Friday, August 3, 2012

Back on the Rez

It was a whirlwind tour to the Rez this time.  I went out on a Saturday and came back on Tuesday.  But packed so much in those few short days as to leave me still recovering.

I departed on a sunny Saturday, and stopped a couple of times to do some very brief dragonfly hunts. The first was quite successful, finding the following in one spot, and taking a whole fifteen minutes...

 Common Whitetails in a dogfight with some sort of bluet.
 Familiar bluet, there were tons and tons of these.
 Blue Dasher, also very prevalent.
And a male Widow Skimmer.

These were taken at a little park on the East side of the Missouri River.  I then crossed the river and pulled off into another little park, where I found another Familiar Bluet, and this gal...

Some sort of bluet, but nearly impossible to ID.  Such is life.  I thought the iridescent gold on the top of the tail was pretty cool, though.

I then drove straight on through to the Rez, excited to see my friends again.  I was privileged to stay at Re-Member once again, even though I wasn't working that week.  But like Ted (the head honcho) said, I was there continuing to build relationships, and that is the primary focus of the place.  After happy reunions with the many people I know at Re-Member, night was falling.  I had a cot in the dorm, and it was very warm.  My friend Erika had a tent set up in the "backyard" that she wasn't going to use for that night, and graciously let me sleep there.

I fully intended to get a long exposure night shot of the stars, but after drifting off to sleep, I didn't wake until the sun came back up.

Sunday was designated as rehearsal day. The reason I was back on the Rez was that my friend Will Peters is recording his second album.  He invited me to do some back up vocals for it.  How could I refuse!?!

So I met up with him Sunday morning to learn the songs and come up with some vocals.  He has a bunch of really great tunes.  Native oriented, powerful lyrics, and sticky tunes.  I'm still humming them a week later.  We sang and talked and sang some more.  Erika and Dan, another Re-Member staff member were also invited to sing, so around 3 pm I went to pick them up.  Soon we were all gathered in the Peters living room having a jam session. It was awesome.  We stayed up late rehearsing, as we had studio time booked for the next day, Monday.

Monday morning, Erika, Dan and I met Will, his wife Lena, son Jess and daughter Kesia at Big Bats and headed North to Rapid City.  Kesia rode with us and we practiced a little on the way up.

The studio time was great.  We got off to a slow start, trying to remember the things we had learned the day before.  But pretty soon we got in the groove, and laid down some pretty good stuff.

I'm looking forward to hearing it all mixed down!  I'll let everyone know when the album is released. 

So, with recording finished I was planning on heading home Tuesday morning.  When we got back to Re-Member, Ted had arranged for me to meet a guy named Ed Iron Cloud.  Ed has been running a bison ranch on the Rez for many years now, and I had a chance to pick his brain and talk buffalo with him for awhile.  Ed also offered to show me around his ranch on Tuesday, so my plans changed a bit for getting home.

Later Monday night... I went back over to Will's house to talk a bit.  As I stated in an earlier post, I had the honor of attending a Sun Dance for a day on my last visit. I have also been asked by my church to give a one hour class on Lakota Spirituality and my trips to the Rez for an Adult Forum in October.  I wanted to talk with will about all of this.  So we sat in his backyard and talked until the early morning about Christianity, Lakota spirituality, Sun Dance, music, and told stories to each other about our lives. Will is a really good guy.  Good to talk to.  His Lakota name is Teacher of the Red Road, and it fits him.  I feel like I learned a ton of stuff just that night.

Tuesday morning I met with Ed in Porcupine. He had been trying to arrange to borrow a four wheeler for me to use so we could go look at the buffalo herd.  He had his in the back of his truck, and had called a neighbor next to his buffalo paddock to see if I could use his ATV. He didn't have much luck getting hold of the guy though, so we drove over to his place to see if he was home.  The meeting did not go as I expected.

We drove up to his house and were greeted by a few friendly dogs.  The ATV sat out next to a truck.  Ed walked over to the house and I got out of the truck, but it didn't seem like anyone was home.  We walked back over to the truck when suddenly a guy came out of the house. He looked a little like Wilford Brimly but fatter. He came at a fast clip up to the truck, and without warning started chewing Ed a new orifice. He was PO'd about something happening down by the creek, and about having to watch the buffalo.  At one point he thought they had escaped so he 'had to' go check on them, but they had not escaped.  It was a surreal argument.  Ed just sat there and smiled at him, a little embarrassed I think. The guy told us that we couldn't borrow the ATV because "What if this guy (referring to me) rolls it or wrecks it?" Then he got really weird. He said "This guy has money.  Why can't he just buy his own ATV to ride."  The only real difference between him and me was that I had bathed that day, but I refrained from pointing that out, as with his next sentence he challenged Ed to a fight.

Yep, wanted to fight him.  Surreal. Then this guy said that he was pissed at Ed for playing cowboy by buying the land and putting buffalo on it. "I've been a cowboy all my life, and you are just here playing around." Then he said something that dropped my jaw.

"This land was mine way before it was yours, Ed."

Did I hear that right? This white rancher just told this Lakota man that the land was white before it was Lakota?  But he went on, saying that his father had run this ranch. They had constantly struggled to make a go of it, and apparently still were. Now Ed waltzed in here and started raising buffalo and it pissed him off.

Once again I refrained from a history lesson about who the land actually belonged to. As he would probably want to fight me, too.

Ed just smiled and nodded at the guy, and eventually he sputtered himself out, wanting to be friends with Ed again and saying "We're brothers you know." 

My first encounter with the legendary White Rancher.  It did not leave a good impression.

So we drove in Ed's truck back to the buffalo paddock.  Ed told me that the rancher had horses and some cattle on the land, but was still having a hard time making ends meet.  Soon we were driving on the buffalo grounds.  Surrounded by railroad tie and barbed wire fences.  There was a dirt road cutting through the pasture, and the buffalo were gathered on the road.

Weird, said Ed, as they usually were way off the road and harder to find.  I told him that they must have known I was coming.

We stopped to look at them for a bit, Ed pointing out the up and coming dominant female and stories about some of the other herd members.

The new head gal is on the right of the bull.

The old herd female had wandered away from the herd and had not been seen for a few weeks.  Ed was pretty sure she had gone off to die someplace secluded, and so he didn't want to bother her resting spot. 

The buffalo kept eyes on us, but didn't seem particularly worried about our presence.

After watching the buffalo for awhile, we headed over to take a look at their water supply, a natural spring pond tucked down in a ravine.

There were horses at the spring, and after some initial hesitance at our being there, they decided we must be ok.  One of them followed me very closely and nudged me for some attention whenever I stopped.

I, of course, took the opportunity to do a brief ode hunt. 

Finding a Twelve-spotted Skimmer that, when confirmed, will add another species to the Shannon County list. 

My shadow horse took a break from me to go stand in the pond and splash and drink, at which time the other three horses came over for some forehead scratching and general attention as well.

I was trying to get a good shot of some of the other odes I saw flitting about, as the Common Green Darner I was targeting with my camera was not yet on the Shannon County list.  But the middle horse kept nibbling at my arm every time I tried to get a shot.  So I gave up and turned my attention to the horses.  Ed was curious about my dragonfly addiction, and so I answered his questions about their life cycles and habits, and even taught him a species or two.

As we drove through the pastures on our way back to Porcupine, I took shots of Buffalo grassland and cattle grassland.  Can you spot the difference?

The cattle really mow everything down, leaving pastures like the one shown in rough shape.  It takes those pastures much longer to recover.  Where the buffalo graze the land can bounce back quicker.  The buffalo are also native to the area, so nearly anything growing is food for them.  There is little need to drop hay in their paddocks, like there is for the cattle. 

Easier on the environment, they don't pollute their water supply, the market is wide open and supply is much less than demand.  I like buffalo.

Anyway, after the tour, I headed back into Pine Ridge to meet with Will one more time before I left.  I also found one of the Re-Member work sites and said goodbye to some friends.

All told, I didn't leave Pine Ridge until mid afternoon.  It was going to be a long trip home.  I headed North this time and passed through Kyle, the home of Tanka Bars. I had to stop in and say hi, of course, and got a tour of the place to boot!  They are a friendly gang, and if you're ever in Kyle, stop by!

I headed up to I-90 through the Badlands, a beautiful drive. 

On the road home I turned on the iPad recorder and talked about all of the things Will and I talked about.  I pulled into my driveway just before 1 am. Tired, head spinning, but happy for my time back on the Rez.

Wopila to Ted and the Re-Member gang for being so welcoming, to Will and Lena for the fun of Sunday and Monday, to Ed Iron Cloud for the buffalo tour.  I had a great time and look forward to heading back.

More Later


Grammy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Grammy said...

Wow... Another memorable trip to the "Rez". I am looking forward to hearing the CD. Your pictures are great! Did you go to Hot Springs... Edgemont... Or Deadwood?

John said...

No I didn't. With the bison tour and the other stuff, I didn't have a lot of time to tour other places. I'll head back someday though, so I may plan some tour time then!