Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Historic Church On Standing Rock Burns In Fire

Historic Church On Standing Rock Burns
Ikpanazin :To Pick Up One's Self
By Dakota Wind
Cannonball, N.D. - On July 25, 2012, the St. James Episcopal Church located in Cannonball, ND on the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation, burned to the ground. Arson is the suspected cause.

St. James was founded in 1890 by Rev. William Cross, a Yanktonai Dakota man and member of the community. Cross' backstory is as interesting as the work he came to do.

A wood engraving of U.S. Indian Scouts on the trail.

William Cross enlisted as a U.S. Indian Scout at Fort Abraham Lincoln under the command of General George Custer in 1876, the summer that the general met his infamous death at the hands of the Teton Lakota. Cross, however, ran mail between the general's command and the fort and was not put in Major Reno's command at the Battle of the Little Bighorn like the other scouts. Cross had actually just delivered the last living correspondence that Fort Abraham Lincoln would receive.

After the fateful battle, Cross headed east to attend school at one of the Indian boarding schools. He left a warrior of the people, a scout for the military, and returned a minister. In 1890, Cross founded St. James Episcopal Church in Cannonball.

The church served the community in all its needs, as most churches do. It was a home.

St. James is also something else. A sanctuary where the services are conducted in Dakota, Lakota, and English. After years of language suppression, the church embraced the dwindling speakers language and uses it, even if it is just a simple newsletter.

Readers, my friends, please visit and see what you or your community can do to help rebuild, to help the community pick it self up. If all you can do is pass the word on, share this article or this link.

Ikpanazin unkis kin phehnaga etahan (Picking ourselves up from the hot coals).

Wopidah, wopila tanka (Thank you, thank you very much).

Conflicts Across The Country

Back on September 4, 2012, Prairie Public Radio's program Hear It Now featured the Chautauqua program, a living history program which disappeared for a few years in North Dakota. Working at my day job, my associates and I are working on bringing it back. Earlier this month, the event focused on four scholars bringing to life characters such as William Jayne who served as President Lincoln's personal physician and later as the first governor of Dakota Territory, Charles Everett Pace as Frederick Douglass, Karen Vuranch as Clara Barton, Jerome Kills Small as Taoyate Duta (aka Little Crow) the Dakota chieftan who led the Dakota in the 1862 conflict in Minnesota, and Reuben Fast Horse as Brigadier General Ely Parker the Seneca Indian who fought in the Civil War as part of General Grant's staff - Parker also wrote the surrender papers which General Lee signed at the surrender.

Mr. Bill Thomas, the moderator of the radio show, extended an invitation to Reuben and myself to stay through to the end of the program. I had thought that it was odd at first, that there was two natives invited to speak about the Civil War, and then a non-native brought on to talk about Little Crow, as I jokingly said to Mr. Thomas who also laughed, but by including our presence to the end of the hour, the conversation we shared with Mr. Dale Blanchan was richer.

At the end of the program Dr. Tom Isern came on to offer a reflection of the siege of Fort Abercrombie.

Anyway, friend, I thought I'd share the conversation with you. Listen to it at:

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Ghost Dances Featured on Prairie Public

(Not the real cover...I don't like the real cover, but not finding a better one I made this generic old looking one.)

I recently read Ghost Dances: Proving Up On The Great Plains by Josh Garrett-Davis. It really was an interesting read, and if you haven't yet picked up a copy for yourself, and if you happen to be in South Dakota next week, you can buy a copy at the South Dakota Book Festival and get it signed by Garrett-Davis at the same time.

The South Dakota Festival of Books will be held at Sioux Falls, September 28-30, 2012. I'll be volunteering at the festival so you may see me around. I'll get my copy of Ghost Dances signed by Garrett-Davis too, so if you see me there, don't be afraid to come up to me.

For more information about the South Dakota Festival of Books, visit The event is sponsored by the South Dakota Humanities Council so its free. Check out the presenters that are going to be there. Sherman Alexie is going to be there. I plan on attending one of his thingies while I'm there, and I'll try my best to be the most serious Indian while he's around.

In addition to the South Dakota Festival of Books which Garrett-Davis is doing, he was interviewed on Prairie Public Radio on September 10, 2012. You can listen to his interview, which is the first half of the program, to hear him elaborate a little more about his himself. Go to Its only about twenty minutes of your time.

Some farmers out in the fields proving up their free land.

"Proving up," by the way, is the term that settlers used when settling on their 160 acres. They had to maintain a farm as part of their free land agreement, and if they were successful in their efforts, they "proved up" to the government for their land and had to pay taxes. Garrett-Davis uses the term rather inter-changeably with "growing up" on the Great Plains.

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. 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Ghost Dances: Proving Up On The Great Plains

"Ghost Dances: Proving Up On The Great Plains" by Josh Garrett-Davis
Ghost DancesA Review
A Reasonable Book, Personable Author
By Dakota Wind
GREAT PLAINS, N.D. & S.D. - Garrett-Davis took this reviewer on a journey of self-examination and reflection of his life as it is now and what it was for him as he grew up on the Great Plains of South Dakota. A memoir unlike any that you may pick up or read again, it is a blend of history of the late nineteenth century interlaced with pre-internet life, of a young boy’s discovery of counter-culture heavy rock music in the days when MTV actually played music videos.

Garrett-Davis wistfully recalls the angst of young boyhood when his parents divorced after unsuccessfully trying to maintain a record store stocked with music they believed represented the rage of a generation against the machine of state and federal policy, even as Garrett-Davis’ book details his own rage against the machinations of a lesbian mother and a distant workaholic father.

Ghost Dances captures the longing of many Great Plains youth to leave the wind, the plains, and the open skies behind for a cultured and contemporary life in any city. Garrett-Davis’ visits to his grandmother in Minnesota are as much a relief from the stresses of a broken home as from the constant winds, the sweeping grasses and the endless sky.

The history of the state, the Great Plains, the settlers and the native peoples which Garrett-Davis peppers Ghost Dances throughout seem an attempt to make the hardships of all, his own, while the author captures perfectly the dreams to escape, he fails to capture the feelings of those who choose to stay. Garrett-Davis includes stats in Ghost Dances about out-migration, even as he acknowledges moving out of state himself.

In the end, the book is about confirming the character of himself as well as the people who grow up on the plains. It is the wind, the grass, and the sky, the very openness which (at least compared to people not from the plains) imbibes wholesomeness, openness, and perhaps honesty (even a steady wariness of small town politics) in the people who dream of leaving.

Beware reader. This isn’t for everyone and it shouldn’t be. It’s about life on the plains after Little House On The Prairie…with MTV, broken family ties, massacre, He-Man escapism, return of the bison, idealized politics heaped unto a young mind, and love of late 80s and early 90s hard rock here, there, then and now.

Gratify yourself, reader, with a copy of Ghost Dances today. Visit Josh Garrett-Davis’ website at