Tourism on the Reservation: How does a cemetery grab you?
By Joseph Budd
Native Sun News Today Staff Writer
When tourism is mentioned around South Dakota, the first item that tends to jump on everyone’s list is Mt. Rushmore. However, for Native Americans, the “Shrine of Democracy” is a shameful desecration of the Black Hills, and the hatred put out by the white folks to raise 4 presidents to godlike status. Meanwhile, on Reservation lands, the most visited site in Oglala Lakota County, is a simple but profound location: The Wounded Knee Cemetery.
The location is known for the 1890 Massacre and to that end though, thanks to a ride through the reservation closest to Rapid City, a few things do stand out in one’s mind. With a few trips around West River, several other counties are using history to lure people out in the country to explore, such as Butte County. Currently, the county has had set up a number of markers, indicating where old towns and general stores used to exist, plus the given date to these settlements. Did you know there used to be a town called Acme? Or Mason? There was even a town called Indian, named for the creek it was settled on.
Along with the post office signs, there are a few places with large signs, highlighting where schools, some historic cemeteries and camping locations. Snoma Finnish Cemetery, dating back to 1887. The Finnish had settled in back in 1885, due to a mispronouncing of a name of Suomi, the Finnish name for Finland, was put in as Snoma. In its heyday, it contained a blacksmith, hotel, post office and had about 40 families living in the town site. Now all that remains is the cemetery, listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Looking to Pine Ridge, for example, there are a few places one can imagine could attract a similar interest. The Red Cloud School, formerly Holy Rosary Indian Mission built by the Jesuit priests in 1888 is a structure of over 100 years old and still in good foundation shape. The original church burned down in the 90s, but another church was constructed to replace it, as well other buildings on the campus site, and the grade school is using a program to teach students Lakota.
During the drive into Pine Ridge, there are a few buildings, including one house on the northwest corner that has served several purposes in time, sits vacant, but would be a good candidate for a museum, if the option exists. It’s not a hard thing to consider though, that nothing should be built or set up beyond what already exists by the Wounded Knee Cemetery. Can’t imagine setting up a booth selling crosses by Calvary in Israel, can you?
Another location, granted to government monopolized already, would be is the Badlands National Park. The views of this part of the country, is quite eye-opening. Any time of the year, minus during snowy weather, the colors and strata are impressive. You would, want to be careful out hiking in any weather too.
Lastly, a visit to Kyle, the second largest community on the Reservation and the home of Oglala Lakota College and oddly enough, the birthplace of Native Sun News Today Publisher, Tim Giago.