Girlfriends Trip to South Dakota: A Learning Experience By Lafelda Jones

They made us many promises, more than I can remember—they never kept but one; they promised to take our land, and they took it.”— Red Cloud

It is easy to forget that just a few hundred years ago, much of North and South America was home to more than 5000 nations of indigenous peoples. Native American or Indian societies fell victim to a wave of European invasions, and more than 500 years after Columbus’ arrival, evidence of Indian culture is hard to find. Enter Cleo Whitley!

Cleo recommended our girlfriends’ next trip be a bucket list journey to South Dakota, home to Mount Rushmore. Yeah, seeing the four Presidents would be cool, but more intriguing was the thought of seeing the Crazy Horse statue monument, which is under construction, and learning more about Native American culture, and how this country was transformed. As survivors of slavery (and colonialism on the continent), African Americans share a bond with Native Americans.

During our 13 hour drive, we did our usual catching up but also googled historical tidbits so we’d be informed, tourists. Having recently moved back from Georgia, I was amazed to learn that a treaty in 1785 that protected Cherokee land there was rescinded by a treaty in 1791… and that President Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Act caused a huge loss in population and greatly reduced Native American territory by the end of the 19th century.

But as we learned when we arrived, the Indians did not go down without a fight. Besides treating us to amazing Native American tacos (made with bison and a flavorful bread), our tour guides Henrietta and Melissa Laundreauxx (amazing mom and daughter) fed us a steady diet of little known facts. First, Crazy Horse wasn’t ‘crazy’ at all. By the time he was 13, he was a skilled fighter and led the Sioux nation against the Americans many times, handing crushing defeats to several U.S. Army units, most notably George Armstrong Custer at Little Bighorn.

I was not surprised to learn that the Sioux Chiefs undergo an excruciating series of tests that include climbing a mountain, going without food and water, and staying in a sweat box until he has rid himself of all earthly vibes.

I was also not surprised to learn that no government money has been used to build the Crazy Horse monument and is mostly derived from private donations and funds from the Museum and gift shop. I donated to the cause and couldn’t help but pay attention to the face on the $20 bill. Maybe after they change Andrew Jackson to Harriet Tubman, we should ask for Crazy Horse on the One Spot. At least, bring back the Buffalo nickel.