At Wounded Knee

The southern portion of Badlands National Park is jointly managed by the National Park and by the Oglala Lakota. The hope was that one day this section of the park would be the first Tribal National Park in the country. Those plans have not yet become a reality. The northern unit of the park hosts the scientific interpretation of the land and holds all of the associated resources you’d expect at a National Park.

The southern unit is entirely within the Pine Ridge Reservation. At the White River Visitor Center, you can hear the historical interpretation of the people of this area, from paleo-Indians to European settlers to US Army Air Force troops in WWII who used the reservation land for a gunnery range and bombing practice. Just under 350,000 acres were acquired by eminent domain from the Oglala Lakota in 1942 on the pretext that it was “unused, unoccupied, and blighted”. 

Wounded Knee is not within the boundaries of the Park. Its history is told in signs, tombstones, graffiti and the living words of people who live in extreme poverty, mistrustful of neighbors and governments and directly impacted by changes in climate and habitat for the animals that provide their sustenance. I am grateful to Mr. Apple (age 25) and Mr. Fast Horse (age 13) for sharing their story. 

My heart aches for these people, for their wounded dignity, for their invisibility, for their spoiled livelihood. That “living off the land” was ever possible for humans in this place year-round is doubtful, especially after the buffalo herds were decimated by European immigrants. This is an area of seasonal extremes, a place to which you’d make a sacred pilgrimage, spend a time in awe, and respectfully vacate. 

To see the land as sacred, wild, and autonomous allows an attitude of humility to flourish and banishes thoughts of domination, extraction and exploitation.  It brings truer balance and harmony to the relationship. Perhaps from this new understanding, a more sustainable future will develop for our species. 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Story

For this week’s challenge, do some visual storytelling with your photography.”
Once upon a time…

I am terribly afraid that this story will end in mining and development and that the places where these photos were taken will be forever altered. However, there is always a chance to re-write the ending. 

Story

Weekly Photo Challenge: Waiting

Waiting…
It’s a natural process. Waiting for the sun to rise in the sky. Waiting for its warmth to reach the earth, to reach this spot. Waiting for the vessels to dilate, the blood to flow, the muscles to quicken. Waiting for life to unfold in its due time.
The desert is a good place to wait and a good place to watch for changes. It has much to teach us. We would suffer if we lost so great a teacher. 

Waiting

Weekly Photo Challenge: Collage

Here is a gallery collage of photos from my recent series, An American Adventure. In a two-week road trip, I visited eight National Parks and Monuments in Colorado, Utah, and South Dakota. If you would like to see the entire collection of 17 blog posts, click on the banner headline An American Adventure. 

Collage

Weekly Photo Challenge: Heritage

We head out today from Wisconsin toward Utah, where canyonlands beckon. Steve used to volunteer for the National Park Service at Wupatki National Monument helping with archaeological and anthropological studies, and it ignited in him a passion for indigenous desert cultures. This will be our fourth trip out West together.  Here is a photo from our first trip. This is Mesa Verde in Colorado: 

Here is one I took in the Ojito Wilderness in New Mexico on our last trip: 

On the way back, we stopped at the Cahokia Mounds State Historic site in Illinois where we saw the remnants of a pre-Columbian city of approximately 10,000 inhabitants. Some of those Mississippian peoples also settled in Wisconsin at what is now Aztalan State Park, where we’ve visited several times. 

The more I learn about cultures who thrived in this country long before European settlers arrived, the more I appreciate the relationship they had with the places they lived. Our heritage as human beings is written on the landscape. We need to learn from the evidence of how we’ve impacted the resources of desert, woodland, or any other habitat. What we will pass on to the next generations of Earth inhabitants hinges on this collective wisdom. 

Heritage

Weekly Photo Challenge: Green is Easy on My Eyes

I work for a Conservation Foundation. We try very hard to be green! Protecting watersheds and wildlife habitat while preventing the development of natural lands into human-dominated environments is a labor of passion and commitment for me. Green is not just my favorite color and the highlight in my eyes, it is my preferred world view! Here’s my green gallery:


It IS Easy Being Green!