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Rick's Blog 2005
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
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
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,
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
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.
Pow-wow is the longest continually running event in South Dakota (138
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Bullís grave is on a river bluff near Mobridge. The town stole his bones
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
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
were mowing their frigging lawns.
Hugs to all,
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.
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).
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