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I have just returned from an exhilarating time in South Dakota, making a documentary on the U.S. West and Native America for Italian television, filmed by Francesco and Massimo Piccioli of Filmaker and hosted by author, educator, and musical artist Giuseppe Festa. For the part with which I was involved, we managed quite a bit of travel, visiting the Badlands, the Pine Ridge Reservation, Wounded Knee, the Black Hills (including Custer State Park, Wind Cave National Park, and Sylvan Lake), Buffalo Gap, the Crazy Horse Memorial, and Mount Rushmore.

Here I am with my friend Giuseppe, where we filmed one of my segments in Custer State Park in the Black Hills:


We spent a good deal of time at the Wounded Knee Cemetery, which is a truly heartbreaking place:


And, of course, we took in lots of Western flavor, including this saloon in Scenic, South Dakota:

Longhorn Saloon

I found it to be an intense and deeply moving journey, which I was fortunate enough to share with wonderful people. I am so happy I could be involved with this project!

You can see all of my pictures from the trip here.

I will be catching up with everyone as soon as possible.

"Perhaps you have noticed that even in the slightest breeze you can hear the voice of the cottonwood tree; this we understand is its prayer to the Great Spirit, for not only men, but all things and all beings pray to Him continually in different ways." - Black Elk


( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 27th, 2008 02:13 pm (UTC)
First of all it looks like a beautiful and successful trip! I am sure the project will have great success.

But second, how in the world is it possible that the Wounded Knee memorial is in that dilapidated state? They turned the hotel where a single man died wrongfully due to racial violence into a museum. It seems Wounded Knee would be given a lot more gravity and respect, though I imagine the state of the place added it's own kind of weight to the experience.
May. 28th, 2008 10:59 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much!

The state of the Wounded Knee Cemetery broke my heart. The individual graves around the memorial are beautifully kept and obviously visited regularly, if the many (often handmade) gifts around them are any indication, but the fence containing the mass grave of the massacre victims, and the entrance arch and steps, are in terrible repair. In short, the things that take only time and care are being done, but the things that take money are not. It does hard to fathom, considering the importance of the site (good comparison with Memphis!), and it makes what is already a difficult sight to bear even more poignant.
May. 27th, 2008 03:55 pm (UTC)
I saw this updated on my flickr page--how oddball am I that I really want to draw a portrait of Giuseppe? Lol!

Anyway, gorgeous pics, dear. Glad it was a good trip.

If there's any way you can get your hands on it, I would love to see the final documentary. :)
May. 28th, 2008 11:01 pm (UTC)
Oh, Giuseppe would make such a brilliant subject for one of your portraits! Thanks for your kind words. I'm told it will be available commercially on DVD, and I'll get an advance copy, so I promise to share all I can. :) Thanks so much for being interested!
May. 27th, 2008 04:41 pm (UTC)
Amy these pictures are so beautiful. I finished Tecumseh, and seeing these pictures just completes the circle. I can't wait to see the final product:)

May. 28th, 2008 11:02 pm (UTC)
You are SO kind to have read the book! Thanks a million! *hugs* Seeing these sites on the heels of writing it made the trip infinitely more meaningful for me. I'm really anxious to see the completed film, myself - I think they are aiming for September as a completion date.

Oh, thank you so much for your card! Go you and your new laptop!!! I hope the writing is going very well. I'm sending good vibes your way -- not that you need them, of course. :)
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May. 28th, 2008 11:03 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! South Dakota was breathtaking, especially while we were there, since we could see the thunderstorms rolling over those big prairie skies.
May. 27th, 2008 05:44 pm (UTC)
Oh, my goodness! What gorgeous photos!

Looking forward to hearing more about your experience.
May. 28th, 2008 11:04 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! I'm still trying to wrap my brain around it all. :)
May. 27th, 2008 07:22 pm (UTC)
Wow, I really adore your pics! The bison and the storm over the Badlands were my faves. I agree with a comment above -- Giuseppe has a very engaging air about him that makes me want to get artsy! I can't wait to hear more about your trip. It looks fascinating.
May. 28th, 2008 11:05 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! I'm still trying to wrap my brain around it all. :) The storms were remarkable, especially since we could watch them from miles away as they rolled in and then rolled away again. Such amazing prairie skies! Giuseppe is a marvelous soul, sort of a poet and pioneer all in one.
May. 28th, 2008 12:22 am (UTC)
That looks like a really interesting trip! Beautiful pictures, too :)
May. 28th, 2008 11:06 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much!
May. 28th, 2008 12:33 am (UTC)
This trip and project sounded fantastic! It's such a wonderful opportunity for you to spread that considerable knowledge of yours, and they're lucky to have you. Fab photos, too!! :D
May. 28th, 2008 11:06 pm (UTC)
Aw, thank you so much! It was incredibly meaningful to me, and I just thank my lucky stars (and Giuseppe) that I was able to be involved with it. :)
May. 28th, 2008 03:09 am (UTC)
Excellent photos! I like the contrasting weather shots in the badlands--that must be just howling cold in midwinter up there.

The Longhorn shot incorporated a lot ofsocial and historic ironies, some of them bitter, indeed. Interesting the roofline is lined with the skulls of shorthorn cattle, from what I can see.

I was saddened, but not entirely surprised that the monument has been weathered and battered, and nearly hidden away. I found the chain link fence disturbing. I had a similar experience when visiting the Chief Joseph memorial in the Wallowa Valley, but the area was open, and I remember no fences, and there was a greater sense of peace, there, I think.

It sounds as if you had a great experience all around. I hope the film turns out very well!
May. 28th, 2008 11:14 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much! I really appreciate it. The temperature apparently gets way, way, way below zero on those hills. I can only imagine; the wind whipped continually, even after the storms passed. I just loved watching the clouds roll over that big sky. The filmmakers got some great footage taking only one frame per minute, so that when the tape was played at normal speed, you could see the clouds race across the sky and the storms come and go. It should be breathtaking for use in the documentary.

Yes, that saloon was a thumbnail illustration of a lot of issues, many of them uncomfortable ones. That's an excellent point about the skulls. It should be the Shorthorn Saloon!

The chain link fence, and the disrepair of the steps, broke my heart. The individual graves were very carefully tended and covered with mostly handmade gifts and tokens, but the physical site - that is, the things that require more money to maintain - were sadly neglected. It also saddens me that the mass grave for the massacre victims would need to be fenced at all.

I had a similar experience when visiting the Chief Joseph memorial in the Wallowa Valley, but the area was open, and I remember no fences, and there was a greater sense of peace, there, I think.

That is a place I very much want to visit. It sounds heartbreaking in its own way, but at least it is open and more peaceful.
May. 28th, 2008 03:14 am (UTC)
Way cool!
May. 28th, 2008 11:06 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much!
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May. 28th, 2008 11:07 pm (UTC)
LOL! Thanks so much, pardner!
( 20 comments — Leave a comment )

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