06-Jun-2002 -- Joseph Kerski, USGS Geographer, Ben Black Bear, Executive Director for the Tribal Land Enterprise of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, and John Whiting, Water Resources Specialist with the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, departed for 43 North 101 West during three days of Geographic Information Systems training at Sinte Gleska University. We were rather dismayed to find that Danny Strickland had visited the site just two weeks previously. However, because we traveled to the site from the north and east, rather than from the south as Danny had done, and because the day was sunny, it is hoped that we can supplement the excellent information that Danny has already provided.
Because John and Ben are extremely well acquainted with just about every square meter of land on the Rosebud Sioux reservation, they knew exactly the right roads to take. We took the Petersen Ranch road after traveling south from St Francis, South Dakota on BIA Road 1. Because we were at the northern edge of the Nebraska sand hills, the road was quite sandy and difficult to navigate. Nevertheless, John was intent on driving us all the way to the exact spot, and after several miles of traveling toward the west, he turned left and drove up a steep slope until we had achieved our goal!
The confluence sits near the top of one of the highest hills in the immediate vicinity. One is rewarded with a beautiful view in most directions, except to the south. The confluence is covered by grasses approximately 6cm high, with some prickly pear and other cacti. Deciduous trees in this area grow mostly in riparian zones along river valleys with pine trees along some distant ridges. Many springs, seeps, and wells provide ponds in the area used for grazing, the predominant land use. A few dwellings were visible in the distance. The closest one is Luther Ranch, that Danny visited, to the south, although that is not visible from the confluence. We spotted many cows and saw evidence of them on the ground (see photographs).
The Nebraska-South Dakota state line is a few hundred meters SOUTH of the confluence, (see photograph of fence line along state line). This state line was supposed to run through this confluence. Still, when one considers the equipment available to surveyors in the 1880s, it is remarkable how close they came to the true position: Granite markers (see photograph) were placed every half mile at this fenceline border.
This confluence sits near the southern edge of the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation, in Todd County, South Dakota. The entire confluence site, south to the state line, approximately 200 meters away, is on the reservation. This reservation is home of the Sicangu Lakota Tribe. My companions John and Rae are tribal members of the Rosebud Sioux. During the visit, they both provided an amazing wealth of information about Native American history, local and regional geology, water resources, boundaries, politics, climate, and geography. One could not ask for better traveling companions!
The confluence is on tribal land. Thus, we were fortunate that we had the tribal land enterprise executive director, Ben Black Bear, with us. It is his job to manage all tribal land. To the northwest of the site is Mustang Meadows, a ranch that the tribe recently purchased. Some non-tribal land exists along the sandy track on the way to the confluence. The area in Cherry County, Nebraska, to the south, is privately owned.
We arrived at the site at approximately 4pm local time under a wonderfully sunny sky dotted with puffy cumulus clouds. The temperature was approximately 75 degrees and a bit breezy, as one can easily hear (play movie). We stayed approximately 1 hour and visited a few granite markers along the state line on the way back. Ben and John each gave me a tour of their workplaces. In addition, John showed me dams and the hospital near Rosebud, South Dakota, the town where the tribal headquarters is located. This was a wonderful visit.