National Geographic : 2000 Jan
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA I felt lighter of spirit much a town as a run-down federal housing project in the middle of nowhere. Children climbed in and out of ground-floor windows. Jaylene was making bread when we arrived. Kids (she is raising 14) exploded from her house, laughing, fighting, asking me for piggy back rides. She invited us to sit under a home made canopy of pine boughs that shaded her yard. Talking quietly and with a surprising lack of bitterness, she sketched the hardships of living on the reservation. "You've got to be someone's relative to get a job. They want us women to work, but there are no jobs, and we don't know what kind of people will care for our children." At school, she said, her children were discouraged from speaking their own language, and when they took part in their father's ceremonies, other children accused them of practicing witchcraft. i Jaylene played us a tape of Charles speaking .. as if by plunging into before a recent sweat lodge, which combines the purification of a sauna with prayers for healing. "The ceremony will give you a stronger heart, a stronger mind, stronger lungs, and stronger blood," Charles said. "It's hard to walk on this Earth with all these children," Jaylene said, "but I do the sweat lodges. I'll survive." Yet the toughness of her life was taking its toll: At 38, she had no teeth left. Depressed and angry, we drove back to the Badlands. At a scenic overlook, a woman called to me, "Watch out, there's a rattlesnake around." I felt like a snake, ready to bite. THUMBING BACK across the upper Midwest, I thought about the seren dipity of hitchhiking-so many who had picked me up when, if everything had gone according to their original plan, they wouldn't even have been on that road at that "Americans seem obsessed with their freedom of expression," says Tomaszewski, "and these guys on Castro Street (above) are the First Amendment in clothing." Things were simpler in Mount Rainier National Park (right), one of many places he found "not yet cannibalized by progress. America's size is its salvation."