"We Gwich’ins in Arctic Village are located in northern Interior Alaska. After a hard winter days’ work, I watched “The Motorcycle Diaries” at my grandpa’s house. It’s a movie about Che Guevara’s trip through the poverty-stricken indigenous communities of South America. After his trip, he got inspired and became a world-famous revolutionary. I decided to follow his lead. I cashed in my Permanent Fund dividend, found a ride online at Craig’s List, and left to see Indian Country.
With a Vietnam veteran, I drove for three days and nights through Canada. We reached Kadoka, S.D., where my Lakota friend Alex waited up for me till 2 a.m. at her mom’s. I ran into her arms and it was the best hug I ever had. She drove me into Pine Ridge, and I was excited to finally be on the famous reservation.
The next morning, I stepped onto the prairie lands and met her parents and horses. She drove me out into the field; one horse stuck its head inside the truck window. Had it shifted its head to the left it would’ve crushed mine, but I trusted Alex. She drove me around Pine Ridge and spoke of events in the American Indian movement, and I could feel their ghosts. Her mom drove us to Wounded Knee, where I left prayers and a tobacco pouch, then left quietly. I’ll never forget it. We met up with former Chief Herold Selway to speak about the fight to retrieve the Black Hills. His message was: Protect your sacred sites and you protect all others in the world. For the rest of the week, I drove down steep gorges with the Lakota park rangers rounding up buffalo; spoke to the Rosebud Middle School kids; walked and talked with the Native teacher; visited the Veteran Wall, museums, tribal colleges; talked about my trip on Lakota Radio; and visited Pine Ridge tribal headquarters."
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Matt Gilbert: Coming full-circle through Indian Country
(The Tunda Drums 10/23)