Part Two 

Went to Chamber of Commerce in Kyle, fascinating prospect, but opted to lay down on coach rather than listen to a talk:

Kyle in Oglala Lakota County, South Dakota, has a population of 846 and is located within the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation of the Oglala Lakota, it is one of two settlements which are closest to the North American continental pole of inaccessibility which marks a location that is the most challenging to reach according to that criterion. Often it refers to the most distant point from the coastline. In these cases, a pole of inaccessibility can be defined as the centre of the largest circle that can be drawn within an area of interest without encountering a coast. The community was named after James H. Kyle, a Senator from South Dakota. 

We stopped off at the Ranch Hotel to pick up  guide Jeremy on way to Wounded Knee. Debbie took sage, we saw Lost Birds grave, Joan lost her camera, Yvonne stayed on the coach. Brett and Pearl looked as though they had something to do… 

Obviously we stopped at a  gift store and education centre where I bought a Dreamcatcher in the shape of a tepee honouring women and their work. Joan found her camera in a bin, Debbie bought a rock painted to depict wounded knee and Maureen denuded the fields of sage. On the way back we encountered a raging forest fire with trees being felled to break the fire and cars and caravans abandoned in the face of the wall of fire. 

We stopped at Common Courts for refreshment, most chose ice cream, I chose coffee, then chose to spill it all over my skirt on the bus. 

At the tepee camp an elder gave us a lecture on the native way of life and ancestral stories, all acknowledged by a cap being passed which we filled with dollars. We are clearly like a mobile cash point for the locals. 

Two of our young guides were planning a night o the town, despite my youthful urge to join them, I simply gave them some cash to make their night a little easier on their pockets- they were so grateful. 

The camp leader brought his children to join us driving Debbie into instant  granny mode, my greater concern was the giant crickets, mice and assorted other rodents ( surely there must be snakes somewhere too?) that infested our tepees. Debbie didn’t like the mushroom stroganoff opting for pasta, but there was so much excess food that the serving staff helped themselves at the end, we could barely move. When Debbie entered her tepee she found one of the huge grasshoppers for company and expelled them by playing flute, a sort of Pied Piper without the drowning at the end. 

Di is checking the itinerary. I am not sure why, as the itinerary has borne little resemblance to the original plan. 

James and Sally disappear romantically over the brow of a hill, probably to our wooden, well ventilated toilet, just as well, it’s likely to become a bit steamy I think. 

An elder gave us another fable before departing. We decided to sig some London songs to the remaining tribes man, exactly what they made of “Knee’s Up Mother Brown” ( complete with traditional London tribal dance), “Maybe its because I’m a Londoner”,  “Waterloo Sunset” and “London Calling” is unknown 

Thursday 13th July 

Debbie and Yvonne went back to the ranch, listening to songs, and getting to know the men a bit better, six of us remained to listen to songs after Debbie had sung a beautiful song called “Rose”. Our tent, as always, was the last to fall quiet, 

The camaraderie was wonderful, with much laughter normally around the quickfire wit of Di and Pearl, the latter the mistress of the one liner. That night a huge electrical storm broke with the guides frantically tethering down the tepees as we screamed at the tepee doors blowing open in the thunder and rain. Deb re-joined us, she was so scared, grasshoppers were driven off the inside of the roof of the tepee by the violent rainstorm, Pearl hid and became frantic, unable to breathe I lit a fire and held her to comfort her and made everyone some coffee sleep was impossible. It was raining water outside, and grasshoppers inside!  For breakfast, the chef brought pizza. 

From natural disaster to manmade disaster, the coach to the Ranch had insufficient seats, the ranch had insufficient rooms, the rooms had insufficient washing facilities 

Horses trip 

We went out to find wild mustangs and visit another reservation which amazingly had a gift shop.  

I met Russell Means who champions on site Indian education rather than the shipping out of children to white schools, with no reference to their tribal past, robbing them of their history and culture. He also writes books and poems and preaches, saving lost souls. 

He spoke of husband’s involvement in bringing up children, the respect with which mother in laws are held in order that they too can gain respectability, but his views were politically extreme, bigoted and his arrogance overwhelming. He brought the entire day down, and the entire trip, with disorganisation at the heart of it, reached a new low. The trip had, been organised by the Indian Tourist Board. But he won over some of our party, with Maureen suggesting we sponsor a child’s education at his school and Debbie enthralled by his words. Our coach driver said no-one listened to Russell. 

Mitch is bemused by the poor organisation and suggests we organise a private guide to see some sights privately and that we have been taken in circles, always involving gifts shops. Fractures are appearing in the group as we are given Friday off with the planned visits cancelled, Joan is outspoken in voicing her dismay at the lack of culture on the trip, Debs view is that it is an experience, not a holiday. 

Badlands National Park 

Home of the Lakota tribe Badlands National Park is located in southwestern South Dakota. The park protects 242,756 acres of sharply eroded buttes and pinnacles, along with the largest undisturbed mixed grass prairie in the United States. The National Park Service manages the park, with the South Unit being co-managed with the Oglala Lakota tribe 

The Badlands Wilderness protects 64,144 acres of the park as a designated wilderness area, and is one site where the black-footed ferret, one of the most endangered mammals in the world, was reintroduced to the wild We didn’t see one! .The South Unit, or Stronghold District,  where the last battles between the US Army and native Indians occurred, following which the Lakota were driven onto reservations and the railways destroyed  traditional Buffalo hunting,includes sites of 1890s Ghost Dances, a former United States Air Force bomb and gunnery range unexploded ordinance makes the area still dangerous, despite clearance efforts, and Red Shirt Table, the park’s highest point at 3,340 feet , tour guide Antony Wounded Head wanted to take us to the top- but the coach driver said the bus would not make it. The park also administers the nearby Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, it was scary to think that the end of the world could have been orchestrated from such a beautiful, awe inspiring place. 

Movies such as Dances with Wolves (1990) and Thunderheart (1992) were partially filmed here, so it seemed strangely familiar. We drove past the White River and visited an education centre which stressed how much native Lakota culture and language is taught to the young people. 

We learned of the ghost dances. The Ghost was a new religious movement incorporated into numerous Native American belief systems. According to the teachings of the Northern Paiute spiritual leader Wovoka (renamed Jack Wilson), proper practice of the dance would reunite the living with spirits of the dead, bring the spirits to fight on their behalf, make the white colonists leave, and bring peace, prosperity, and unity to Native American peoples throughout the region. 

The basis for the Ghost Dance is the circle dance, a traditional Native American dance in which the participants work themselves into an hallucinogenic state, The Ghost Dance was first practiced by the Nevada Northern Paiute in 1889. The practice swept throughout much of the Western United States, quickly reaching areas of California and Oklahoma. As the Ghost Dance spread from its original source, different tribes synthesized selective aspects of the ritual with their own beliefs. 

The Ghost Dance was associated with Wovoka’s prophecy of an end to white expansion while preaching goals of clean living, an honest life, and cross-cultural cooperation by Indians. Practice of the Ghost Dance movement was believed to have contributed to Lakota resistance to assimilation under the Dawes Act. In the Wounded Knee Massacre in December 1890, United States Army forces killed at least 153 Miniconjou and Hunkpapa from the Lakota people. The Lakota variation on the Ghost Dance tended towards millenarianism, an innovation that distinguished the Lakota interpretation from Jack Wilson’s original teachings. The Caddo still practice the Ghost Dance today. 

It’s a hard life, working the land, or fixing the cars of tourists and agricultural vehicles, waiting for the Badlands to start treating you good. 

Dust clouds swirled as we drove along, stopping to see the Black Hills and Horny Peak, Sally and James were tempted to climb it. But it is a strange experience, the entire area is regarded as sacred by the Lakota, but much of it is fenced off by the US Military, It was a long day lightened by singing on the coach with Debbie treating us to our favourite “Rose” and James dedicating Yazoo’s “Only You” to Sally. Traditional drums were then brought out and as we drove through Hermosa there was the contrast between the old railway station and saloon bars, and the new refineries, as the area is rich in natural resources.  

We return to Rapid City at the end of a long day having crossed the Cheyenne river to civilisation, and had a sumptuous meal including shark tournedos, chicken and pasta, I had my photo taken by an American man eating with his wife! We thn went to the bar and was chatted up by a good guy, I introduced him to the girls, then his brother moved in on me like a shark, the girls ensured I made it to my room safely!  

Pearl woke me up the following morning, breathless, getting ready to go and we packed our cases. Once on the coaches Debbie, Pam Joan and I had a laugh about the folly of last night. 

Joan made an adverse comment about the organisation and Maureen was furious and decided to have a go at Pam when she was on her own- but Maureen could not organise a downward stream, upon leaving she had left everyone to their own devices but took her own baggage, leaving me to sort out a wheelchair for Yvonne. Maureen has divided the group and been divisive, alienating Pam and Joan completely and behaving totally childishly. Never have I been so pleased as when our departure Gate 5 from the airport at Rapid City came up- my escape was confirmed.  

My confidence in Northwest Airways was dented when a section of the planes ceiling collapsed onto passengers- but fortunately the wings and engine held out and took us home. 

It had been quite a journey. 

Jane Osbourne

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