The trip took us through the town of Scenic... which we thought would be... well... scenic! But it wasn't what we expected at all. it was essentially a ghost town at the intersection of two roads. The only viable building there was a convenience store run by a lone woman who lived there with her small child. Another traveler had stopped as well, and approached us. His name was Troy Schmidt and he was from Wooster! For the last several years he had been working as a guide with an outfit called Affordable Adventures, and Troy knew all the inside scoop on the area. He was lots of fun to talk to! I'll include his picture here.
The fun part ended there, however, as we moved into Pine Ridge. I don't even know how to explain that place. There is so little that is happy or prosperous there. No industry. No opportunity. About the only jobs are at the gas station or one of the few stores that meet the needs of the population. At the Wounded Knee site, we saw a ramshackle building with a sign proclaiming to be a museum. We found a young family who was trying to create a memorial there. And a man who was trying to support his family and their cause through their handicrafts. I bought a small painted drum that will always remind me of them. It was very disturbing. And it's not right!
Going south across the border to Nebraska we came to the town of White Clay. Surely this is the most disgraceful town in America. This town's sole reason for being is to sell alcohol to the residents of Pine Ridge. You see, the sale and possession of alcohol on the Reservation is forbidden by tribal law. So the thirteen total residents of White Clay, two miles away, provides it... to the tune of over ten million cans of beer alone last year. There are four establishments in town that sell liquor, and there is little else. The residents make their money on the misery of others. We saw Native Americans passed out cold and lying in the street as we drove by. We learned that alcoholism is the primary problem on the Reservation. Almost all crimes there are alcohol related. So why, we wondered, does the state of Nebraska allow this to continue? The answer seems to be that the neighbouring towns don't want "the problem" in their backyard, so the state is willing to look the other way so it stays contained in White Clay.
The way we have treated and continue to treat Native Americans is America's shame. It was hard to see, and not something I'll be able to forget.