Monday, June 17, 2013

A Visit To Elk River Country

Hehaka TaWakpa Makoche 
(Elk River Country)
AKA Theodore Roosevelt National Park

A Photo Essay by Dakota Wind
MEDORA, N.D. - Anytime I visit a place with my sons, if the Lakota people have a name and a story about it, I tell them about it as the Lakota know it. The above image was taken at the Painted Canyon Visitor Center. There, I quietly shared the story of General Sully's punitive campaign against the Lakota that started at Killdeer Mountain and led the soldiers to the Badlands, Makoche Sica.

This was taken about a mile south of Wind Canyon. My youngest son wanted to pick flowers so we walked about and found some. When we came upon some, I told him that we must never pick the first ones we see, that we want the flowers to return, so we can pick the second flower we come across.

Any trees of big size grow on the Elk River floodplain. This little shrub was growing between broken sandstones on a hillside.

There it is. Elk River. Today the river is known by its contemporary name, the Little Missouri River. It was a favored place of the Lakota, Cheyenne, Mandan and Hidatsa to hunt elk.

Here's a feral herd of horses within the park. The horses descend from horses which were removed from the Lakota in the late 1800s. My youngest son knows that the horses aren't "ours" as in ownership, but he calls them "ours," as in "our friends."

A gange of bison roam the park too. These bison are pure blooded bison from the gange at Yellowstone National Park. By the turn of 1900 there were only about 300 pure blood bison that could be accounted for there. They were close to extinction, but have made a return.

There were several colts among the haras (one of those fancy collective nouns for horses) in the park. Several other visitors had gotten out of their cars and trucks to take pictures, but we didn't. My youngest rolled down his window and called out to them. 

It was windy, but then it always is on the Great Plains. The wind has been here since creation and still blows strong. The wind blew and carried the wonderful scent of sage across the endless rolling miles. Here's a little valley of sage. Last year my youngest son picked sage for my mother here because her house smells like this.

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