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Falling off of Falling Rock

Middle Tent falls more than 100 feet and survives


Dakota Middle Tents grandfather – smudges in Norway during the 1990’s.

RAPID CITY – Dakota Middle Tent’s family was relieved when they saw him in the emergency room at Monument Health with only a few broken bones. On Aug. 16 he had fallen over 100 feet from the top of Falling Rock, a popular hiking area near Rapid City that has claimed many lives. The multiple-hour rescue was covered by many news sources and a video of him falling can be found on Facebook.

“I was just glad to see that he was still responsive,” said Carrie Middle Tent, Dakota’s aunt. “He was moving and in lots of pain, but thank god that only two broken legs and one broken vertebrae was it. He didn’t get any kind of damage to his head and he didn’t get any cuts or splits.”

Dakota was down climbing one of the cliffs at Falling Rock when he lost his footing which sent him tumbling down the shear rock face. “I felt something was wrong,” he said. “I just accepted the fall because there is nothing you can do after that. I thought I broke my teeth and my nose. I didn’t know my leg was broken until I put pressure on it and my ankle went sideways.”

To fall over 100 feet and survive to tell the story is a rarity, especially from a place such as Falling Rock. The hiking area has been the center of controversy since many people have died there. “Normally when someone falls from Falling Rock they don’t make it, but this guy,” said Mahto Black Bear while looking at his cousin, “it’s crazy to survive that.”

When Dakota had settled from his fall and waited for the search and rescue crews, he heard a Native couple who began singing and praying for him. Dakota knew that the couple was there, but he did not know who they were. Contact was made with the couple after everything was said and done, but now the contact information is lost. Blossom Eare, Dakota’s grandmother, would like to talk to and be able to thank this couple.

Dakota also had a vision when he began to fall. He saw his grandfather, who has passed away, and his niece, who is still alive. The Falling Rock area is a sacred place for the Dakota’s family and several of their family member’s ashes are spread at the site. “I definitely believe in our cultural ways,” said Dakota. “I thought at the time that I knew someone was there with me if I had a vision like that before I fell.”

“He saw his grandpa and his little niece when he fell and I believe that they were there for him and to comfort him,” said Blossom. “I believe now that when we leave this world, our family is there.”

In 2001, the ashes of Steven Eare, Dakota’s uncle, traveled back from Norway to be spread in the Black Hills. The family spread them at Falling Rock and used a disposable camera to document the event. When the photos were developed they noticed that one of the photos held a resemblance of Steven’s face if turned upside down. The photos and story were covered in an April 2002 issue of the Lakota Journal, a Giago newspaper.

When Steven’s ashes were spread at Falling Rock and the photo resembled his face, Carrie Middle Tent and Blossom Eare had enough proof to know that their family was with them in spirit while at Falling Rock. But the luck and salvation of Dakota’s life brought the experience full circle for the family.

Mahto Black Bear is Dakota’s caretaker while he is healing and he says that Dakota has provided him with a career choice in the medical field. Dakota is wheelchair bound with both of his legs in casts. He has one rod placed in his left leg, and is still waiting for an operation on the other. His recovery time is currently unknown but his family says that he is already leaps and bounds ahead of where the doctors expect him to be. They say that he is young, strong, and determined.

 

(Contact Travis at travisldewes@gmail.com)

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