Exiting Devil’s Tower into an American Abyss

Shaggy clouds brush South Dakota’s jagged Badlands as our pickup crosses tracks left on a Christmas Eve long ago by people seeking safety but trudging toward massacre.

Bighorn sheep ignore the spits of rain annoying tourists already grumbling about the vigorous wind and the lack of postcard light on the raw colors of Badlands National Park. At a pulloff a plaque in seven sentences plots the Big Foot Trail describing the flight of Minneconjou Sioux.

Bighorn sheep, Badlands National Park, South Dakota
A bighorn sheep takes a break from browsing at Badlands National Park. © William P. Diven (click image to enlarge in new tab).

Here the chief, known to his people as Spotted Elk and whites as Big Foot, rested ill with pneumonia during the hours spent molding a sharp descent off the Badlands Wall into something passable for hundreds of men, women and children. This was two weeks after federal Indian police sent to arrest Sitting Bull instead killed him and perhaps a dozen others on the Standing Rock Reservation.

Word of the killing sent Spotted Elk south toward the snow-covered valley along Wounded Knee Creek on the Lakota Sioux reservation at Pine Ridge.

The trail he followed, and the path we soon chose, led down a dark alley of Manifest Destiny.

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New Year, No Fear

Another year blows by like so many snow pellets riding a ferocious east wind. In crossing the artificial dateline on Pope Gregory’s calendar, how do you tally progress versus the countervailing forces of fear and greed?

Snow-streaking

Sideways snow falling in the foothills of New Mexico’s Sandia Mountains, Dec. 30, 2014. Photo © William P. Diven.

On balance the human species survived 2014 without actually destroying the planet. That counts as a positive although one friend isn’t so sure. Would be fine with her if Homo sapiens somehow erased itself leaving earth and the animal kingdom to proceed without our interference.

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Will You Be Trekking for Justice When You’re 91 Like She Is?

Sally-Alice Thompson was young–only 63–when she walked across the United States protesting nuclear armament. Nearly 30 years later, she hit the road for Santa Fe to preserve the value of voting.

Sally-Alice Thompson on the march nearing Algodones, N.M. Photo © William P. Diven. (This photo also appeared in the Sandoval Signpost, Placitas, N.M.)

Sally-Alice Thompson on the march nearing Algodones, N.M. Photo © William P. Diven. (This photo also appeared in the Sandoval Signpost, Placitas, N.M.)

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Openness cures ills unless government blocks the sunshine

Who loses when supposed leaders don’t get the big picture? We the people, of course.

So, how to explain denying our history, ignoring the First Amendment on public lands and cloaking yet another attempt to dam the free-flowing Gila River?

Gila River Lower Box in the dam project area. Photo © William P. Diven.

Gila River Lower Box in the dam project area. Photo © William P. Diven.

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