Pine Ridge Reservation
The Pine Ridge Reservation is located in the southwest corner of South Dakota. The reservation is home to the Oglala Sioux Nation. One of the largest reservations in the United States, it encompasses 3,468 square miles of land.
The land of the reservation is varied. In the northwest corner, the multihued peaks, spires, grassy tables, and valleys of the southern unit of the Badlands occupy 160,000 acres. The land just south of the Badlands, west and central in the reservation, touches the outer spurs of the Black Hills, with low rolling hills, stands of ponderosa pine, and mixed grass prairie. The southern and eastern areas of the reservation are prairie grasslands.
Life for the Oglala Sioux (Lakota) has not been easy. Forced to move onto reservation land at the end of the Indian Wars of 1876, stripped of their lands and livelihood, their language, and, in many cases, their culture, the Lakota still have a long road of healing ahead of them.
In terms of relative time, the wounds are recent, though the damage is deep. There are signs, however, that out of the poverty and pain a new nation of Oglala Lakota leaders will emerge who will work to bring the community to spiritual and economic health.
Today, the people of Pine Ridge work to share their culture with the world outside the reservation boundaries. Their lands are beautiful, their history important. Visit the Red Cloud Indian School and learn about the history and culture of the Lakota people. Stop at Prairie Wind Casino, one of the first ventures to bring visitors to the reservation, and test your luck. Honor those who were massacred at Wounded Knee. Seek out a powwow. Go horseback riding or hiking near the Badlands and visit the art galleries and shops of the small communities of the Pine Ridge Reservation.
© Laural A. Bidwell from Moon Mount Rushmore & the Black Hills, 1st Edition