We drove 879 miles over four days to get from our home in Chicago to Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, which sits between the Badlands and Black Hills in South Dakota.
I've been traveling to Pine Ridge for nearly three years now, reporting on its people and issues for The Huffington Post and working on a book of stories about a woman here named Delores Takes War Bonnett.
Dan hasn't been to Pine Ridge in a couple years, and the dogs had never been. I couldn't wait to experience the place with all of them and set up our little wheel house. We could be stationary for the next week, and I could write in a place where I typically spend my time rushing around meeting people and researching.
Our drive took much longer than we expected (nearly double the 14 hours estimated), and it was taxing to set up and tear down our trailer four days in a row while simultaneously compiling a list of our trailer's "quirks."
Those quirks include:
- Sink water that feeds into the black tank instead of the gray tank
- A slide that the manufacturer neglected to bolt in on one side
- A refrigerator that seems only to work when plugged into electricity, not on propane (as it should when we're driving)
None of these issues is dangerous, but each has added a thin layer of stress to our journey.
Then, as we were driving, I saw route 44 transition to BIA 2. This meant we were on Pine Ridge. And for me, the issues with our trailer shot to the background. It felt like a homecoming—to have come so far only to land in a place that I know so well, to see people who have become like family.
In the five days that we've been here, Dan has found a good flow for his work, and I've happened upon three stories I plan to write for various publications (more on that soon).
As expected, however, being here sets emotions on edge and is a lot for us to process in general. Pine Ridge is an absolutely beautiful, powerful place—but challenging too. Very little about life on the reservation is easy, and we miss the physical presence of friends we've had to say goodbye to earlier than ever expected.
So instead of writing the specifics about our days here so far, I'll let our photos do the talking. I hope they'll show you at least some of what I love about this place and the people who live here.