the loudspeaker announcing orientation film showings and bus departures keeps drowning him out or forcing him to pause. I’m sure it’s not meant to be disrespectful, but it is. The museum is literally brimming over with breathtaking art, crafts, clothing, jewelry, and cultural items of American Indians. Most of these have been donated to the museum by individuals and tribes. As I continued to wander through the displays, and eventually through the sculptor’s log studio home where his wife still lives (Korczak died in 1982) and has her office (she is CEO of the private non-profit Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation), I begin to get more of a feeling that this memorial’s existence is at least at much to glorify the memory of Korczak Ziolkowski as it is to "show the white people that Indians have great leaders, too". The line between honoring and glorifying may not be so fine.
Don’t get me wrong. The remarkable Korczak Ziolkowski and his almost single-mindedly dedicated family undoubtedly have done much good calling attention to wrongs that were done to the Lakota. A scholarship fund has provided $500,000 through 2003 for Native American students. The Foundation is affiliated with Black Hills State University, providing classes, and outreach programs for teachers and local schools. Their stated goals surpass the "mere" completion of a sculpture that will be the largest sculpted human and horse in the world. The Ziolkowski family is dedicated to higher education and improved health care for Native Americans, and long-term Foundation goals include establishing the Indian University of North America campus on the mountain, including a Medical Training Center.
Besides viewing the traditional dancers, we attended a wonderful talk and reading by oft-published and highly awarded writer Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve, at the Educational and Cultural Center. Weekly lectures or performances are given here.
And yet, certain questions kept popping up in my mind… 1. Why are a white man and his descendents making a memorial to represent the great leadership of the Native American people of this nation? OK, it was explained in the orientation film that Lakota elder Henry Standing Bear invited Korczak to carve the Crazy Horse memorial back in 1939. But since that time, 2. Why hasn’t the project been transferred more to Lakota/Native American artists and put under Lakota control? 3. Why is another mountain of the Sacred Rock Nation continuing to be blown apart and reshaped to glorify human beings? 4. Why doesn’t Crazy Horse have stronger Indigenous facial features? In life, he was pure Oglala-Brule Sioux. But to me, the sculpture’s facial features look like he’s at least part White. 5. Why is Crazy Horse pointing with arm outstretched, using index finger? Most traditional Indigenous peoples would not do this. They would point using a more subtle combination of eyes, face, and lips. 6. Why does the sculpture of Crazy Horse make me feel like he is furious? After gazing at the many images of Crazy Horse on the mountain, in the Wall of Windows, on the Viewing Veranda, in the Display Room, and watching explosion after explosion in the orientation movie and video, I get an almost visceral feeling of pure and unrelenting rage that emits from "him". 7. What is this personification into rock of the supposed Spirit of Crazy Horse doing to the actual Spirit of Tashunka Witko ("his horse is crazy")? In the midst of all of this, how can his true Spirit find rest? 8. Most paradoxically of all, most historians agree that for spiritual reasons, Tashunka Witko consistently refused to allow anyone to photograph him; Korczak based his Crazy Horse’s facial features on descriptions given to him by elders who had seen him alive, and maintained that what he was attempting to represent was spirit, not form.
Indigenous American people’s opinions about the Crazy Horse Memorial vary from hearty endorsement and participation in the project, to a more middle of the road view of guarded acceptance and not questioning the elders’ decision in approaching Korczak, all the way to calling it a "desecration" and "monstrosity". Read Dorreen Yellow Bird’s column in the Grand Forks Herald for a moderate view. My Two Beadsworth provides a very thoughtful editorial on the subject. Retired professor emerita Elizabeth Cook-Lynn, a Crow Creek Sioux, minces no words in her opinion of the memorial. But better yet, visit the memorial yourself, and make up your own mind.
Written by Mandan Lynn on 27 Aug, 2007
Deadwood is a pretty cool town in its own right. It’s the former stomping grounds of Wild West heroes such as Calamity Jane and Buffalo Bill Cody, and it’s where Wild Bill Hickok was shot and killed. For a healthy dose of western lore, visit…Read More
Deadwood is a pretty cool town in its own right. It’s the former stomping grounds of Wild West heroes such as Calamity Jane and Buffalo Bill Cody, and it’s where Wild Bill Hickok was shot and killed. For a healthy dose of western lore, visit Deadwood.For a probably unhealthy dose of good fun, visit Deadwood on New Year’s Eve.If you’re in South Dakota for the turn of the year, Deadwood is the place to be. The streets are packed, the casinos full, the spirits flowing.We were there to welcome 2005 and had a great time. We started early and had a big dinner at one of the hotel restaurants. We hopped from casino to casino, pausing for drinks or to gamble a bit (or, in my case, to watch other people gamble -- I’m not the world’s greatest poker player). Drunk people and their money are soon parted.If you’re from South Dakota, you’re going to run into dozens of people you know -- as I said, it’s the place to be. It’s a lot of fun to walk into a casino and see a friend you weren’t expecting to see. That happens continually all night. If you’re not from South Dakota, you’re still bound to have fun. Midwesterners are friendly, welcoming people, so you won’t have to try very hard to make friends. If you’re with a group of people, make sure you all have cell phones. Even if you try to stick together, you’re bound to get separated at some point. Beware the cocktail waitresses. They’re working really hard, and as midnight approaches they get grumpier and grumpier. Stay out of their way. Yikes.Forget Times Square -- at midnight, everyone gathers in the street to watch Deadwood’s own ball drop. I’ve heard it said that Deadwood is the only other place in the country that drops a ball, but I find that hard to believe. If anyone knows that for sure, let me know.I’ve been to some New Years events where the fun shuts down when the clock strikes 12:00. Not so in Deadwood. We kept going in strong fashion for hours after the ball dropped and my friend got confetti in her eye. There are excellent breakfast buffets in Deadwood, so see if you can stay awake long enough to take advantage of them -- but be prepared to wait in line.If you’re not planning to have a designated driver, book your hotel room months in advance and expect to pay quite a bit of money. Close
The George S. Mickelson Trail is part of the state's Rails to Trails program, where they take old railroad routes and turn them into hiking/biking/horseback riding trails, and is named for our beloved governor who died in a plane crash. This trail runs 109 miles…Read More
The George S. Mickelson Trail is part of the state's Rails to Trails program, where they take old railroad routes and turn them into hiking/biking/horseback riding trails, and is named for our beloved governor who died in a plane crash. This trail runs 109 miles from Edgemont to Deadwood. There are several trailheads along the path where you can start or stop a short journey, if you're not up for 109 miles. The fee is $2 for the day, or $10 for the entire season if you plan to go more than five times. You can buy your pass at the self-service stations along the trail or online.In early summer, my aunt dropped my friend Joel and I off at the Dumont Trailhead. We only had two bikes, so it was decided that Joel and I would bike and Judi would just drive along and pick us up at the Mystic Trailhead about 18 miles down the road. No, not a long ride, but I'm not much for biking, so we're lucky I was out there at all.It was a chilly day, and I was glad to be wearing my pants and a sweatshirt. My aunt let me borrow her camel pack, which I appreciated when I could manage to drink from it without cracking up.We chose a part of the trail that was mostly downhill, but the ride can get a little more strenuous at other areas. Like I said, I don't really enjoy biking, but I loved this little trip. When we got to Mystic, we contemplated continuing our ride another 12 miles into Hill City, where we would have lunch at the Alpine Inn, but it was getting colder and looking like rain, so we called it day. The ride was beautiful. We saw a little waterfall, countless charming little houses, livestock, wildlife, junk yards, and a shed made out of cyanide lids.If you like the outdoors and like to hike, bike, or ride horses, the Mickelson Trail is an excellent route to take. Close