RED SHIRT, S.D. (KELO) — Perched on the rim of the Badlands, overlooking a vista of stunning scenery, sits a man under an umbrella, stringing beads together behind a folding table in front of his pick-up.
His name is Donnie Shockey, and this is his view.
Shockey creates handmade bracelets, necklaces and dreamcatchers, which he sells to tourists stopping by to marvel at the vast expanse of the badlands, which stretch far into the distance. “I lost a pick-up in there once,” Shockey remarked. “It’s still in there too.”
The badlands are indeed an unforgiving landscape, a fact which only adds to their beauty. This is a beauty that for 30 years, Shockey shared with his wife, Susan Two Bulls.
“She sat up here all the time, and she was pretty well known. She passed away in December,” Shockey said, “so I’m at it myself now.”
But it would be inaccurate to say that Shockey is alone at the overlook. “I meet a lot of people from all over the world,” he said. “Those people that were just here; they were from Switzerland!”
Even on a day when passers-by are few and far between, Shockey still has that view to keep him company. A view that also has meaning to him.
“There’s actually people who used to live in that Badlands here,” Shockey said. “There’s actually people who own these lands here, and maybe they need to be returned back to them.”
The particular portion of the Badlands that Shockey’s perch overlooks, the South Unit (also known as the Stronghold District) is owned by the Oglala Sioux Tribe, and co-managed with the National Park Service. However, a large portion of the Badlands falls outside of tribal land, and is owned by the federal government.
Shockey’s statement is silently underscored his perch’s proximity to two other places, the sacred Black Hills, which were taken from the Sioux people in violation of the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie, and Wounded Knee; the site of the 1890 massacre of nearly 200 Minneconjou Sioux by U.S. Army forces.
The place where Shockey sits is off the beaten path — at least that most often taken by tourists through the Badlands. “It’s not really on the map,” he said.
Shockey can be found, some days, by following U.S. Highway 40 south from Hermosa, crossing the border of the Pine Ridge Reservation where Hwy 40 turns into BIA Hwy 41.
As you climb the hill from the Cheyenne River, keep an eye out to the left, and you might see Shockey, sitting along the rim, waiting to ask you where you’re from.
Oh, and bring cash.