Serendipity in South Dakota

I desperately needed to find a place to sleep, I was in the middle of nowhere without a chance to get to any campground or motel before dark. The only thing I could do is to go to one of the farms around and ask if I can open a tent on their land. So I went to the closest house that I saw and I found a lovely native family that welcomed me, invited for dinner and use their showers. After that we had a long conversation about history of their tribe and how they still suffering from the “white men” or “long knives” how the call the colonizers and US government in general.

I learned that even if they lived on this land for thousands of years they don’t own it, US government does and Bureau of Indian Affairs can take it any time or replace people. Lyle, the father of the family and instructor at Oglala Lakota College, half jokingly says that Lakota people are still considered POW, because that’s what reservations actually are. That fact stops the development of the community including development of renewable energy and sustainable leaving. I also was surprised to know that they learned a lot from Arava Institute, because the conditions are similar (so I’m not the only one who thought that the area looks like south of Israel), how to build houses.

Another problem that the tribe is facing is the control of the corporations over their agriculture produce. Their leaders signed agreements with those companies without thinking about the future and getting only short-term benefits. Now they can’t even keep the seeds for the next year, but need to buy them every year. It’s actually illegal to keep the seeds; somehow these companies with their lobby convinced the government that it makes sense. But he added that the situation it’s their fault, they trusted the community leaders too much without checking what are they doing and now the entire community suffers. These can be a lesson to everybody, not just for natives – you destiny and future of your children is your responsibility, you can’t blame the government, if you are just blindly following their decisions you will suffer in the end, they will be fine.

But I was glad to hear that slowly they are taking initiative. Traditions are coming back, many people started to practice native rituals again after all the attempts to erase them and turn everybody to Christians. Lakota language is taught again to children. Alcohol is banned and not ruining the tribe anymore. More and more people understand that sustainability is the key for independent future from the “long knifes”. They are not agree anymore, because just being angry is not doing anything, but they still remember how colonizers treated them and the massacre that happened not far from the place I stayed.

The conversation ended with my understanding how little I know about the history about native Americans and amazed how much Lyle knows about Israeli-Palestinian conflict (but about that in another post). His wife Cony gave me a dream catcher with the promise that I’ll bring it to Israel and will learn more about the history of their tribe.

The storm wasn’t too bad and I was excited to see the Black Hills the sacred land of Lakota people.

It’s impossible to describe how much I enjoyed the ride next morning. Without the stress of time the other 20 km of the gravel road where much easier to handle but still it was a great release to get on the asphalt again. Little bit more than an hour I entered the Black Hills and for the next 3 hours I experienced the best ride of my life. I can’t put into words all the excitement from taking all the sharp turns that sometimes went 360ª, and at the same time I saw spectacular rocks sticking from the ground. No wonder that many tribes were so impressed by this nature wonder that decided that this is center of the world. When I’ll have time to edit all the videos that I took during the ride maybe you will understand little bit what I’m talking about.

I didn’t even go to Mt. Rushmore, I wasn’t ready to pay 11$ for parking to see bunch of tourist and ruined rocks that turned into faces (I able to respect the technical part of the process, but all the idea is not for me). And I continued to my next stop – Sheridan, WY.

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