Upon leaving Hot Springs around noon, I decided to make a “pilgrimage “ to the Wounded Knee Massacre Historical Site. I have always had a keen interest in Native American History and read “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” last year when I had hoped to make the trip here. Even though I have known of the bloody history and carnage brought on Native Americans in the name of the “white settlers” need for more land and more territory, I felt especially enraged at a new level upon reading this narrative of the stealing of land and territory and slaughter of Native Americans. It was important to me to visit this site and reflect and ponder again the terrible atrocities wrecked on the many tribes but especially the Lakota Nation as the site is in the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and territory is in this area of South Dakota. There was such a sombre pall I felt as I gazed across the grasslands and upon the ridges there. It was a powerful vista and made even more so by the Oglala cemetery on a hill that is part of the massacre site. For someone like myself who has such a peaceful heart and soul, it is hard to even imagine such malice in the human heart.
I had the opportunity to converse with members of the Elk Family, “Hehaka Tiospaye” as they have an arts and crafts table at the site. They are Oglala Lakota, a tribe of the Sioux, a proud descant of “Crazy Horse. James talked with me about the massacre and took the time to point out the spots where the women and children were slaughtered but for one child he called ”Lost Bird.” Lost Bird lived many years and her grave could be found at the cemetery atop the hill where there is a well worn and aging monument to those slaughtered at Wounded Knee. A circle of “gifts” honoring the fallen was before the monument. The overgrown cemetery where tribal members have been buried throughout the years was also a sombre experience. I drove to the top of one of the highest hills and just gazed upon this land with a heavy heart. I tried to imagine what it must have been like back in the days when the native Americans were constantly routed from their native lands. In driving through the entire reservation area I observed that there was very little evidence of wealth but most areas appeared relatively impoverished and homes mostly manufactured and of small size.
It was time to journey onto Grizzly Creek Campground in the Black Hill near the town of Keystone – another one of the gaudy tourist trap towns to encourage people to buy more and more stuff that they don’t need but just have to have—- now I must admit that I too succumb to this “need” which is now focused on a T-shirt and patch from every national park. And for those of you who know my history I have enough T-shirts to wear a clean one every day for a year probably. Clearly this is a want but not a need!!
We arrived at the campground under a very threatening sky. I had just got out of the car and let the dogs out when immediately a strong wind blew in followed by driving rain and pelting hail. This was a fitting finale for a somber day. We just about dove back into the car and had a somewhat nerve-wracking hour waiting to be able to set up camp. Kili is petrified of storms and trembling, so his needing to be close to me didn’t make for it to be easier. I tried a phone call but the reception was so variable, it was a conversation of frustration! But finally it settled down to a very light drizzle so I opted to at least get the tent set up. Thank goodness I had my emergency $1.00 rain poncho handy. When it started up again I grabbed the ground cloth to cover up the tent so hopefully I would not be inside a soaked piece of nylon and netting. Here again, not thinking it through the bottom of the cloth was laden with dirt and now the slightly damp tent was dusted with dirt which i foresaw dusting me in the night as it dried and the winds blew. But the set-up eventually happened and I am so glad it is summer and light late so as not to have to negotiate everything in the dark.