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Rick's Blog 2005

 

Howdy, 07/18/05

Mike Randall and I arrived at the Jameson Unit (Maximum Security Division)
of the SD State Pen at 9:30.

After we exchanged our driver's licenses for clip-on visitor's tags,
we were escorted through two sliding security doors (Just like on TV!)
to the gym where the rest of the activities took place.
Because Mike was writing an article for the Lakota Journal,
he had pre-approved bringing his camera, tape-recorder, pencils, pens, etc.
Otherwise you're not allowed to take anything in with you.
There are lockers in the lobby to stash your stuff, but for some reason,
they are *all* broken or missing keys.
I suppose my money clip and cell phone were secure enough locked
in Mike's car in the PENITENTIARY parking lot.

Surprisingly, the entire building is tobacco free. (Even though you may be on death-row, they're not going
to let you kill yourself with nicotine.) And, I always thought cigarettes were the currency of choice
in the slammer... another TV myth busted.

There are about 500 inmates in the Jameson Unit. 7% of SD is Indian,
but 25% of the inmates are natives. Under the freedom of religion act,
the Indians are allowed a pipe ceremony twice a week,
and quarterly pow wows. (And sweat-lodge ceremonies, but I don't know how often.)

Inmates wear brown short-sleeve v-neck shirts, and pants with INMATE stenciled on both legs.
I suppose there were 40 of them, and another two dozen "fish" dressed in orange jumpsuits. All newbies (fish)
entering the SD penal system wear orange and receive orientation
at Jameson for two weeks before they are transferred to wherever
they will serve their time. Of the entire group, a couple were black and several were white.
Obviously, for some reason, a lot of Indians choose not to attend,
while some non-Indians do, just to break up their routine.
Periodically, the guards would make them all line up and sign off, to make sure all were accounted for.

For the pipe ceremony, we all sat cross-legged in a circle on blankets too thin to keep my ankles
from killing me. Mike and I were the only ones not dressed in brown or orange. There are 8 pipe carriers
in the unit, and two were seated in the circle at each
of the four cardinal directions. Each had an ashtray with smoldering sage
in front of him, with which he ceremonially "smoked up" or "smudged" his pipe paraphernalia.
Mike sat me next to one of the pipe carriers who explained a lot of the ritual for me.
They passed around a can with smoldering cedar, and we all wafted the smoke
over ourselves for purification. I was familiar with this from the Sun Dance.

Each pipe carrier filled his pipestone bowl with a mixture of red willow bark and kinnikinik,
lit it and passed it clockwise, so that by the time each got his pipe back, we had all smoked from 8 pipes.
As it passed, a pipe carrier would refill and relight a pipe if it needed.
Six singers kept the traditional drumbeat and chant going.

Mike goes over every week as a member of the M2 program (kinda like the Big Brother Program)
and visits with one inmate who happens to be Indian, which is how he gets invited to these events.
But, they encourage the public to attend (you have to submit a written application a couple weeks ahead of time)
and were sincerely glad to see us there.

After the ceremony, they brought in sack lunches of bologna sandwiches, an apple, chips, milk
and a baggie of sliced raw carrots. After that, coffee and juice were available constantly.
Most of the inmates were easy to visit with, and I never felt uncomfortable or out of place.
Most of the guys I talked to seemed to be there for "receiving stolen property" or drugs.

There is a single bathroom for the public, but the inmates use an open bathroom at one end of the gym. It has a sheet taped over the entrance for public events like this.

The pow-wow started at one. Only four of the inmates have managed to put together dance regalia.
It's hard for family to bring in materials, so most of it is ordered from catalogues approved by the Pen,
as I understand it. Somehow, Charlie (Mike's *buddy*) had received a dead eagle,
and has used its feathers in his regalia. It was the first time he'd worn it, and the first time he'd ever danced.

Strangely, if immediate family members are on an inmate's "permanent visitor list", they are not allowed
to attend these events. Someone once tried to sneak a relative drugs, so they made a rule.

During Pow wow, visitors are escorted in or out at 12:30, 4 PM, or 8 PM only (prison rules).
Only a handful of relatives arrived at 12:30 and some of the inmates were disappointed
that more had not shown up. Mike had dinner guests arriving at home, so we left at 4,
but if we'd been able to stay until 8 we would have participated in the buffalo feast and give-away.

The next pow wow is in October, and I told Mike I'd like to go back.
He's hoping I'll be interested enough to eventually become a member of the M2 program.

Sunday, I drove to Flandreau's Pow wow, hoping to learn more about the four-day AIM Sun Dance
in Pipestone next week. (Pow wows are almost always public events, but Sun Dances - piercing ceremonies -
can be real iffy.) Flandreau's Pow wow was OK, but not nearly as large or spectacular as the
one in Sisseton.

Instead of an Indian taco (ingredients piled on fry bread) which requires a place to sit with your plate, I decided
to try a "walking taco" which I assumed would be the same stuff somehow folded inside a fry-bread sandwich.

Wrong! A walking taco is a personal-sized cellophane bag of nachos with the top torn open
and the hamburger, onions, olives, salsa, etc. dumped inside. And a fork.

And, again, only Pepsi.

Indians must prefer the sweetness of Pepsi. There wasn't a Coke for sale at any of the dozen food booths.

Today, I did receive an answer to my eMail from the Chief Ranger at the Pipestone Monument
about the Sun Dance, who tells me that as far as he knows, it is a public event.
So, Wes and I will go over on Thursday, the first day, and I'll go back one other day,
but Wes is busy the rest of the weekend.

Thursday, we flew a hot-air balloon over the Rodeo grounds for the Rodeo committee who wanted pictures
of the crowd. Dave Miller tries to do this for them every year, and used the opportunity to give a
pilot's lesson to Ken Taylor, one of the guys I go to Pennsylvania with every September.

Our wedding dance in Yankton went REALLY WELL, and we play next at the Mitchell Am Legion on the 29th.

Julie is taking Alexz to visit a couple college campuses tomorrow and Wednesday.
She's decided against Moorhead and is thinking about Mankato now.

Mowed my lawn tonight, because the neighbors were starting to give me dirty looks.

Hugs to all,


 

Howdy, 07/08/05

I spent July 4th weekend exploring the three Indian Reservations in the northern part of South Dakota.

I never made these trips when I wuz married because Julie wasn't interested at all in this kind of stuff.
I always ask Alexz if she wants to go, but she's like her mom... "No, I wanna spend the weekend with my
*friends*". 

Actually, I prefer traveling alone. I meet more interesting folks. 

I hardly ever listen to SD Public Radio during the week, because they buy cheap programming...
classical music all day long. But just as I pulled onto the highway (and before I had a chance to put on
one of the audio-books I took with), they played the theme to the Lone Ranger.

Da Da Dum, Da Da Dum, Da Da Dum Dum Dum!

I thought it was an appropriate send-off.

The Sisseton-Wahpeton Pow-wow is the longest continually running event in South Dakota (138 years),
and the main reason for my trip. Itís located on the tribeís college grounds 7 miles south
of Sisseton, under a giant aluminum-framed "tent". There must have been five hundred Indian Dancers,
and twice that many watching from bleachers and folding lawn chairs, and eating nachos.
There was always room to sit, but the choice spots near the entrances - where there was a breeze -
were usually taken.

I saw some Indians with cameras and figured it was OK to take pictures, so I snapped five rolls.
(Five pictures are included below.) The costumes were magnificent. Outside the dance circle,
itís pretty informal, and I wandered around or sat, according to my mood.

Surrounding the tent were a dozen food booths selling Indian Tacos (my supper), fry-bread,
and Pepsi (they must be a sponsor), and another dozen booths selling tee-shirts (Rez Diva)
and dream catchers. Obviously, itís a great social event for the teen-agers.
I bought a long braid of Sweet Grass, to add to my bouquet of sage and Sun Dance
tobacco ties from two years ago.

When the Dancers broke for dinner, I hiked up the Nicollet Tower (see three states!),
which is one of the three things to do near Sisseton. Sisseton sits on the edge of the
Coteau du Prairie, an 800-foot-high plateau that divided the glaciers... on one side forming the
James River Valley where Mitchell sits, and on the other, the Minnesota River Valley.
The tower is half-way up the plateau. At that time of the day the visitor center was closed,
but a couple Indian kids at the top told me how to get to Sica Hollow, the State Park Iíd read so much about.

The directional signs leave a lot to be desired, and I drove right past the turn-off four times.
Itís just a little valley in the plateau, and depending upon who you talk to, the Indians either
loved or feared the place. The hiking trails are supposed to be the best, but the previous week
thereíd been 6" of rain in three hours, and the trails were muddy, and the mosquitoes ferocious.
Some of the roads on the way were still partly under water. I stayed in the car...

and drove on to Fort Sisseton, one of the few territorial forts still featuring its original buildings.
Enough said.

Saturday, I went back to the Nicollet Center and spent a couple hours (and $80 on books)
while the guy there filled me in on local gossip (An Indian girl had been beaten and left to die
last winter by tribe-mates... an unusual occurrence.  Usually, itís a white vs. red thing.)
and explained the differences in the Pow-Wow dances, which I was keen to learn. 

Then, I drove to Britton - 20 miles - to see the Prayer Rock, with Indian hieroglyphics,
because I didnít figger the Museum would be open on Sunday or the 4th.
Britton has a new museum, and the old guy there, seeing his first new face in a week,
gave me the *personal tour*. I didnít see the massive amount of native stuff the guide-book promised,
and the Prayer Rock is still across Main in their old location. It weighs about a ton and a half
and they havenít yet figured out how to move it across the street. To his credit, he locked up
the new place, and took me over so I could look.

Then, back to the Pow-wow to watch the finals of the dance competitions,
and returned to the motel about midnight.

Sunday, I drove to Mobridge. I took my time and listened to tapes. It's flat in that part of the state. FLAT!

After I settled into a motel, I went to the Sacagawea Learning Center, which is listed in the tour book,
but barely open. Lanniko Lee, who teaches writing at Sitting Bull College, is trying her
volunteer damndest to get the Center going, and I spent $25 because she autographed
her photo in Greg Latzaís photo book on the Missouri River for me.

Sitting Bullís grave is on a river bluff near Mobridge. The town stole his bones back from
North Dakota several years ago, poured 20 tons of concrete on top and built a memorial.
Heís got a great view. I went again in the morning, because the afternoon sun is in the
wrong place for good pictures.

If you're ever in Mobridge, the Klein Museum is worth the $3 admission.
I can get tired of looking at Pioneer Dresses pretty quickly, but they have a good selection
of native artifacts and the whole place is attractively displayed.

Mobridge had an annual three-day RODEO CELEBRATION which I skipped,
but I did watch the kids at the carnival on the grounds, and I watched
the fireworks (while battling mosquitoes) on Sunday night, courtesy of the Casino across the river.

Monday, the 4th, I followed Lewis & Clarkís Trail downriver via Hiway 1804, and home.
It was a desolate drive. Thank God for Books-On-Tape.

And, wouldnít you know it... as I pulled into my driveway, three of my neighbors
were mowing their frigging lawns.

Hugs to all,


 

 


Howdy... 06.12.05

 
After my last 'Howdy' about spending the weekend on the Pine Ridge Reservation,
I was invited by one of my *readers* to join him on July 16th in the Maximum Security Division
of the SD State Pen for an Indian Pipe Ceremony and Pow-Wow.
He goes every week as part of his church's ministerial association.
 
Of course, I'm going.
 
I'll  keep you posted.
 
Send snorkels... I've registered over 10" in my rain gauge
since last Saturday.  Either that, or my neighbor has been peeing
in my rain gauge again. I love rainy days, and hope we're not using our July and August allotment.
We're supposed to get 21" annually. 
 
My lawn is lush. I've had to pump my pool down twice.
 
All my neighbors have riding mowers, and it seems they mow every other god-damned day...
Christ! Get a life! Read a book! Sleep late! Watch some friggin TV!
I've never lived in a neighborhood where the most important thing
in your life is your grass.
 
I'll re-phrase that.... your *lawn*.
 
I mow when I expect that the city will ticket me for "harboring a public nuisance"
or the neighbors might start a petition.
 
Last year, I received a notice because my gas meter was overgrown by Spirea.
 
Oh well...
 
Alexz is home from NY... had a great time.

Her fave was the Renaissance Theater Dinner, and the Coney Island Freak Show (go figger!).
The downside was the 24-hour bus ride to and fro. I've heard about the missing girl in Aruba.
I'm just glad to have her home.

 
Hugs to all,
 

 Howdy... 05.29.05

It was an interesting Memorial Day weekend.

I told you I'd been invited to Selo Black Crow's  
Memorial Dinner and Give-away in Wanblee on Saturday. Selo died a year ago.
(I met Selo through Wes Pierson, but Wes couldn't attend because of graduations).

 
After the Sundance two years ago, the only times I'd seen Selo were either at the Hospital here, or at Jolene's (his white hunka-daughter). I'd go visit nearly every day, and listen to his stories. At the hospital, he'd want me to get him into his wheelchair and roll him outside so he could smoke. At Jolene's, he'd want me to take him for a ride around the lake or somewhere (so he could smoke). Evidently, it was because of this, that I was invited to attend, and receive a gift.  
 
I asked Alexz (but she had to work) and Lori Holmberg,  the Director of the Friends of the Middle Border Museum - Oscar Howe Center to go along (she'd met Selo and Jolene, but she had to work, too).
 
Anyway, I woke up in the middle of Friday night and realized that as long as I was going that far, and didn't have to be back for anything, I could spend a couple days looking around the reservation. I've always wanted to see Wounded Knee and Pine Ridge, but we were always in a hurry to either *get* to the Black Hills, or get *back* from the Hills. I threw a change of clothes in a bag and took off about 8:30.
 
Jolene told Wes that I should be there about noon.
 
Even the Indians joke about Indian time. I could have slept another couple hours.
 
A dozen of us went out to Selo's gravesite (maybe ten miles away) to the top of the hill overlooking Selo's Sundance grounds. The Sicangu Warriors performed a color-guard military ceremony. I wish I could have taken pictures but cameras are not allowed.
 
Back at Crazy Horse School, about 200 people had gathered... maybe a couple dozen of us white. They'd fixed a nice lunch of buffalo, potatoes, corn, and three desserts.  And frybread, lots of frybread. I saw people coming back to the tables with bowls of tripe (buffalo intestines), and the woman across from me said it was considered good Indian medicine, but I never saw anyone eat any, and I think most of it was left on the tables.
 
After lunch, Jolene, Sylvester (Selo's cousin), Sara Standing Bear (Sylvester's sister) and Willard (Selo's son) went to the front and began the give-away. I suppose maybe 30 people were called individually to come forward, one at a time...  just four of us white. I received a patchwork quilt that Sara Standing Bear said she'd made, and I accepted a printed Indian blanket for Wes. Then, they gave away tubs of plastic toys and Tupperware to the kids and others who hadn't been called up individually.
 
It was over about 5 PM, so I hopped in the car and drove slowly to Interior on the edge of the Badlands. There's one motel, one bar and a cafe. I figured there'd be no wireless Internet in the room when I saw there wasn't even a TV. Glad I'd thought to throw in a good book. Before bed, I drove to a secluded spot, listened to the meadowlarks and watched the sun go down over the Badlands.
 
Spectacular, and peaceful.
 
Next day, I drove the southern route to Scenic (it isn't) then down through Porcupine. I had a good audio book from the library, took my time, and stopped several times to take pictures that will probably never interest anyone but me. Most reservation places are pretty bleak, but I suppose anyone who looks for old derelict cars to renovate would consider it a goldmine. I stopped at the Wounded Knee Memorial, which is still a present-day working cemetery. Lotta plastic flowers, teddy bears and the occasional beer bottle left in Memorial Day salute.   
 
Then, on to Pine Ridge, which is a pretty good-sized town. I drove the two miles to White Clay, Nebraska, where the Indians get their liquor because there is none on the Rez. It's supposed to be one of the most lethal two-mile stretches in the US, because of the drunk Indians walking (and falling asleep in the roadway) and the drunk Indians driving. The border isn't even marked with a state-line sign... just one telling you that you're leaving a 'brand inspection area'.
 
Pine Ridge does have a really nice 24-7 Shell gasoline station (Big Bat's) with a food court that would put some malls to shame. I ordered BBQ'd spare-ribs, (they also have pulled pork, and smoked brisket) but they're only available on weekdays, and it was Sunday. 
 
Settled for a mushroom-Swiss burger and fries.  Food-wise, it was not a healthy weekend.
 
 
Love and Hugs to all,
Rick

  

 

01.04.2005

Howdy, Y'all...
 
We had a great time on the Waco trip.
 
Sunday - Left about 9:30 AM... stayed overnight in McPherson, KS... Had free cable internet in the room... 
 
There's not much else to do in McPherson.
 
Day 2 -  arrived Waco about 4 PM...
 
Alexz is a good driver... OK for her, she slept while I wuz driving. When *she was driving, *I was wide-awake... Are we still on the right road?... Are you awake?....    It's a Dad thing.
 
Although I was thinking about some face-to-face time in the car (Read: Are you sleeping with your boyfriend??) we had a nice, chatty, non-stressful trip.
 
(Read: learned nothing.)
 
John picked us up for dinner. Windee's Lexus has 3 rows of seats, so we were all able to ride together the rest of the trip, which made everything a lot easier.
 
Day 3 - Alexz and I walked the Baylor Campus (right X the street) while we waited for them to pick us up. Though the buildings were all locked for the holidays, you can see it's a beautifully maintained campus with a lot of money. Went for good ol' Texas BBQ (brunch), and later, downtown across the suspension bridge to a Mexican place in the renovated warehouse district for dinner.
 
John's kids are soooo well behaved. Syd is eight and Paige is four. They never get loud, and are a delight to be around. They latched onto Alexz right away, and she was great with them. They live in a twin-home (with no neighbor) in a subdivision of Hewitt so new that it's not even listed on MapQuest yet... cows in their backyard.
 
Days muddled...
 
Prolly, the most interesting thing we did was visit the Branch Davidian compound. Not many go there (we were the only car) (even though, when you say you're going to Waco, that's the first thing people mention). Got rough directions, and then asked some guy working on his truck in the general vicinity for details.
 
About a dozen people still live there, and they have reconstructed the church on the original site. There's a tiny museum with burnt dolls and bikes and such, and you can walk the entire complex. Marble markers and trees commemorate the 183 - 7th Day Adventists who died. There are no directional signs (according to the guy in the museum) because the Government and the College kids keep stealing them.
 
Bought a book and video.
 
Sydnee didn't sleep well that night... worried about the people in the *fire*. But, Alexz got interested in the book.
 
Dr. Pepper Museum wuz OK, but we were hoping to see a working plant...instead, lotta old bottles and ancient capping machines. Not even free pop at the end.
 
Drove to Crawford (twenty miles?) to see how close we could get to the Ranch when Bush was in town... not very... maybe a mile and a half, but an interesting Texas country drive.
 
H-E-B Grocery (John will manage their new Burleson, TX store when completed) is the kind of business you'd run if you were making enough money to afford it. Each store has three or four kiosks (each with 24-hour full-time chef). (John's Deli-chef cooked breakfast for Pres. Bush the day before.)
 
One day, went to Austin, where HEB has a Central Market (12-store sub-division). No Wheaties or Tide...  but 15 different kinds of fresh mushrooms, twenty trays of different fresh olives, and more kinds of fresh-to-grind coffee than my food store has wine. Everything fresh and Organic. Like a Mexican Market. Remarkable.
 
Coming home...  (Friday noon) - Alexz suggested we drive straight through, and save the $50 motel  (I'll drive, Dad.... I'll drive...). So we did. 
 
Arrived 3:30 AM ... Good thing. Next day's roads were slick with ice. Listening to John's new CD at midnight, New Years.
 
How much better can it get??
 
 
Love, and Hugs to All,
 
Rick Geyerman
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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