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I think; I write; I am



Now that the Rally is over and the Trumpers along with Sarah Palin and other “stars” have gone home, it is time that we all who live here in this tourist mecca can begin to reassess how we will move forward. The writers I know are breathing a sigh of relief.

As an obscure writer, myself, I find it interesting how tolerant we are of those with whom we may have nothing in common. That includes many of the people who are not motorcyclist and Buffalo Chip enthusiasts. We in this place who are not rally fans should complement ourselves because we are quite genial hosts.

We know that citizens must be protected and not punished for expressing views that may be offensive, so we welcome thousands of “bikers” from the many states and we try not to harp about the inconvenience, the traffic, the misplacement of our ordinary lives, and even our hostility which sometimes comes with another anticipated invasion. It’s a Love-Hate message

Most of us believe that the First Amendment language and precedent make the simple point that citizens and tourists do have much in common, but, unfortunately, we know IT IS MOSTLY about MONEY, that all important Rally message.

Even so, we never seem to get enough…. we read in the local morning newspaper that this city needs more “entertainment” and “access” for newcomers that bring in more dollars. This comes from the “developers” and the city council, a sentiment not unknown to the elaborate 200/300 year history of the Black Hills. Talk to any old time Indian here and he will tell you that people have always come here for money, riches, and the “good life”. What you think Custer was doing here, he will say, i.e., he was looking for the gold.

Now that the rally is finished and the pleasures of it all are ebbing away, a great part of our community will get ready for the next spectacle, the “journey straight out of the Wild West”, according to the promoters. About 40 covered wagons and 150 horseback riders will redo the Cheyenne to Deadwood Wagon train and Trail ride… called the “fabled stage coach line” and some trails of the 1874 Custer “expedition”, a Black Hills route established in a now solidified white-man’s history which some Indian historians redescribe as an “invasion”.

The route for this wagon trail journey, starting in Wyoming, is from August 13 until the 18th, and the local Journal will give you the route if you want it.

There will probably be little mention of the Battle of the Little Big Horn (two years after this storied journey), nor the defeat of the US Cav by the military alliance of Sioux, Arapahoe, Cheyenne nations. There will be no mention that a few years later, the political assassinations of Indian leaders began in earnest, that Crazy Horse was killed in 1877 (the same year the first Catholic Church was started), and the first square mile established the city of Rapid City, plotted at what is now known in white-man’s history as Hay Camp Station. It took another decade before the Treaty of Fort Laramie was signed.

History is what it is of course, but as an Indian writer, I often think that a kind of self-reflective thinking takes place for all of us during these activities and many others on these beautiful summer days.

I am happy to get a most welcome letter from my colleague, Dr. Sarah Hernandez (Sicangu writer, scholar and professor of Indian Studies) who tells me that the Indian writers (Sioux) who are members of the Oak Lake Writers Society (none of whom own a Harley nor do they go on the “journey” spoken of here), have been attending an annual “retreat” just north and east of Brookings, SD. It is true, isn’t it? That we live separate lives and that is especially true for writers.

Several mentors (Indian poets and teachers) have guided the past days of these Indian Oak Lake writers as they have for the past 20 years, produced books like THIS STRETCH OF THE RIVER and MEMORY SONGS used in university classes throughout the west. It is an effort to tell “the Indian story”.

Dr. Hernandez, the coordinator of this retreat, and her participants have been looking over manuscripts, writing poetry, teaching and listening, planning further gatherings and, most importantly, talking to each other about the amorphous universal indigenous values so rarely considered by many popular historians.

The pleasure seeking tourists who are at this moment writing their own “journeys”, often reject the studious, philosophical side of life that native writers often want to think about.

There is considerable history connected with the 20 year “retreat for writers” called the Oak Lake Writers Society, and Dr. Hernandez invites all those who want to think about what writers do, to come to their fall meeting which will take place during the Indian Education summit at Pierre, SD on Sept. 23/24 and 25. For some, it is every bit as exciting as rodeos and motorcycle mania, and Custer’s trail. Well, maybe not.

At any rate, the Oak Lake Writers Society can be reached at:

There will be another “festival” for writers and it is called the SD Festival of Books which has been held annually for many years in Sioux Falls and Deadwood. This year it will be in Brookings and Sioux Falls and it starts on September 20th. Many of the most prodigious writers of the area will be there and the writing, itself, will reflect all of the borders that we have systematically tried to cross. Books and essays, poetry and newspapers like this one you are reading, and thoughtful writings of all kinds try to restore the balance in our lives.

If we have learned the right lessons from history, we will have the courage to be ourselves, and that means that writers must claim their moments, too.

My advice is this: buy a book and find that quiet moment.

(Contact Elizabeth Cook/Lynn

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