Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Alex White Plume

We drove down the mile or so long dirt road that connects the White Plumes property with the main road. Pulling into the drive we saw a man standing by his pickup, and some large hemp plants growing nearby. This must be the place.

We were greeted by Alex, who was examining some damage to his pickup. We saw that his right arm was swollen like an overgrown zucchini. “Danged Buffalo tore up my truck!” Alex exclaimed. Sure enough, the front bumper of his Chevy was hanging down, and the headlight was smashed to bits. Never having had a run in with a Buffalo myself, but having seen what an Elk or Deer can do, I thought he got off pretty easy. He then explained that he had been trying to herd a wayward member of his stock back to his property from the nearby town of Wounded Knee where it had wandered off to and refused to come home from.

Apparently convincing a Buffalo to come back to the ranch is not an easy task. I asked him about his arm, and yes the Buffalo was responsible for that too, having caused him to crash his four-wheeler in another attempt to corral the huge animal. “Take a look to your left on the way back in to town” he told us. “He will probably be up on the little hill there.” After having seen what a Buffalo can do to a pickup, if you ever lose your Buffalo, my advice is to let him be.

We were invited into his back yard to sit and talk, and were greeted by a small pack of dogs. “These dogs take care of themselves” he told us. “We don’t give them no food.” Having never seen what amounted to a feral dog, I was surprised by their gentle demeanor and apparent health. Cats still know how to hunt, but for most dogs it is a lost art, one which they apparently can relearn.

Sitting among the hemp plants which grow wild around their yard, Alex lit up a hand rolled cigarette and began to tell us the story of his family’s battle to grow hemp, and in a way, telling a small part of the story of the American Indian to survive. What we would learn was in some ways just as appalling as the liquor stores we had passed. But in this case it was about how the U.S. Government continues to suppress and harass the Lakota tribe, just as it has done for the last 150 years. Alex reminded us that his ancestors were great warriors, and as we know they were responsible for the defeat of Custer’s 7th Cavalry at the Little Big Horn. “After the Treaty was signed, we were forced to become farmers” he said. “Now that we want to become farmers, we are forced to become warriors”.

Next: The Treaty


  1. Nice story layout, John. Herding buffalo reminds of the time a 1900 pound steer escaped the county fair here in John Day. The county deputy was called to wrangle the feller. After finding the steer content in the front yard of a neighboring house, he, the deputy, decided the best way to get cooperation was to taiser the giant. Well, that only made the steer mad and the deputy unsuccessful. The boy who was showing the animal at the fair led him back to his stall ... in the steers own time, of course.

    Nice work! Awaiting the next one.

  2. and may I add, NEVER taser any animal (including humans) larger than you!