In this episode, we bid farewell to Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The MobileBooth gets ready to move, with the professional and courteous aid of Terry Ritt, driver extraordinare.
Not only that, but we wave goodbye to Facilitator Jenna Weiss-Berman, who returns to New York with three months of MobileBooth touring under her belt. Co-Facilitator Mitra Bonshahi will miss her.
Luckily, a new Facilitator, Daniel Littlewood, has arrived from New York to keep the ball rolling.
Together Mitra and Daniel headed west, en route to Butte, Montana. On the way they saw the remarkable Devils Tower of northeast Wyoming (you may remember it from Close Encounters of the Third Kind). This 1267 foot tall monolith is the first National Monument of the United States, named as such in 1906. Sadly, the picture doesn’t do justice to its immensity, but know it’s really BIG.
For a day of field recordings, we headed up to Eagle Butte, a small town located within the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation.
Dana Dupris, like many of the Lakota Indians interviewed, described the unpleasant living conditions on Indian reservations. He compared reservations to prisons, as Indians had no say in where the government forced them to live. He was saddened that Indians were not free to live on the land that was once theirs.
Marcella LeBeau came in with Julia Monczunski, a reporter from our partner station, South Dakota Public Broadcasting. Ms. LeBeau described her service as a World War II nurse as "one of the greatest honors and privileges of my life."
Thanks to Julia and South Dakota Public Broadcasting for organizing this moving look at reservation life.
Following the lead of the pioneers, Jenna and Mitra corralled their horse-drawn StoryCorps wagon and headed out for the Western part of South Dakota.
After seeing numerous billboards along the way, Jenna and Mitra stopped at Wall Drug to quench their parched throats with free water. Free water, you say. Yes, it’s true. Wall Drug gives away about 20,000 cups of water a day!
At Wall Drug, they encountered the Jackalope, a creature of myth and folklore thought to be a cross between a jackrabbit and antelope. Following the suggestions of the jackelope legend, Jenna subdued the otherwise "killer-rabbit" by putting out a flask of whiskey for the creature to drink. After drinking its fill of whiskey, Jenna was able to wrangle in the beast.
Pictured above is a sign for Ghost Town, population 13, one of the many towns Jenna and Mitra were spooked by. South Dakota has 99 listed ghost towns with populations of two hundred or less.
In pursuit of the miners trail, Jenna and Mitra headed to the Black Hills hoping to line their pockets with gold. Instead they found a lush, verdant landscape that is sacred grounds for the Lakota Indians.
While in the Black Hills, Jenna and Mitra visited the controversial Mount Rushmore (far left corner of photo) and placed their heads in front of the heads of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abe Lincoln.
The spirit of the jackalope returns to haunt Jenna by sprouting antlers atop her head.
Unlike the Black Hills which are described as an "island of trees in a sea of grass," the Badlands are more like being on the moon while remaining on earth. View the slideshow below to see Jenna and Mitra amongst the arid canyons of the Badlands.
A day after Mitra and Jenna attended the Sioux Falls Festival of Cultures, they happened to have a day full of interviews of South Dakotans from many different cultural backgrounds, thanks to the Multi-Cultural Center of Sioux Falls, an excellent outreach partner.
Paul and Kathy Summers-LaRoche had been married for almost twenty years before Paul found out, while sorting through his adoptive parent’s belongings after they had both passed away, that his biological parents were Native American. He recounted his first phone conversation with his brother, at the age of 38, and the shock he felt when he heard, "Brother, you are a Lakota Indian." Since that day fourteen years ago, Paul and Kathy moved to the Lower Brule Sioux Reservation to live near Paul’s family, and Kathy became the producer of the band whose music was inspired by Paul’s journey, Brule, in which both their children play instruments. Finding out that Paul is Native American was a blessing for both Paul and Kathy, who say they have "started a new life, with new hope."
Ikoba Lokonobei came to StoryCorps with his daughter, Santina, to talk about leaving his home in Sudan for the United States. When Santina asked her father if he had planned to come to America, Ikoba explained that it was the civil war in Sudan that forced him to leave his country. Initially, he didn’t understand how to cross "beyond the waters" to a new found land, but after escaping to Kenya as a refugee, he managed to find his way to the U.S. Ikoba told Santina about the struggles of adjusting to life in the States, but said that ultimately he was proud of the sacrifice he made in order to give his family a good life. After the interview Santina revealed her own worries about adjusting to life in Africa in the future, where she plans to be a doctor so she can help those less fortunate than herself in her father’s homeland.
We have asked a lot of people what to do for fun in South Dakota and have been told repeatedly that in this sparsely inhabited region (only 781,919 people live here making it the 4th least populated state, but the 17th largest in size) of the U.S. of A., “people make their own fun.” So, we would like to propose a new state motto instead of the old one, “Under God the people rule.” We propose instead ” Under the South Dakota sun, the people make their own fun.”
Determined to emulate the fun had by South Dakotans, we set out on a quest to find our own fun and discovered that there is TONS of fun to be had here!
Mitra glides gracefully down the slide at local hotspot, the Wal-Mart Superstore.
Mitra works on perfecting her talent of riding a bike through two hotel rooms while simultaneously playing her harmonica.
The first week of interviews in Sioux Falls brought a mixed bag of South Dakotans and plenty of stories about life on the farm.
Philip Sietstra (left) was interviewed by his son, James Sietstra (right), who told many wonderful farm stories, including one about riding a pet hog with his brother as a child and accidentally causing the hog to have a heart attack. Whoa Nellie, slow down hog!
Local artist Carl Grupp (left) came in with his friend Gale Mord (right). Carl says that in life, “we create a myth of who we are and then we try to live up to that myth.” As a result, he has been trying to live up to that myth throughout his life by creating soul-searching, autobiographical art.
First built in 1892, the a-maize-ing palace was meant to showcase the rich soil of South Dakota and encourage people to settle in the area. In present day, the palace serves as a venue where such annual events like the Corn Palace Stampede Rodeo are held displaying the husk-y cowboys of South Dakota.
On a day trip to Mitchell, South Dakota, Mitra and Jenna were fortunate enough to stumble upon the Enchanted World Doll Museum. Not intended for faint of heart pediophobes (those who are deathly afraid of dolls), the castle is home to over 4,800 dolls exhibited in more than 435 unique dioramas.
Here, Miss No Name (pictured in the green burlap dress) is placed next to Poor Pitiful Pearl (to the left of Miss No Name) whom she is "very often confused with," as told by the placard next to the Miss’ feet.
Sadly, when you’re a girl with No Name, it seems to be no one knows your name.
Facilitator Jenna Weiss-Berman ventured out of Omaha and took the road less traveled to Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Known as a mini-Minneapolis, which is, in turn, called a mini-Big Apple, Jenna encountered rolling waterfalls just one mile outside of the downtown district. The Falls (pictured above), the namesake for Sioux Falls, are initially what attracted settlers to the area just as the Hudson River had with New York.
As they returned to downtown Sioux Falls, the booth awaited them in front of the Washington Pavillion of Arts and Sciences (above), ready to capture the stories of America’s Heartland.