Resilience and loss in 2021
The staff of the West River Eagle looked through every single issue of the paper from 2020 last week. Every single one. We were preparing our entries for the South Dakota Newspaper Association’s Better Newspapers contest.
2020 will always be remembered as an extraordinary year. Looking through the papers for 2020 brought the massive events of the year closer to home. Back in January we were having sports competitions, in-person meetings and beauty contests. One headline highlighted Sharon Baldeagle who has been missing since 1984.
That same issue included the first mention of coronavirus in our paper. The article began, “The Center for Disease Control and Prevention is closely monitoring an outbreak of respiratory illness caused by a new coronavirus (2019-nCoV) that was first detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China and which continues to expand.” We were impressed to remember that our paper broke the news so early.
Next to it was an article about approval for KXL pipeline permits and a photo of three unmasked people with their arms around each other. The photo and article show how little and how much has changed in a year.
One year later the West River Eagle has a new editor, Fran Carr, whom we introduce in this issue. Cheyenne River has endured 10 months of coronavirus and has lost numerous members of the community. People have figured out how to connect through Zoom and gotten used to masks and checkpoints.
What the end of year review really shows is how remarkable the community is. There is a history of resilience here. It shows in the descendants of the settlers who created farms out of the prairie. It shows in the descendants of Lakota people who endured and thrived here for centuries. It shows in the spirit of newcomers who fall in love and come to stay. Across the board the members of the Cheyenne River towns and villages know what’s essential and how to adapt in the face of unpredictable circumstances.
In this issue we explore some of that resilience. We highlight the massive fires near Lemmon and McIntosh. We report on the State of the Tribes address given in Pierre last week. We begin what we hope will be an ongoing conversation about how the communities and families across the area are dealing with the widespread grief caused by the coronavirus. And we celebrate the first wave of vaccinations in our area.
The issue also heralds the events leading up to the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on January 20. The printing of the paper will miss the event by one day! We will report on this more next week. CRST Chairman Harold Frazier recorded a video greeting to the pair which shows both the natural beauty and the harsh winter of South Dakota. Thanks to Chairman Frazier for his message of greeting and challenge to the new administration. The United States has all the same issues to deal with as we do here on Cheyenne River. We will need to come together as a nation to heal from coronavirus, from loss, and from political division.
The path forward won’t look anything like the past. It will be something completely new, with new ideas, new visions, new collaborations. Looking back will not lead us. Looking forward with resilience and love will.
Thank you to Cheyenne River for a year of reporting. We cannot wait to be the voice of our community again in 2021.