North America

A Middle American Roadtrip

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I started my long road trip in Chicago, logging thousands of miles through WI, MI, ND, SD, NE, KS, IA, MO, Il, IN and MI. The biggest draw for me was the Black Hills, the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation (Lakota) and Badlands national park.

The Black Hills was a huge disappointment. What is prominent and sacred grounds to the Sioux is essentially one enormous casino development. And as far as I can tell, native Americans are not benefitting much from the gambling. There are condo developments, reptile (gators!) parks, Western saloons cum slot-machine traps, countless family-fun ventures and fast food restaurants, all with the Western flair. I was very happy to leave my hotel in Deadwood.

The Badlands

The geologic deposits here contain some of the world’s richest fossil beds. I appreciated getting away from all the commercial development of the Black Hills and took off into the mixed-grass prairie where bison, bighorn sheep, prairie dogs, and black-footed ferrets roam. As usual, there was a bit of recklessness on my part, having ignored the incoming weather. As there’s no shelter to be found in the park, the frequent lightning storms are dangerous. But luckily, the clouds blew over.

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On the way to Pine Ridge Reservation

I’ve seen countless reservations but this is one of the saddest. It’s well known that Pine Ridge holds the dubious position as one of the poorest counties in the US. What is more disturbing is that average life expectancy is 48 years and 52 years for men and women, respectively. Driving through the rez, I was truck by a palpable sense of apathy and resignation. This feeling was reflected in a conversation I had with a person at the local community college.

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Wounded Knee Massacre Memorial

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Categories: North America

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