South Dakota is the most underestimated piece of land in the entire United States. I said it. I've had the honor and privilege to travel a good amount in my life, and currently there is a place in South Dakota that has become my favorite place on the planet.
This place is like no other. It's very understandable why several native tribes hold traditions that call the Black Hills the origination point of creation. There is a large part of me that wouldn't disagree with them.
You could talk about everything here. Politics, religion, blood and gold are all present, per usual. There is an honest truth that marks this place below the surface, like a hum. It's there whether you hear it or not.
The trees are loud in this place. They don't allow themselves to be invisible, like some trees back home. They speak of history way beyond what I've been taught. They sit back and laugh amidst the wide scale pandemic of consumeristic advertisement that has infested the area. (Mount Rushmore costs money to see.)
Billboards read, “Jesus gives hope” where that same cross had once trounced on a peaceful people. The obvious irony of the Black Hills is disturbing. The faces of dead presidents sculpted in the same rock that the people they conquered believed to be their Temple Mount.
According to multiple locals, COVID-19 has brought a tangible shift to the area, attempting to strangle the lower class like a boa constrictor. “People have shorter fuses” said one thrift store manager in Rapid City. “Its a shit poor town. Either you're a rich land owner or you're thrown to the beasts, ” said a waiter in Key Stone. That's the usual dichotomy of gold rush’s.....only a few guys really get the gold. After all, that is what brought the US government here in the 1800’s.
The disrespect done to the native culture here is chilling. The constant memorializing of colonizing cowboys on highway signs almost seems like an intentional mockery to the natives. It’s easy to tell that this land was not meant to be touched. To see it ravaged by the Helicopter Tours, Dairy Queens, Motel 8’s and Baptist Church camps (raising 4 million $ for a new building), feels unreversably tragic.
How do you undo so much damage? I don't think you can necessarily undo anything. “What has been done, has been done.” I do believe however that what can't be undone, can be reworked.
I also believe in solutions. Rather than raving on and on about the abomination of a disrespect perpetrated by the US Government and all those in support of the thievery in the Black Hills, I thought I'd try and take a shot on how we as a people could possibly redeem something so sinister.
If everything is shared, nothing is sacred.
My wife said that to me, one time. I never forgot it. It's the truth. It's the reason why I believe it's currently impossible to have peace in the Middle East. (specifically the Israel/ Palestine Conflict).
If the land is sacred, I don't believe it should be shared, nor could it be in order for it to be sacred. The land should be completely returned under the control of the original tribes that called this place home.
Cash doesn't cut it. “Sell or Starve” were the words given by the US Government to the Sioux in 1867, when they trespassed a treaty over the land.
Acknowledgement and honestly, are the first steps to reconciliation. It is not enough to fully redeem such a suffered wrong. Land speaks infinitely louder than cash in the language of redemption.
The tribes should have complete control over the Black Hills. Control is the also the right to chose. This would mean, the tribes would have creative control to exercise their right of choice to build and tear down whatever they want, in the land.
But, to redeem a sufferered wrong where one party has violated another, return of what was stolen is not enough. The book of Leviticus states that when someone has wronged their brother knowingly, 120% should be returned.
Which leads me to my second thought:
This would be done in land, or if the Tribes wanted something else that could be looked into. Either way, the US Government should not only release control of the entire Black Hills, but a calculated 20% of the land mass should be given over and above back to the Tribes.
This may sound over simplified, and I'm sure that the Tribes themselves would give better voice to what they actually need. I'm just giving what I believe to be a requirement for any form of justice to be done in the Black Hills.
An old Lakota prophecy alludes to a time of global healing when the Black Hills would be returned to its rightful stewards. I personally, believe that time is now.