National Geographic : 1981 Apr
thunderstorms and killed the buffalo. In spite of such mythology, a National Park Service official history indicates that the Badlands held no special spiritual sig nificance for the Indians. Maybe so, but it's hard to believe that such strange, wild land forms could fail to impress the early Sioux with some religious meaning. Not far away are the Black Hills, said to be holy ground for the old Sioux. The Badlands were born of those Black Hills; did they inherit none of their medicine? If anyone would know, it would be Frank Fools Crow, an Oglala ceremonial chief and medicine man. I had read that, against the wishes of some authorities, he was still lead ing young men into Nebraska for certain rites of the sun dance as late as the 1960s. I found him behind his home near Kyle on the Pine Ridge Reservation. It was a hot day, and he was resting in the shade of a tree near a large brush arbor, an open shelter roofed with cedar boughs and supported by painted posts. He lay on the ground even though two chairs stood nearby. He sat up as I spoke, smiling a greeting. He is still strongly built (he was a famous horseman when he rode Thoroughbreds in races for Big Bat Pourier), with a look that commands attention. I cannot recall ever seeing another face that held such strength and peace (page 532). I introduced myself, and he replied in English, a courtesy, for he prefers to speak in Lakota dialect. Was it true, I asked, that the Badlands held no real spiritual meaning for the Sioux except, perhaps, as a place where young men might seek vision? Fools Crow smiled gently, and slowly shook his head. Thinking he may not have understood the question, I repeated it. Once again, he gave only a slow headshake. Perhaps he was unable or un willing to answer me, or it may have been a denial of a false report. I never found out.