Monuments of Stone

On our way to Missoula, the first stop on our 12 Cities, 1 Year tour, Todd and I stopped at Badlands National Park, right next to Buffalo Gap National Grassland. In my opinion, we didn’t get to spend nearly enough time at either. After we set up camp near Mount Rushmore, I went back one night to take more photos and was mesmerized by the birds warming themselves on the dirt roads. There were nighthawks, doves, sparrows, and horned larks just hanging out in the road, eating insects or enjoying the lingering warmth. I could have watched them for hours, if it weren’t for the mosquitoes. Here is a picture I took in the Badlands, on Sage Creek Road, which rises from Highway 44 to become the rim road.Beth Partin's photos, Sage Creek Road Badlands The next picture was actually the purpose of my trip; I wanted to photograph the yellow-and-purple-striped mounds in better light. Unfortunately, the drive took longer than I expected, and I lingered too long with the birds on the road and the curlews flying overhead.

Our next stop was Mount Rushmore National Monument, which impressed me more than I expected. To be honest, I don’t really approve of carving things into mountains; I’d rather we stopped blowing up mountains for coal or carving our likenesses into them and just leave them the way they are. But the entire setup was kinda cool. Beth Partin's photos, Mount Rushmore walkwayWhat I liked most at Mount Rushmore was the performance by Jasmine Pickner, Lakota, nationally ranked hoop dancer. Jasmine Pickner, sweatlodge, Mount RushmoreShe mentioned that hoop dance has traditionally been performed by men, but that the last world championships were dominated by the two female competitors (of which she was one). She also talked about how some people she knew were surprised that she would dance at Mount Rushmore; she turned it into an opportunity to talk about her tribe and its history. She danced with dozens of hoops that she made into several shapes; in the preceding pictures, she’s building a sweatlodge for the finale.

In the next three pictures, she gathered a group of children, whom she called the “super-duper hoopers.” Jasmine Pickner, women's hoop dance, Lakota, Beth Partin's photosShe showed that when she finishes her schooling in elementary education, she’s going to be a great teacher. I didn’t ask her permission to take these photographs because she was giving a performance in a public space, but when Todd and I go to the Standing Arrow Powwow this weekend, neither of us will be taking pictures.

I wrote the powwow committee and asked them about the rules, and they said we would need to get permission from each dancer (and written permission if we wanted to sell the photos). In other words, they didn’t want us to take pictures unless we were dedicated enough professionals to go to the trouble of talking to each and every dancer on the floor. I understand the history behind the committee’s rules; they want to prevent whites from profiting from Indians without their knowledge or permission. But what if we want to photograph a group of dancers on the floor? It seems a little ridiculous to ask us to get permission from all the dancers, especially if only some of the dancers are recognizable.

Our last stop in South Dakota was Crazy Horse Memorial. Both Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse were complexes or campuses, with museums and stores and places to eat, but Crazy Horse is funded through a private foundation. The plans for Crazy Horse are quite extensive, including the American Indian University and Medical Training Center. I took many pictures of the monument from different angles, starting with my attempt to get as many models in one picture as possible.Crazy Horse Memorial, Beth Partin's photos, LakotaNext is the large outdoor model of the carving.If it rains, the model can be retracted into a covered area, and it was while we were there.There is a large deck from which to view the carving. Or you can take shelter in the equally large museum and check it out from there. If that’s not enough, you can take a bus down this road to get closer. We didn’t.