Tag Archives: Sioux Falls

Dennis Banks, Hoops and Me

 

Dennis Banks AIM Leader

In 35+ years in media I’ve never been what you’d call “star struck”. I’ve met a lot of celebrities and gained access to some remarkable locations, but never asked for an autograph and RARELY took a photograph. That being said, I have ended up in some pretty remarkable circumstances. This week’s passing of Dennis Banks, aged 80, Native American activist, author, educator, actor and central player in the 1973 occupation of Wounded Knee on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Reservation, brought back perhaps the most unusual.

In February 1985 I had just turned 24 and was the morning radio host at KIOV-FM 104.7 in Sioux Falls, SD. A few months prior, Dennis Banks had ended 11 years in California and New York avoiding prosecution for his involvement in the burning of the Custer County Courthouse in Custer, SD, which preceded the world-famous occupation of Wounded Knee in 1973. Banks surrendered himself to SD authorities, and was sentenced to 18 months in the SD State Prison in Sioux Falls. After all those years on the run the world’s media wanted to talk with Banks. As I remember, he accepted two media offers. One was with French Television. The other was with KIOV News Director Jerry Dahmen, who was also stringing for NBC. After the interview Jerry casually asked Banks how he was spending his time in prison. Banks said he was leading a group of Native American prisoners dedicated to living a life of traditional diet, study, spiritual practice…and basketball. Jerry told Banks the station has a basketball team of its own, and wondered if the Banks-coached Native prison team would be interested in a game. Arrangements were made, and a game was set for February.

There was only one problem: KIOV DIDN’T HAVE A BASKETBALL TEAM. However, the offer had been accepted, so we had to come up with something, and FAST. We scraped together five volunteers who I think included GM Don Jacobs, Farm Director Tom Lyon, announcers John Jacobs and Dan Iseminger, and me. I also made an impassioned call to my long-time friend Lee Erickson in the Twin Cities with an offer he couldn’t, and didn’t, refuse.

So the Saturday in February arrived, and our rag-tag 6 met at the Pen. We changed into short pants and sneakers in an unused room at the prison, were lead through a couple of cell blocks, past the cafeteria, down a long tunnel, emerging in a cavernous, double-wide underground gym. There was one way in, and one way out. To our left was a boxing ring where two inmates were punching the bejesus out of each other. On the opposite side was the court, where 15 or so highly conditioned and disciplined Native young men were warming up. The crowd was very sparse. Program Director Reid Holsen, News Anchor Lori Scheel Martell and my brother Mike made up our cheering section/gang. A few dozen Native inmates were seated behind Banks and their bench. During the shoot-around I took a minute to stop, shake hands and introduce myself to Banks. As a 6th grader I’d followed Wounded Knee on TV and through the Weekly Reader (true). I don’t know if it was the nervousness of meeting this genuine historical icon, or the impending thrashing we were about to take on the court, but I have no memory of what I asked him or how he answered.

Thoughts quickly returned to the contest when from one end of the court emerged about a dozen Native prisoners and a drum. The BIG drum. The 12 spread out around the instrument and began playing and singing. The deafening emotional echo of the two gyms only magnified the power of the song, and our sense of dread, now in full flower.

We stayed with Banks’ team for about one quarter. Then every five minutes or so a fresh five would come off the Banks bench and RUN, RUN, SHOOT and then RUN some more. They were gentlemen throughout the game, and showed us skill and exceptional sportsmanship by only doubling us up 120-60. We considered it a moral victory that none of our “Iron 6” barfed or suffered cardiac arrest until after the final buzzer.

A camera crew from KDLT-TV shot the event. Somewhere, all that remains from that day is a short TV story including me in short gym shorts and a fuzzy white-guy semi-afro talking with possibly the world’s most influential Native American activist inside an underground prison gym in South Dakota. However, from that point forward, whenever my friend Erickson and I got up a pick-up game with some dangerous dudes on an inner-city playground, we were quick to let them ALL know the skinny white dudes they were about to tangle with had played PRISON BALL WITH DENNIS BANKS FROM THE INTERNATIONALLY FAMOUS ARMED OCCUPATION OF WOUNDED KNEE. You can’t make it up.

 

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Eclipse in South Dakota: Dark, Loud, Wet

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Fresh from a night’s dreams filled with enough coronas to fill a large Yeti cooler, eclipse followers in Sioux Falls, SD were stunned and even a bit frightened Tuesday when at the appointed hour of 1:01pm CDT the skies turned dark, winds whipped, and large booming noises preceded a biblically-sized, seemingly non-stop deluge.  Many automobiles suddenly stopped running, roadways were blocked, and leaves, branches and thoroughly confused squirrels were ripped from tree limbs.  Several of the observers fell to their knees, screaming “I told you so!”, referring to their predictions that the eclipse was actually the beginning of the Apocalypse.   Not far away, another group was observed manically laughing and dancing nude in a circle around what had been a bon fire. One rather large dancer wearing only a full-body tattoo of  the  “Keep On Truckin'” guy explained that members of the group had been planning for the End of Times for months by running credit cards up to the $25,000 limit, buying $5000 bottles of tequila, King Cab diesel dually pickups and Powerball tickets, knowing the end of the World as We Know It would make their hedonistic debts uncollectible.

Many were later observed walking around stunned and confused (and in some cases naked, cold and crying) after receiving news that what they thought was the Rapture and/or the first No Interest Or Payments For An Eternity Visa Card was actually a thunderstorm. T shirt sales, however, were said to be brisk.

Looking’ Out My Front Door

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Our work office features a wall of windows facing west.  That wall of windows looks upon Vern Eide Honda.  More precisely, it looks upon Eide’s side lot where the wonderful odd ball vehicles reside.  Here you’ll find vintage cars, late-model high performance special edition cars…basically anything that they take in on trade that doesn’t fit nicely into the traditional “used vehicle” category.IMG_2311

Today I couldn’t help but see these three beauties.  I’ve always wondered what it would be like to own an International Scout like these two, or an International Travel All, IH’s answer to the Chevy Suburban.  Back in the day, these, and IH pickups, could be purchased at your local International Harvester Tractor dealer. Farm operators might live many miles from an actual late-model car dealer, but your home-town IH dealer let you purchase and service your tractor, corn picker, haying accessories and your truck, pickup or in these two your Cro Magnon 4 wheel drive SUV.   I’ve always figured if you owned an old Scout you’d better know how to source scare parts and possess the knowledge (and perverse joy) in constantly fixing the vehicle, which pretty much put me out of the running from the start. Yet, the dream dies hard, and the lack of all that doesn’t kill the fun of imagining one of these parked outside.

The car below (and sitting about 5 spots away from the IH’s) is an early 70’s Mercury Comet.  I don’t know the official Ford name for that paint color. Calf Scour Yellow-Green is probably most accurate, although I can imagine the difficulty of getting that one through Marketing.  I’m not your go-to classic Ford encyclopedia.  (Frankly I don’t have to be, because I have friends who know as much or more detail of anything FoMoCo this side of Dearborn).  I think I’m safe in thinking the Mercury Comet of this era is the twin of the Ford Maverick.  Two doors are neat, but I’m guessing there’s little else about this model which evoked the word “COOL” back in the day.  Regardless, I like ’em, and I had a lot of fun in Comets/Mavericks, and as a teen in the 70’s, that Comet was infinitely cooler than…walking everywhere you wanted to go.,,

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