|Rt. 40 Heading South Toward the Pine Ride Reservation, SD|
Ian Frazier, in the opening paragraph of his book On the Rez (2000), writes: " 'Bleak' is the word attached in many people's minds to the idea of certain Indian reservations, of which the Oglala's reservation is perhaps the best example. Oddly, it is a word I have never heard used by Indians themselves."
|The Town of Pine Ridge|
While the landscape itself betrays a sort of exquisite wild beauty, the fact that all this formidable emptiness is not some National Wilderness Area but is actually the 'reward' the Lakota got in defeat, the place where they're supposed to make their livelihood, makes "bleak" an appropriate adjective to use in describing it all. And certainly for many of the non-Indian visitors who sees it as bleak, shame no doubt informs that impression.
The suddenness of their arrival was jarring, their gaudy-colored clothes and their chattering shattered the silence, quashing the quiet, almost spiritual reverie that ND and I'd both felt when we'd initially stepped out of our car. They were Christians. Missionaries, actually, from Chattanooga, TN. Disturbing on so many levels. ND and I shrank into the background and watched the missionaries idly handle a necklace, some earrings, and make cursory sales talk with the Lakota man who responded in friendly tones and a kind expression. Eventually, the few shoppers went off to join their picture-snapping cohorts and we approached the jewelry maker again.
|Tom the Lakota Artisan (right) with Lescaret|
On Leonard Peltier: "He took the fall. He didn't kill those FBI agents, the guy who did admitted it in prison, he was in for something else, but that guy is dead now. Leonard took the fall."
On the Crazy Horse Memorial being carved from a mountain near MT. Rushmore: "They were supposed to build a school for native people and they never did." And, about the profile of Crazy Horse (which is all there is yet): "It looks like George C. Scott."
On the Pine Ridge Reservation: "They took the Black Hills and gave us this ..." (gesturing out across the eroded fissure of Badlands).
On the symbolism of the turtle (used in several of his necklaces): "It means 'woman' because they carry the load on their backs."
On alcohol: "All it gets you is jail or detox, and I've had both."
We bought a few pieces of his work and asked him what a Lakota would say when saying good-bye.
"Dok-sha," he said, "it means 'we may meet again'."