Monday, September 17, 2012

A Photo Essay of Whitestone Hill

The monument to the soldiers who died in the conflict 149 years ago stands at attention on the hilltop.
A Photo Essay of Whitestone Hill
Foggy Morning And A Haunted Feeling
By Dakota Wind
WHITESTONE HILL, N.D. - On August 29, 2012, I took a visit to Whitestone Hill State Historic Site, which is located south of Jamestown, ND just off of HWY 281 near the towns of Kulm and Edgely.

It was a chilly morning and a light fog rolled in sometime during the twilight before daybreak. I arrived just after the sun had risen well above the horizon, but early enough that the sun had just begun to burn away the fog to a light haze.

The fog proved a little problematic in trying to focus my camera on the mid horizon, but a few managed to come out nicely.

The signage identifying Whitestone Hill still says "Whitestone Hill Battlefield State Historic Site," but it was hardly a "battle" at all. Officially the site is identified as "Whitestone Hill State Historic Site," but some Dakota and Lakota people want it officially identified as "Whitestone Hill Massacre Site." 

While I agree that the conflict turned into a massacre, I think that the site should be officially designated "Whitestone Hill State Memorial Site." There's something about the word "memorial" that to me instills reflection and respect. 

The Dakota-Lakota encampment was located south and west of the current site designation, on private property, according to Red Bow and Takes-His-Shield, two survivors of the massacre. This picture looks southeasterly of the official state historic site. 

I quietly stepped over the fence and into the field. The fog only served to add to the immense feeling of lonliness, sadness, and revenance to an empty open field. The fog seemed to catch and hold the smallest sounds. The songs of meadowlarks were quieted and hushed. My every footfall was muted in the still air. 

The fog was captured by the plants, mostly native plants and grasses along the road and within the designated site. I prefer the term "native" to "wild."

A real dream catcher. They say a long time ago, a man went to the hill to pray for a way to put an end to a series of nightmares he and his family were experiencing. A spider, Iktomi, wove a dreamcatcher for him and revealed to him the weave to create them for the people. The web is hung above one's sleeping area and catches the bad dreams and holds them. When the morning sun falls on the web in the morning, the bad dreams are destroyed. 

Whitestone Hill was a sacred site once used for vision quests and eagle trapping and other religious or spiritual pilgrimage. Today, even the land cannot escape its association with the deaths of hundreds of Dakotas and Lakotas.

I'm used to seeing endless blue where the hills gently roll and sway. Last year the sky was perfectly blue over the swaying green grasses. My leksi (uncle; lek-SHEE) Kevin Locke said, "Anpetu wanjila toh [The day is completely blue/the sky is blue oneness]." The very blue of the sky last year seemed a joyous defiance of the killing field below. 

The sun began to burn away the fog as the morning wore on. Towards the right of this picture and in the foreground is one of the white stones for which the site is named.

Bergamont in the field. A blend of native short and medium grasses billowed in the slight breeze that carried with it the scent of sweetgrass growing somewhere nearby. 

When I turned around, I saw a warm sight. A rainbow began to form in the fog. The rainbow was a small one that arched from the mainland to the tip of the peninsula on the nearby lake. The lake was considered a sacred place too, not so much for its location, but for the shape of the peninsula, which resembles a stem and pipe from above.