Thursday, February 26, 2009

SaFe and Sound in Sioux Falls

I am here. It took an extra couple of hours, but I'm grateful that I did not take any unscheduled detours into a ditch.

Here are some views of the desolate, wind-blown plains; it never did get very warm today (wind chills below zero)...

Even the interstate was kind of scary in places. The sun broke out when I got to the Missouri River for a little bit (where the deepest part of the river is now open--i.e., no longer frozen), then it was clouds all the way to Sioux Falls, where it is snowing now.

Here's the only pheasant I saw today:

Here's what the phone books are called here. :)

And here's evidence that I'm alive & well & in my fancy hotel room.

Ciao from the big city on the prairie,

Bugging out...

Wouldn't you know... I was supposed to leave here early Friday morning for my afternoon flight out of Sioux Falls, but there's a winter storm invading! Luckily, the worst of it is north of I-90, my main travel route. However, the temp.s are going to be way below zero on Thursday night. A little bit of "wintry mix" fell last night. So I'm leaving a day early--TODAY, in just a couple hours--so I can travel in the warmest part of the day today and get to Sioux Falls in plenty of time, as safely as possible.

I always have a hard time with goodbyes, and the suddenness of my departure makes this whole thing kind of weird. I have already said a few, and I'll leave a note for everyone in the Lakota Studies department, but I won't get to leave the way I imagined. I know this is okay; it just feels strange.

In the past few days, I have reminded myself that I will be back... so I don't have to worry about something I didn't get to see, or something I don't yet understand, or someplace I want to be again, or someone I want to talk with again. I don't know when or how, but I will be back!

Goodbye, Rosebud. I will miss you like heck! And yet I'm SO excited to go home!

Here are a couple last photos of one of my favorite places here--taken at Grass Mountain on a nicer day. :)

I'll post a note when I get to Sioux Falls...

Ciao from the prairie,

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A puzzle for Dexter

Dear Dexter,

Can you figure out what I did yesterday? I'll give you some photos as clues:

This last one might give it away...

Also, here are some creatures who might be friends of P.Dogg's... They put up a BIG fuss when I got close to their village!

This guy told me to get a close-up shot. So I did!

See you soon!


Friday, February 20, 2009

Bits and bobs

I have a bunch of little things I thought I'd post...

1. The weather
I experienced a bona fide prairie snow storm here Friday. It only snowed a little, but the WIND was AMAZING! It was going 20-30 mph, blowing the snow sideways when it was falling... and making it bitter cold outside last night. The wind chill was a few degrees below zero, but things should warm up early next week (upper 40s predicted for northern Nebraska, so it should be similar here).

Here is a photo of what it looked like while it was snowing:

2. A new scientific development
I seem to have caught Patrick's cold OVER THE PHONE! I have the same symptoms right now that he had last week--tired (wanting to sleep a lot), scratchy throat, and hungry all the time--and yet I'm a thousand miles away. ?? (I'm really grateful Mom was at my house last week so that Patrick could get some rest.)

3. An interesting factoid
The nearest McDonald's is 33 miles away. I think this is a good thing. (Needless to say, I haven't missed it.)

4. Advice for Dick Cheney
Dude. The next time you come to South Dakota* to bag pheasant, leave your guns at home and instead just drive on a state road around dusk. I have come thisclose to killing pheasant with this method at least half a dozen times without even meaning to. And that way you don't run the risk of shooting a friend in the face.

5. Here are some photos that I haven't posted yet...

More turkeys! I see them every time I venture out of Mission...

You thought we were odd for having a purple house? (lilac, really) Well, the town of St. Francis has a PURPLE CHURCH!

(Oddly enough, this Catholic church in St. Francis is not named after him; it was named something like St. Stephen Boromeo??) Apparently they let the kids choose the color; the kids, having good taste, chose purple. The grownups tried to talk them out of it, but no go. So they have a purple church.

Here is another colorful house on the rez:
According to a couple people here, the houses are painted these bright colors because the paint is FREE from the government. Who knew the US guvmint had such interesting taste in exterior paint colors! I find it refreshing, actually. I found a purple house, too, but the photo didn't come out; near Rosebud (the town) there's a row of alternating bright-green & bright-turquoise houses (again, photo didn't come out).

Here is a wall-o-beads at the Crazy Horse Memorial.

6. And finally: the big reveal!
Here is my project for Traditional Lakota Arts class: baby moccasins!
(Sorry for the bad focus in that first photo there.)

It was so exciting to have it all come together in a three-dimensional object as I was sewing it together (with *sinew*, thank you very much! but I used a metal needle rather than bone). I wonder: do Lakota people have second-moccasin syndrome? :) (Here's an explanation of second-sock syndrome for the non-knitters in the audience.) I took notes, so I hope I can finish the second one on my own... and then make eleventy-two billion more pairs. It was fun! And, thanks to the class, I know how these geometrical shapes tell a story. I've always loved looking at beadwork, but now it will mean so much more to me...

7. Progress in speaking Lakota
I'm just on the EDGE of being able to speak simple sentences in Lakota. (I can read them out of the book just fine; what I'd like to be able to do is speak them from out of my own head...) I'm getting how verbs are conjugated, where the different parts of speech go in the sentence, what the pronouns are... Now all I need is a) more vocabulary, and b) good recall. :)

8. Tempus fugit
It's official: less than a week from now, I will be back home in Ohio. Time has really flown by fast during this part of my sabbatical adventure. I'm really excited to be seeing my fambly soon! And yet I know I'll be sad to leave here. Such a crazy stew of emotions.

Be well, everyone,

*My mother-in-law has some funny stories about the "top secret" hunting trips Dick Cheney and friends have taken in the area--complete with circling miliary helicopters, a C130 (ginormous cargo plane), and 38-car motorcades. Yeah, that wouldn't be unusual out here... AS IF! I think cows outnumber people in this part of the state...

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Yet another field trip!!

This past Monday I headed to Rapid City with trusty tour guide Steve, who is famous for his beakneck-speed tours of various places. It's a several-hours drive out to the western edge of the state, but it was a great day, clear and sunny and not too cold, and the views were spectacular.

We hit lots of cool places after doing a couple errands. First stop: a place called Prairie Edge that's a store, though it's more like a museum that you can buy stuff out of. (If you click on the link, you'll hear a nice greeting in Lakota!) There was an art gallery and a bookstore inside, but also a HUGE room with traditional art pieces made by native artisans: painted buffalo robes, drums, staffs, beaded dresses, painted dresses, pipe bags, rawhide containers, beaded bags, pipes, dolls, jewelry... it was pretty overwhelming. I felt like maybe I might pass out--it's amazing to see all this stuff in one place, all of it made by hand, and all a continuation of the artwork that people have been making on this continent for centuries... The prices reflect the value of the pieces, so my purchases were limited to the bookstore section. :)

We also stopped in the section of the store called Sioux Trading Post where people buy the SUPPLIES to make said pieces--beads, sinew, feathers, hides, quills... That was awesome, too; I didn't buy a whole lot, but I might have to get some stuff from them online at some point.

After fortifying ourselves with some lunch (shopping made me hungry), we headed to our next stop: the Black Hills! (Paha Sapa, or He Sapa, in Lakota) We went to the Crazy Horse Memorial, a project initiated by the Oglala Lakota in which they recruited Polish-American sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski to blast the work out of one of the hills. (He has since died and his wife and some of his 10 children are carrying on the work.) Here is the monument itself:

And here is the statue that serves as a model for the larger piece (partly in shadow--sorry about that):

It will eventually be a huge complex complete with educational center... Here is more information (and lots better photos).

In the visitor's center there's a section with native artwork, including these two pieces--a pair of gloves (not traditional Lakota themes here; maybe more like Anishnaabeg)...

... and a fully beaded bag:

You might notice that this piece features the American flag prominently. There were a number of older pieces with the American flag beaded into them at the St. Francis museum that I wasn't allowed to take photos of. Steve explained that for a time, the 4th of July was the only time that the Lakota were allowed to practice their traditional ways of life, so the American flag started showing up a lot in beadwork. (Historical note: Albert told us in class that until 1978, it was actually ILLEGAL to hold ceremonies. That's 1978, people! Within my lifetime! It's mind-boggling.)

After stopping by a place called Claw, Antler, and Hide company (wow, everybody's got a web site these days!) to pick up supplies for one of Steve's classes (THAT was an experience), we next headed through Custer State Park--definitely the best thing going in the Rapid City area, in my opinion. I've only seen it once before, last summer, so it was neat to see it in snow. Here are some pics I snapped as Steve kindly drove the twisty roads through the park:

We didn't see the buffalo who live there, but we did see some deer:

And this particular grove of trees intrigued me:

I know I keep saying this, but it was BEAUTIFUL! Again!

I hope you get to witness something beautiful today,

Field trip to Grass Mountain

On Sunday I went on another field trip! This time closer to here: Grass Mountain, which is southwest of here and within the Rosebud Reservation. It is so beautiful out there. The Little White River winds through the area, and there's a big mountain-looking bluff that is indeed covered with grass--and some pine trees, wild yucca, and such. At one point I pulled my car off the road, got out, and just stood there quietly, soaking up the sun and listening to the flowing water (mni, in Lakota) and singing birds. (I saw chickadees, but also heard a crow and some finches and something else I couldn't identify.)

I'll copy some photos here, though I don't think I could quite capture the place in them.

I stood out there for quite a while (in the spot pictured below), only two cars passing me. It was peacefulness in three dimensions and five senses.

May you find some peace today,

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Field trip

On Friday I had the afternoon free. I had lunch with Eva (one of the students I met here), and then decided to go on a field trip to Wounded Knee. As many times as I've been to South Dakota, and as many times as I've read about it, I hadn't seen it, and I felt like it was time.

Wounded Knee is on the Pine Ridge reservation, about 90 miles west & a little south from where I'm staying. It's the site of two hugely significant events in American Indian history in general, and Lakota history specifically. In 1890, the 7th cavalry killed about 250 men, women, and children who were encamped near Wounded Knee; the Lakota had been practicing the Ghost Dance religion, and their presence made the army nervous. In addition to reading Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee when I was a kid, more recently I taught Charles Eastman's autobiography, From the Deep Woods to Civilization, in which he describes the incident (he was a doctor on Pine Ridge at the time). If you want a quick link, go here.

What really sticks with me about the 1890 massacre are that the native people were at the end of their rope, given that the government, which was supposed to take care of them now, was infamous for not delivering enough food for people to survive. Moreover, they were practicing their religion; so religious suspicion and intolerance is laced through its history, for me.

Then there's the 1973 event, which was a mess. Once again, native people were pushed to their limits, and once again, the government came in heavily armed. For an eyewitness account (and an interesting autobiography), read Mary Crow Dog's Lakota Woman. I've mentioned this in an earlier post, so here's that link again for a quick history.

It's a hard place to visit, and the weather on Friday seemed to underscore that fact. I started out in Rosebud, where there wasn't even any snow on the ground, and ended up where there was snow and a COLD wind.

Here's an image of some pines along the way:

And the cold winter sky:

This is the gate to the cemetery that was built around the 1890 mass grave site:

And here is the monument to those who were buried in that mass grave:

You can see that there are prayer ties tied to the fence. They have a little bit of tobacco tied into them as an offering to the ancestors.

This view shows the gate from a distance; in front of it on the hill stood a church, one of the buildings that was occupied by AIM in 1973. It burned down some time ago.

While I was there, two young men (Raymond and Ben) from the town of Wounded Knee approached me & asked if I wanted to buy some crafts, and explained this is how most of the people around here make their money. (I think the county that Pine Ridge is in usually tops the list of poorest counties in the United States.) They were sort of my tour guides for a little bit, pointing out where the grocery store used to be that was occupied in 1973, where the bunkers were built back then, and the creek that people tried to escape to in 1890. They were kind; I bought a couple things, and then they were on their way to the town of Pine Ridge to try to catch people who might buy a couple things as they left work.

Once again, I knew I stuck out like a sore thumb--they knew I was NOT from around here just by seeing my car parked in the driveway of the site; it's such a small community, everybody knows everybody else's vehicles. I was both nervous about being by myself out there, and embarrassed that I was nervous.

So then it was back on the road again, pointing toward Rosebud, which feels now like a source of comfort, kind of home-ish... Strange how that's happened already.

Along the way I snapped a couple photos of some typical houses on the rez. My Mom asked what they were like; here are a couple:

I believe these are h.u.d. houses built in the 60s-ish. The reservation is filled with these and trailers. One thing that's surprising about the houses is their bright colors! There are purple houses here that are WAY brighter than our little lilac-colored house in Ohio...

Here are a couple wildlife photos for Dexter. I passed a big flock of Canada geese hanging out on some icy water; some were walking on the ice, some were floating on the water, and a few were flying around. It looked like they were getting ready for a big trip:

And finally: these guys were crossing the road. Everyone stopped to let them pass, and they bounded over the two-lane highway. One paused and gave me a studying look:

My field trip wasn't easy, though the travel was; it's making me think a lot, and feel.

More soon,

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Knitting (and other craft) content

This one's for Aunt Kathy, and my knitting friends at home!

Surprisingly enough, I have had a lot less time to knit here than I expected. I guess when you sit in on 7 classes and try to do the homework and some sight-seeing, there isn't a lot of time left for knitting. :) But in any case, here's what I've been working on.

First up is my new camera case. When I got the camera a couple weeks ago, I asked the salesperson to show me everything I needed for startup, and he dutifully did, leaving me at the aisle of cases. But I thought to myself, hey, I have yarn and needles, what do I need these for? Even though they weren't expensive (around 10 bucks and up), what self-respecting knitter would buy one of these when she could make one, easy-peasy? :) I used a cotton blend yarn from Knitpicks, knit a strip (in moss stitch) with a buttonhole near the end, seamed up the sides, sewed on a button, and voila, camera case:

I decided to use the camera's strap for carrying, though I was thinking about doing an i-cord handle. Mostly the idea is to protect the screen from getting scratched so I can carry it around in my book bag & take photos whenever I want.

Next up is something I started before I left home: socks for Dexter. It's an easy pattern--garter rib (k2 p2 ribbing one row, k all sts next row), and I've made notes about sizing, and I've knit enough socks now that I don't need to carry around a pattern with me, so I can stick this one in my bag and just knit on it when I have a few minutes here and there. It's in Knitpicks Essential, blue violet multi:

And here's a project that has been delayed. I started these mittens (for me) before I left home, planning to knit as fast as possible so I could use them here! But I got almost finished with the first one when I decided it was annoying me, so I frogged it (mostly). You can see my second start--different ribbing, a couple more sts to make it a hair bigger, all one color. I like my mittens not floppy, but not tight either, and they were coming out too snug. This is Rowan Donegal tweed, which is really pretty; my Mom brought it back for me from England! (Thanks, Mom!)

Here's a new craft: beading! I won't tell what this is going to be yet, though--I'll save the big "reveal" for later. They are size 10 beads on buckskin that is so buttery soft I want to carry some around in my pocket as a woobie (sp?). I based the design on concepts I'm learning in class, used traditional colors (except for the little peach-colored dot--that color has personal significance), and have another element to put in the middle, so this one isn't done yet. I don't know if the middle element I chose will fit, though, so I need to come up with plan B. Anyway, here it is for now:

My beading is kind of wonky--there are 8-year-old girls here who could do a MUCH better job! But I have really enjoyed doing it. So who knows, I might have a new craft to play with when I get home...

I had the best time in class Thursday night working on this. There was one grandma, who turns out to be an expert in making all kinds of traditional things, who helped me get started because Steve (our teacher) was busy getting everyone started on their different projects--some people making drums, one person making a bustle for his regalia from eagle feathers, several people making jingle dresses for children/grandchildren, a couple people making rawhide boxes. (It is SO EXCITING to me to see how these things are made!!) Mary and I had such a good time chatting and laughing that Steve threatened to separate us at one point. :) (Actually, it's a pretty laid-back atmosphere, people joking and chatting as they're making their stuff, Steve helping each person on the next stage of their project.) Mary said she has a knitting kit at home but could never quite get the hang of it, so I offered to help her next class. Another grandma--a woman MY age--helped me finish this bit of beading, showing me how to tighten the stitches so that my rows aren't baggy. (Most of the women here my age have grandchildren!) That class was one of the highlights of the week.

Here's something that has been entertaining me as well:

(If you can't see it too well: that's Check it out!) The bad news: I think it may have messed up my ability to see blogger in Firefox... Something about javascript...? I have tried to fix it to no avail. I'll have to ask Aunt Keet and Uncle Sam, programming genuises, for some help!

I hope you have some time to do something fun today!

P.S. Happy Valentine's Day! May you feel loved. (You are!)