Living on Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, I am only a few minutes from the Badlands and a little over an hour from the Black Hills. I recently got the chance to explore both beautiful national parks, as well as some other places that have captured my heart. Here are just a few…
Hiking in the Badlands was such a cool experience, especially as my group were the only ones there. Climbing Badlands is a lot harder than it looks, and every time you turn a corner there are more and more.
- Black Hills
The Black Hills are huge, and there’s a lot to see from Custer to Mount Rushmore. I recommend hiking in Wind Cave national park. According to Lakota legend, Wind Cave is the location of the creation story, one of several reasons why the Black Hills are so sacred to Lakota culture. We checked out the visitor’s center to learn about the cave, then hiked up some of the hills. We got to see buffalo, prairie dogs, and some fantastic views.
- Merrival Farm
This ranch is home to two of the four white bison born in the twentieth century, Rainbow and Medicine Wheel. In addition to feeding buffalo and riding cows, this is also the perfect place to learn about Lakota history and culture.
- Wounded Knee Massacre Site
On December 29, 1890, over 150 Lakota people were slaughtered in the Massacre of Wounded Knee. Understanding the history of how this United States came to be – through the genocide of native people – is pertinent to healing and reconciliation.
At the end of the summer, Powwows are a celebration of life recognized in native communities. They include dancing, competitions, rodeos, ceremonies, vendors, food, and carnival rides. What better way to end the summer than eating an Indian taco while watching some beautiful dancing? My favorite is Tiny Tots, when all the little ones dance.
Before my summer in South Dakota, I didn’t realize how much the Midwest had to offer. There are so many adventures in this hidden gem of our country, from an afternoon in Rapid City to floating down Nebraska’s Niobrara River. Although I’m transitioning back into East Coast life, the Great Plains have not seen the last of me.