There are several reasons I am moving back to Rapid City, SD from Albuquerque, NM. One is that I added a new word to my vocabulary a couple of weeks ago. The word is “mad-dogging.”
According to all of the news reports two young men met outside of a downtown bar and tried to stare each other down. In Albuquerque this is called “mad-dogging.” The end result of this “mad-dogging” is that one of the young men pulled a pistol and shot the other man in the chest killing him on the spot. Getting killed because you stared at someone? Now that is just too much.
Second is the news report last week that said, “There have been six homicides since Tuesday.” I check the calendar and it was only Saturday. Six homicides in four days? But that seems to be an average week down here. There are probably six murders in the entire year in the state of South Dakota. And three, Albuquerque has a population of about 700,000 which is the equivalent of the entire state of South Dakota.
And speaking of vocabularies, I suspect that the conversation I overheard in an Albuquerque ice cream parlor is probably typical of today’s teenagers, but I hope not. Anyhow, a teenage girl and boy were sitting next to me as I enjoyed an Oregon Blackberry ice cream cone. The girl was speaking and her conversation went something like this. “I was LIKE looking for a job so I LIKE went into this store and LIKE asked for the manager and he LIKE gave me an application and I LIKE filled it out and LIKE gave it back and LIKE . . . .” Did we talk LIKE that when we were teenagers?
But I suspect it is more than the sum of all these things. I see people retiring and moving to a place like Florida or Arizona because they do not have blizzards and freezing weather. They end up in a community where everyone is an elder wearing shorts and golf shirts.
Sure they may make new friends, but they leave the friends of a lifetime back in the state where they were born and raised. They become elderly strangers in the land of the elderly. And worse yet, they take all of the wisdom they used to help build a community far away from that community.
But more than anything, I am Lakota and I dearly missed the land of the Lakota. I missed the smell of the pine trees in the Sacred He’ Sapa (Black Hills) and the smiles on the faces of my former classmates and friends at the annual pow wows. And I just missed walking down the street in Rapid City and running into old friends from all walks of life that I have met and worked with over the many years I lived in South Dakota.
I missed driving down to the reservation and visiting the gravesites of my grandparents and stopping at all of my old haunts at Kyle and Martin. I missed being in a community where my weekly newspaper helped bring about so many changes for the good and not being able to enjoy the changes I helped bring about.
There is no other state in the Union that celebrates Native American Day as a state holiday except South Dakota and my Indian Country Today newspaper was the driving force behind that success.
The Lakota count their years on this Mother Earth in the winters they have survived. They say, “I have lived 74 winters.” And it seems that when one looks at the death records of the Indian reservations in this state one would find that most of the elders passed away in the winter time. I want to end my winters in the land that I love.
I am on the road in Rapid City as I write this column. My wife and I found a house we loved and we bought it. We will be moving back to Rapid City in mid-August and I am really excited about coming home. I had to chuckle to myself yesterday because as I was driving down St. Joseph Street in downtown Rapid City I almost ran into my longtime friend, Oglala Lakota attorney Mario Gonzalez and it made me realize that Rapid City is a small community where most of us know each other and that is a good thing.
Moving is never easy, but the friends who know me best will laugh when I say that this is my last move. In fact, some of them gave me the nickname of “Suitcase Giago.”
Tim Giago, an Oglala Lakota, was born, raised and educated on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. He was the founder and first president of the Native American Journalists Association and the founder and publisher of Indian Country Today, the Lakota Times, and the Dakota/Lakota Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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