A Story about Sickness, Survival, and Sustainability

A Story about Sickness, Survival, and Sustainability

Badlands National Park is located in South Dakota. Although South Dakota or Badlands NP may not come to mind immediately when thinking about places to visit within the United States, Badlands NP is truly one of the more special places to visit and explore. Badlands NP is home to a diverse ecosystem. This ecosystem features famous wildlife such as the American Bison and the Bald Eagle, but also supports lesser known animals like the Black Footed Ferret and Burrowing Owls. Along with abundant wildlife the Park maintains numorous plants inside the Park’s various grasslands. My home, Red Shirt, is right along the southern border of Badlands NP. Growing up I never noticed how much plants were involved in my life. Whether it was picking chokecherries and looking for prairie turnips during the summer to finding our own cedar Christmas tree in the winter. Luckily for me, Red Shirt is only a small village with plenty of wide open land ruled by the wild plants and animals. This has allowed plants to grow unabated, animals to roam freely, and history and stories to stay alive.

Along the Notch Trail at Badlands National Park

Some of my earliest memories as a child were pretending to be sick so I could skip school and spend the day being a cowboy with my grandpa, John Swallow. One day he took me out towards the Badlands Stronghold unit and showed me a marker he made for a man named Asanp Bleza (Thin Milk). Asanpi Bleza was a part of the group who occupied the Stronghold area as a final holdout for Lakota families and Ghost Dancers fleeing the United States Army in the late 19th Century. As food was low and starvation came closer, it was decided that a group of warriors would journey north to the off-reservation ranches and try to steal a cow for survival. During the raid, a ranch hand shot Asanpi Bleza as the group of warriors fled the area. On the way back to the Stronghold the condition of Asanpi Bleza worsened. He passed into the Spirit World along the way in Red Shirt. My grandpa came across his remains and gave him a proper resting place. A memorial ride was created in his honor and sacrifice to his people. John Swallow did this all because he believed that no one should be forgotten. Not only people like Asanpi Bleza but all the plants and animals that we share our homes with.

View of the surrounding prairie

Today, climate change is starting to impact the plants and animals we encounter daily. And with many animals and plants calling the Badlands home, tracking these changes can provide valuable insight into protecting the Badlands. Every plant, animal and place should be preserved for future generations to expierance. It must also be maintained to give respect to those who protected the land for. This is why we study the Badlands and embrace any lesson that it gifts to us.

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