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  • For many Lakota people, the Badlands are a very sacred place. It will always be a very special place for me.

    When I was a young boy my father's sister and my uncles used to take trips out to the Badlands. Sometimes they'd bring us out there in their car. We'd sometimes spend the whole day out there. We'd leave early in the morning and come back at night. While were there we'd go looking for fairburn agates. The most colorful ones were red, black and orange. Most times we found some but they wouldn't be that big or colorful. At the time, I didn't know they were worth money to some people. I remember my father telling me one time that he found one that was as big as a softball and which was very beautiful. He sold it for $500.00 to a rock collector who told him that he would buy more if we found them. I don't know what it was actually worth. Me and my brother would just be out there exploring, looking at different plants and rock formations. One time when we were out there we found anti-aircraft shells. We found a lot of them. While everybody else was out looking for rocks my brother collected those shells. I would always wonder why these were out there until later, when I grew up, I found out that the military would target practice out there and that parts of the area had been a bombing range during the 1940s and 1950s. Now that I think about it, I'm glad we didn't find any live bombs while we were there. Kids have found bombs in the creeks on the reservation before.

    One time we found a petrified turtle. It was all rock but you could still see the shell. I still wonder if that was a sign or something. In my culture, the turtle represents patience and perseverance. That seems to be a theme in my life.

    In the Badlands I felt safe and at peace. It was like a home... a place I was always happy to return to. The more times I came back, the more I got attached. I felt spirits were always watching over us not realizing until much later in life that my ancestors also found this place a safe haven. It was a place where they would hide from the soldiers because they knew the wagon guns couldn't be brought out there. It was a place where they Ghost Danced.

    Now I understand why my ancestors loved the place. I go back there every chance I get and then try to imagine how hard it must have been for my ancestors to survive out there. It can be pretty awesome when a thunderstorm comes through. It can rain really hard very suddenly, causing floods while lightning is striking all around ... loud crashes of thunder delayed a few seconds after the flash. You can hear the coyotes howling, see all different kinds of animals... birds, deer, prairie dogs, spiders and snakes. They call this place home. Indians like me call it home too. It is so beautiful and wide open. You can see the beauty and feel the tranquility for miles around. Smelling the sagebrush ... it almost seems like you are in another world... in a dreamworld. Especially at night, when the wind blows ...you can hear ... almost like people singing in the wind ... when the wind blows off the hill tops. Here, I feel a peace and contentment like few other places. I am connected to all of Wakan Tanka's Creation.
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