Driving from Pennsylvania to Banff … Third Stop: The Badlands

From Wisconsin, we drove through a sliver of Minnesota before entering South Dakota. I have visited here before and have entries about the stops that will be redescribed in the next few entries. I will only add that these South Dakota landmarks can be revisited without ever feeling redundant.

To partially review, this area is a great source of fossils from millions of years ago, and evidence of Native American habitation for 11,000 years. The Sioux defeated neighboring tribes for this territory before White settlers and prospectors moved into the territory. The Sioux were awarded lifetime ownership of the Badlands … Of course, to the U.S. government, a lifetime turned out to be 20 years.

The Sioux were the first to use a phrase that called this land ” the badlands.” Extreme temperature swings, lack of water, and sharp erosion of the land made it a difficult territory to settle. Nevertheless, the Sioux worshiped the higher ridgelines, and designated their use for worship and the ceremony of the Ghost Dance. The dancers of this circle dance ceremony believed that the warriors would be given the spirit of their ancestors and that power would stop the westward land grab of the Whites. The Ghost Dance was outlawed and a conflict over its use led to a massacre of over three hundred Sioux men, women, and children at Wounded Knee, about 30 miles from the Badlands, in the 1890s. Amazingly, 20 soldiers were given medals of honor for their part in this slaughter.

Back to the Badlands … I love this visit. Some come here and stay for a few days or a week. There is one lodge and a few campgrounds within the park. But we drive the loop road … About 35 miles long … Stop at various lookouts and walk a couple trails … And then hook back in to the highway. In this case, we came out about 40 miles from our destination, Rapid City.

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