Miles: 300 (1,450 total)
State: South Dakota
First highlight of the day: Jack fed Prairie dogs & they fascinated him. I was more fascinated by the rattlers and fire ants – both lurking close by. That’s one very good reason to live in England. You are definitely at the top of the food chain. No chance of being killed by alligators, bears, scorpions, tarantulas, snakes, or spiders.
The gorgeous “Badlands” are nestled at the top of the Sioux Reservation & they deserve their name. Pioneers must have come over the brow, seen them and thought “Bugger it, how on earth will I get my wagon over this?” We wound our way through them and stopped by a little reservation town called Interior to buy some food.
The Sioux reservations in South Dakota are desolate, there’s no other word for it. People live in trailers and cars and poverty smacks you in the face everywhere you look. In Interior, we thought this jail was a joke, but it wasn’t. The water plant and local school were no better. Field boundaries aren’t made from heavy-duty wire like they are in the USA, but of old sticks and bits of lumber. Road signs are peppered with bullet holes. It makes you feel ashamed that Native Americans are living like this, but it is a complicated situation. The Fort Laramie treaty of 1868 gives ownership of all these lands to the Lakota, but a lot of it is American now and there are official national parks (Badlands, Mount Rushmore etc.) and other established American communities. The Supreme Court has offered $500 million in compensation but they have said no – they want their lands back. What is the answer? I have no idea. All I know is that I walked around the Wounded Knee Museum in Wall, read the stories of the massacre and the trail of tears and I felt depressed for a long time after.
Sitting Bull’s assassination is particularly sad. After they killed him they hid out in his house where they found his 14-year-old son hiding behind the curtains. They dragged him out and he begged for his life but they killed him anyway. Not surprisingly, there are boxes of tissues at each stop in the museum.
Tonight we are in Deadwood, an old wild-west town that was booming in the 1880’s with gold prospectors. Saloon Number 10 is where Wild Bill Hickok got shot while playing poker, and he’s buried in the local cemetery next to Calamity Jane. Our hotel was built in 1903, and is just oozing with nostalgia. As I’m typing this I’m looking at large pictures on the wall of local tribesmen riding their horses over the Badlands. This is the real deal and a definite holiday destination if you love the history of the Wild West.