South Dakota, Crossing Nebraska, and Wyoming to Colorado
Enroute 3 major stops
- Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
- Smith Lake for some R&R. This hidden gem was highly recommended by the locals.
- Scott’s Bluff National Monument
PINE RIDGE INDIAN RESERVATION
After 4 amazing days in Badlands National Park, we continued south to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. This reservation is mostly located in South Dakota and a small part in Nebraska. It is one of the largest Indian reservations in the USA consisting of around 8990 sq kilometres. Sadly, it is also one of the poorest in the USA. We are told around 25000 people live in the reservation. Located at the southern end of the Badlands National Park, this area is part of the mixed grass prairie a transition zone between the short and tall grass prairies. All this is part of the great plains.
First town we stopped was Porcupine population 1000 it is the unofficial capital of the unrecognized Republic of Lakotah. About 31% of all families live below the poverty line. It is also home to the famous nonprofit radio station KILI 90.1 FM broadcasting Latoka music in the Great Sioux Nation. It started broadcasting in 1983 as the first American Indian-owned radio station in the United States.
Today the village of wounded knee ( remember the song; WE ARE ALL WOUNDED AT WOUNDED KNEE) has a population of around 450 people and is located within the Pine Ridge Reservation. The location of the Wounded Knee National Historic Landmark was the exact location of the 1890 massacre. And is now a National Historic Landmark listed as “Wounded Knee Battlefield.” Unfortunately, the landmark and cemetery suffer from neglect, and it is a shame the owners of the land do not provide regular maintenance. We declined to give a donation advising them to start cleaning up and maintaining the area first, before we would consider donating as it does not appear the money is used for the upkeep of the cemetery and Historic site.
AT THE END OF THIS BLOG I HAVE INCLUDED THE HISTORY OF PINE RIDGE & WOUNDED KNEE.
From the village of wounded knee, we crossed into the state of Nebraska where we camped for a few days on the shore of remote lake Smith with no-one around. Nebraska Wildlife Management Area maintain this area. Lake Smith is a beautiful place to relax and for 2.5 days we were the only campers.
From Lake Smith we continued south towards Nebraska’s panhandle winch forms the boundary with Colorado. As one of the central states of the United States, Nebraska was primarily a stopover point for those migrating to the north and west as well as to the settlement and mining frontiers of the mountain and Pacific regions in the early 19th century. Much of the land is prairie, driving North to south we constantly drove around the 1300-meter mark. Nebraska is located on some of the most important arteries linking east and west.
The Great Plains region, occupying most of western Nebraska, is characterized by treeless plains.
We were warned about Violent thunderstorms, Hail and Tornadoes in Nebraska and did we know it. While on our way to Scott’s Bluff National Monument we had to outrun a huge thunder and hailstorm. This stopped us doing the detour to car henge Nebraska’s answer to Stonehenge. Carhenge is a replication of Stonehenge, England’s ancient mystical alignment of stones that chart the sun and moon phases. Instead of being built with large standing stones, as is the case with the original Stonehenge, Carhenge is formed from vintage American automobiles, all covered with grey spray paint. Pictures used are not mine.
Before looking for an overnight spot we first visited Scott’s Bluff National Monument Towering nearly 300 meters above the North Platte River, Scott’s Bluff has served as a landmark for Native Americans, Pioneers, and emigrants in the early 1900’s.
The monument is located on the SW side of the city of Scottsbluff, and it rises high above the plains so there is no need to worry about missing it. There are five major outcroppings on the bluffs, known as Dome Rock, Crown Rock, Sentinel Rock, Eagle Rock, and Saddle Rock. Over 250,000 emigrants passed by Scott’s Bluff between 1843 and 1869 all going west. It was the second-most referred to landmark on the Emigrant Trails in pioneer journals and diaries. The 15-minute video presentation at the visitor centre is a must see and explain the history of the opening up the west of the US, the Oregon Trial, Pony Express Trial, and California Trial
Not realizing at the time that we would be hit by another storm while at the Walmart in Scott’s Bluff. Hail, gale-force 60mph wind gusts and huge thunderstorm, the local radio advising all to stay indoor forecasting trees and roofs to come off and vehicles being damaged by hail. Lucky for us we had no damage.
After leaving Scott’s Bluff in Nebraska, our first stop in Colorado was Loveland. A neat little town on the foot of the Rocky Mountains National Park.
Till next time when we Explore Northern and Central Colorado, the Rocky Mountains, and the world-famous ski areas where many years ago we did ski.
PINE RIDGE HISTORY, (WOUNDED KNEE)
In 1874 George Amstrong Custer led the U.S. Army, to Pine Ridge, its mission was to look for suitable locations for a fort, find a route to the southwest, and to investigate the potential for gold mining. After the discovery of gold was made public, miners began invading Sioux Territory. As more settlers and gold miners encroached upon the Black Hills, the Government decided it had to acquire the land from the Sioux. The negotiations failed, as the Sioux resisted giving up what they considered sacred land. The U.S. resorted to military force.
In 1876 the U.S. Congress decided to open the Black Hills to development and break up the Great Sioux Reservation. In 1877, 31,000 km2 of the Black Hills became available for sale to private interests. In 1889, Pine Ridge was established.
Seeking some hope for improving their terrible living conditions, including hunger and starvation due to the loss of land in their reservation in the late 1880s, the Lakota responded to their prophet who promised the disappearance of the white man and a return of native lands and buffalo during rites and dances. These rites were called Ghost dances, this became a real issue and scared the white settlers and led to federal military intervention. This led to the first major conflict in 1890 between the native Americans and the Federal Government.
WOUNDED KNEE MASSACRE (Remember the song “we are all wounded at wounded knee”
The U.S. Army stopped the Ghost Dance movement, on December 14, 1890. People fled the reservation but surrendered on the night of December 28. The group was surrounded and disarmed when a scuffle broke out over a rifle. A shot went off within the group of struggling men, and, from close range, the soldiers, fired into the crowd killing many of them instantly. Those who fled were pursued, and some were killed miles from the camp. Although the total number of Native people who died during the Wounded Knee Massacre is unknown, 150–300 men, women, and children were killed by U.S. troops.
146 men, women, and children were buried by the U.S. Army in a mass grave soon after the massacre. At least 28 U.S. soldiers were killed.
The second conflict happened in 1973.
On February 27, 1973, 200 members of the American Indian Movement led by Russel Means and Dennis Banks
Occupied the reservation village of Wounded Knee by force, and declared it declared it the Independent, stating they would stay until the U.S. federal government met AIM’s demands for a change in tribal leaders, review of all treaties made with Native peoples, and an investigation into the poor treatment of Native Americans. It did not take long before the village was surrounded by federal marshals, and a siege started. It took 2.5 months before American Indian Movement surrendered (May 8) and left wounded knee in exchange for a promise of negotiations with the federal government.
I remember this well as the band Redbone in 1973 had major hit in Europe with the song WE WERE ALL WOUNDED AT WOUNDED KNEE. This song was made as a tribute to the massacre in 1890 but also the 2.5-month standoff in 1973 between the American Indian Movement and the federal authorities. In the USA, this song was withheld from release due to the song’s controversy and a sore subject it was also banned from many radio stations in the USA.
However, lots more controversy.
- In 1942 the federal government took privately held Pine Ridge Indian Reservation land owned by tribal members to establish the Badlands Bombing Range. 125 families were evicted.
- on June 26, 1975, the reservation was the site of an armed confrontation between AIM activists and the FBI and their allies, which became known as the ‘Pine Ridge Shootout’.
- On February 24, 1976, the body of Anna Aquash, the most prominent woman in American Indian Movement was found in the far northeast corner of the Pine Ridge Reservation. Missing since December 1975, she had been shot execution-style.
- Alcoholism among residents has been a continuing problem in the life of the reservation since its founding.