CITY -- Like those of her ancestors, the hands of Daynetta Bald
Eagle are seldom idle. Methodically they move, pushing the bone
needle through the deerskin, pulling the sinew tight and repeating
the motion as she sews a knife sheath. There is little wasted motion.
At the same time, she continues to talk with her guests.
do wish that I could have raised my children 200 years ago, in a
place like this," she says. "I think it would have been
a lot easier. Nowadays, there are so many distractions - gangs,
drugs, so much violence - too much is asked of them and much too
Eagle sets her sewing aside for a moment and begins to stroke the
hair of her 7-year-old daughter, Brenna, who has fallen asleep on
a thick buffalo hide rug with her head in her mother's lap.
is Wicoti Living History Lakota Encampment, on the southern edge
of Hill City just off U.S. Highway 16/385. It is a replica of a
1804 Lakota village and a reflection of life from that bygone time.
Lakota woman is seated on the floor of a tipi made from the brain-tanned
hides of buffalo cows, in the way of the old Lakota.
hide tipi is different from the canvas ones that compose the rest
of the village. Though the afternoon is quickly growing hotter,
the inside of the tipi is still cool and comfortable. When the inevitable
winds come up, the sides of a canvas tipi billow and flap noisily,
but the hide tipi stands rigid and still. And the soft and soothing
light in this house of hide invites peace and calm.
Eagle's guests are a grandmother, mother and five children from
Washington state. All are interested in everything Bald Eagle has
to say. The children ask many questions and obviously have done
some reading about American Indian ways.
husband, children and I lived in a tipi like this one for about
a year and a half," Bald Eagle tells them. "When we moved
back into a house, it was quite an adjustment for the children.
They couldn't get used to sleeping in a room where you couldn't
look up and see the stars."
the hide tipi, Bald Eagle's brother, Jay Red Hawk, rides about the
encampment on Buffalo Boy, a huge and beautiful American paint stallion.
Wearing the clothes and paint of the old Lakota warrior's society
that honored the swift fox, Red Hawk answers the questions of other
visitors. His personality is bright and infectious.
Hawk says the mission of Wicoti goes much deeper than being merely
another tourist attraction.
purpose is to educate people, especially young people, from both
cultures, to build better relationships between them," Red
Hawk said. "I never know when I might be talking to some kid
who will grow up to be a leader, maybe even president, or the CEO
of a major corporation. He may make decisions that will have a major
effect on my people. Something he learns here may help him to better
understand the effects of his decision."
Hawk said young Lakotas also need to know more about their history.
"It's hard to know where you are going if you don't know your
past. If the kids don't get plugged into their cultural identity,
I fear for their future," he said.