Thunder Butte, in South Dakota, has featured prominently in my family's history since 1913. Also known as "Wakinyan Paha" to the Lakota, its religious and cultural significance to the Lakota goes back much further in time, still. Rising from the dry, rolling prairie grasslands in Ziebach County, in northwestern South Dakota, the butte is located on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation.
From the top of the butte, you can see for miles in every direction. There are not many people here, although the land is alive with the memory of those who walked here before us. Taking in the quiet of the plains as they reach to the horizon, you can well imagine the way the world was before we were here, and what it may look like long after we have moved on.
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October 16, 2005
A major problem in Thunder Butte country was fresh drinking water. The options available to most families were water from a creek or pool, or a hand dug well. Water from a creek or well was fine except it had to sit for awhile so the mineral content would settle to the bottom. Then it usually had to be boiled. Since there were no implements, as we know them today, for digging, the wells were usually dug with a spade, along the bank of a creek or clean pool. This worked fine and resulted in good drinking water until the creek flooded, at which time the well was destroyed by the flood waters.
On Thunder Butte Creek, about three fourths of a mile from the house and on Knocker Creek, was a spring of the purest, cold water. This spring was at the base of a cliff, but above the water line of the creek. It was a pool about the size of the average bath tub. The water was crystal clear and cold as ice on even the hottest day in summer. We carried all of our drinking water from that spring to the ranch house. Sometimes my father would hitch up a team of horses to a stone boat, tie a large barrel on to the stone boat and bring home a barrel of drinking water at one time.
When he was away, working, one of us kids carried the water in buckets. It wasn’t all bad, as there were lots of buffalo berries, choke cherries, and currants along the way. So, getting the water was also feast time in the summer.
There were many adventures connected with that spring. It was also popular with rattlesnakes—not for the water, but for the coolness around the spring. When I was real young, a skunk ran out in front of me. I thought it was some kind of pretty kitty and started to chase it. Well, that was a sickness one doesn’t soon forget.
Mike Crowley Sunday, October 16, 2005
Mike, the Argus ran a story today about the net worth of every SD county and Ziebach was the 2nd lowest ahead of Brule I think. Interesting.
Anonymous, I went online to check the Argus story last night and couldn't find it. But, I have checked online Census data previously. Ziebach County has among the lowest of household incomes for the State.
yeah, they didn't have a link to it in the sunday paper.