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  • The majority of stories you will find about the Pine Ridge Reservation will invariably include discussions of extreme poverty, high levels of alcoholism, gang violence and teen suicide statistics. While all of these are realities in Pine Ridge there are also the numerous untold stories of generosity, humor and humility that occur every day but are not noted because so few take the time to look for them. This is one of those stories.

    In the summer of 2011 I joined a group of friends who were traveling to attend a Sundance in Manderson, South Dakota. Most of our group was driving from North Carolina but I was flying in to Rapid City renting a car and meeting everybody at the dance the next day. Arriving at my hotel room in Rapid City I started contemplating my plans for the next day. There were so many sights I was hoping to take in on my way to the dance but my time was limited and I wasn't sure what would fit into my schedule. This is when it struck me that an artist I had seen online must live nearby. I pulled out my computer, looked up Kevin Pourier's phone number from his website, and dialed his number.

    I had come across Kevin's artwork earlier in the year while surfing around on the internet. I also found a YouTube video interview of Kevin explaining some of his process and the significance of his work. His intricately carved and inlaid buffalo horns are truly breathtaking. Even as the phone was ringing I couldn't help but wonder if it would seem strange to Kevin to be receiving a phone call in the evening from a complete stranger asking for an invitation to come see his work in person. I ended up having to leave a message and assumed that this would be an opportunity that just wasn't meant to be. To my surprise Kevin returned my call within a few minutes and seemed genuinely happy at the thought of me stopping by. Kevin gave me directions to his house. Anybody who has been to the Pine Ridge area knows that directions need to be pretty specific and still include geographical references like "look for a dirt road when you get to the bottom of the hill" or "make a right at the fork in the road and look for the grove of cottonwood trees."

    The next morning, map in hand, I stopped at the front desk of my hotel to get some input on what would be the most scenic route from Rapid City to Kevin's house. I don't think it is possible to drive through the Badlands or stop at the Wounded Knee memorial without having feelings of insignificance. And so I arrived at Kevin's studio. Kevin emerged from his studio with a friendly hello and the kind of smile that makes you feel like you have been missed even though this is the first time you've met. Over the next few hours Kevin shared his studio, his family (I got the chance to meet his wife and his father), his art and best of all stories of his life. He shared the story of Sitting Bull's butterfly with me and his personal connection with butterflies. The story about Sitting Bull resonated with me because I knew exactly which photo of Sitting Bull Kevin was talking about. Before leaving I asked Kevin if I could see some of the jewelry that he makes. I was hoping to buy a piece that I could give to somebody at the Sun Dance as a gift. It was an easy choice when I saw the earrings that looked like a pair of monarch butterfly wings.

    When I arrived at the Sundance it was my intention to give the earrings to a friend who was a dancer. I had the opportunity to sit on one of the drums at the dance and saw several butterflies over the course of the next few days. Each time I would think about Kevin and his wife. When I noticed that one of the young girls who leads the dancers into the circle had been wearing dresses with butterflies on them for the past two days I knew that those butterfly earrings were meant for her. And so Kevin's act of kindness in opening up his studio and his stories to me lead me to share his earrings with somebody I had never met before. That young girl's grandmother has since called to check on me since the dance. Proof that we are all indeed connected. A lesson that the people of Pine Ridge know better than most.
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