Thursday, July 29, 2010

Justin, Jenny, and General Custer

Hi everyone!  It seems like a long time since I last updated this blog.  Much too much has happened to relay it all, but I can touch on the highlights. 

Today we are staying with our friend Doran.  He goes to EMU and lives in Freeman, South Dakota.  Last night we stayed in Parkston.  The pastor of the UCC church there bought us a hotel room!  We ate tacos that we made on our camp stove, caught up on world events thanks to Stephen Colbert and John Stewart, and slept well.  This morning we woke up to rain.  Yes, we rode in the rain today (we're working on the soggy postcards as we speak).  Fortunately, we only had to ride 35 miles to get to Doran's house.  We are relaxing, blogging, and playing board games.

Doran' has not been the only familiar face that we have seen this week.  After riding through the Black Hills last weekend, Joe's brother Justin and sister Jenny met us in the Badlands.  Justin has been serving in Laos with SALT for the past year and is home for a two week break.  He was willing to spend 20+ hours of his short time state-side in a car traveling to see us.  We had a great time visiting with them.  We drove through the Badlands, managed to find a glass of water at Wall Drug, and spent a couple hours going east on the interstate to make room in our schedule to spend time with them.  We enjoyed the respite and the chance to visit with people with out the semi-pretenses that are natural when you are talking to people that you do not know.

Jenny recently wrote a paper about the little-known conflict in the Black Hills.  Her paper analyzes the issues related to land disputes between the Sioux Nation and the United States Government.  As a tourist in the Black Hills, I saw no evidence of the long-standing conflict, but, as described in the paper, the first step to resolving the conflict peaceably is to educate people about it.

The Sioux native Americans inhabited the area that is now South Dakota long before any European settlers came to the area.   They were promised the Black Hills and surrounding land in the 2nd Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868, but in 1874 Lt. Col. George Custer found gold in the Black Hills.  In an attempt to cash-in the previously  undiscovered mineral wealth in the area, the United States pressured the Sioux to sell the land by making food-aid dependent on the sale of the land.  When this did not work, the United States took the land.  Since this time, the United States have invested a lot in the area in the means of tourism and extracted exceptional amounts of gold and other resources.  The conflict lingers today as the Supreme Court and the U.N. have condemned the governments taking of Sioux land, but they have yet to return it.  The Sioux, who often live in demeaning poverty and suffer from its related effects, do not wish to accept monetary restitution, but desire the land of the Black Hills because  it would be source of lasting income and restore their dignity and traditional homeland.

According to Jenny's paper (and peacebuilding experts that she cites) it is important that people are informed of conflicts like the Black Hills conflict.  The United States has the position of power in this situation and will not back down until more citizens declare the maltreatment of the Sioux unacceptable.

When we are in Iowa City and have couple of days off I hope to take a look at a few of many conflicts around the world that are related to oil and our car centered culture.  I hope that if we can learn more about how the extraction of oil is connected to violence, we will begin to consider the methods of corporations, policies of governments, and gluttonous consumption habits of ourselves to be unacceptable. 

Until then, we will be riding through Manson and Des Moines and asking ourselves: is this heaven?


  1. Hi guys! Has been great following your blog. Ben, thanks so much for sharing the Sioux' story. Tragic and heartbreaking. Will pray that hearts will be changed through Jenny's work and that justice will prevail. Until then, I will never sing the hymn, Come Thou Font.., without thinking of Nate! And..will look forward to hearing your answer to your question, is this heaven? Keep on keepin' on...

  2. Hi. It's Erica Petitti again. I forgot to mention that you are constantly in my prayers...for your safety and your journeyin faith! I was particularly touched by your entry talking about our need for humanity, that God's grace so often comes through our relationships with others. May God bless you and keep you safe and filled with grace and hope, through your encounters with others and the lonely times.

  3. joe told you to say that last line....

  4. Hello Ben Nate and Joe
    Just read your latest entry. All of you will have a new outlook on our country and our way of life. Some of it good some bad hope it all gets sorted out for all of you. Love and prayers.

    Mem said - hope all is well and that she enjoys
    your texting and sends love and prayers.