I went to my first wacipi ever in Iron Lighting on the Fourth of July. Friends were shocked when I said I’d never been to one.
I grew up in Ohio, went to Catholic school for 12 years, went to an Episcopal college, and then moved to Massachusetts. So I never had the opportunity to attend a wacipi. A Renaissance fair? Yes. A wacipi? No.
The friend who took me said it’s like a huge family reunion. Annual family reunions are not in my culture either, so that didn’t help.
It was a great day, filled with fun, culture, dancing, food, and friendly banter. It was also hot! I was exhausted when the day was over.
As we were leaving, we drove up to the top of the butte along the road the runners took on the fun run. It was dusk. The sun was setting far off across the landscape. Down below us the cele-bration was still going on.
We sat there, looking out over the tops of the rolling hills. The horizon is much farther away in South Dakota than in Ohio or New England. Looking down into the depression where the town of Iron Lighting sits, my friend said, “People have lived in this bowl for tens of thousands of years.”
I am sure he’s right. It’s a perfect spot, protected from weather, safe in the bottom of a natural depression. The elevation is 2,155 feet. Google says the population of the twentieth century town there now is 420.
I wonder what archeologists could find. I also wonder what future archeologists will find when the look back at us. I bet there are layers and layers of human habitation under the paved roads and the stick-built houses. How many generations have danced in celebration at a wacipi? How many runners have gone down the path and up and across the bluff?