Artful Land Care

Standing Rock 2018

In YCM on June 17, 2018 at 11:37 am

A twenty-hour drive and I am back home on a sunny and clear Sunday morning.  Such a drive allows much time for reflection.  The last few weeks of visiting reservations of this ancient land, having many conversations, and living with young adults on the Standing Rock reservation gives one much to ponder.  Just the same, I spent as much of that driving time listening to TED Talk’s and music than I did pondering the past.  So, on this sunny Sunday morning, as I write this last piece on the Standing Rock trip, I settle upon one image of these last weeks.

Four mares stand in a temporary corral. They each descend from a particular time in the life of the Hunkpapa Lakota people.  Specifically under the leadership of Sitting Bull.  The story told is about Sitting Bull and a number of folk going to Canada after the Battle of Little Bighorn for safety.  They live there for a number of years.  During that time US representatives visited five times to negotiate their return to the US.  After the fifth time Sitting Bull and the people agree to return—under specific conditions and agreements.  When they returned their horses were taken from them and they confined to place—not the conditions and place agreed to.  The four mares standing in the corral before me are decedents of the Sitting Bull horses taken on that day.

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Standing Rock 2018

In YCM on June 13, 2018 at 12:00 pm

I’ve known about the Mandan people for more time than most westerners west of the Rockies.  Mostly because I married into a North Dakota family.  As one might suspect my knowledge was rather lacking as a white non-Native marrying into a white non-Native family. Of course my schooling was lacking in the Nativeness of the landscape as well.  My education was better than many, I figure, because my junior and high school years were the years of the Red Power movement.  Not only did I have access to nightly news events: Occupation of Alcatraz Island 1969-71, Wounded Knee incident 1973, but I went to a fairly progressive High school for the era that allowed for an edgy curriculum that include Native American studies.  Once I get to the bottom of it though, I knew nothing of indigenous history by the time I graduated High School.

Since last Saturday I have been hanging with a number of High School students in North Dakota, on the Standing Rock Reservation where Dakota and Lakota (mostly) people live.  The reservation itself is a small piece of what was once the Great Sioux Reservation, which went through a great reduction after gold was found in the Black Hills in the early 1870’s—enough of that though, typical history can be looked up.  I find myself on the reservation because of two people, Laurie Pound-Feille and Bill Spangler-Dunning. 

Standing Rock 2018

In YCM on June 12, 2018 at 5:53 am

The eagle staff entered the powwow pavilion from the east.  From the river side.  Next comes flags and then dancers.  They processed clockwise around the pavilion with the staff and colors circling toward the pavilions center as dancers continued to enter. A shade structure frames the perimeter of the pavilion.  Twelve feet in width.  Circling the pavilion every ten feet are support posts holding the structure above the ground. Three rising seat benches make up the boundary of the pavilion. The last and highest bench backrest is five feet off the ground.

Standing outside the pavilion I used the top rail of the backrest to support a sketch pad as I sketch the pavilion’s doings.  Powwow’s have their own life.  Something or another is going on all the time, but there is an ebb and flow—dancing, conversations, drumming, eating.  Sketching has a way of filling out a powwow day.

I’m finishing a sketch when a young girl of eight or nine bounces down the bench, sits down, and asks what I am doing. I tell her.  I tell her how I try to show the support posts and the pavilion roof to give perspective to the dancers in the sketch.  She listens as I talk—but I know that little talk on perspective went nowhere and I need to get a grip on whom I am talking with.