Wind Cave Antelope

August 13th, 2012 by Chris Wheeler

“Oh My, Look!”

We had just completed filming an interview at Wind Cave National Park in the southern Black Hills of South Dakota.  I was at my car with Gus Yellow Hair, a Lakota Sioux who I had just interviewed about the Lakota’s spiritual attachment to the Black Hills.  Turning around, we witnessed a large animal moving not away from us, but towards us.  Fifty yards away was a large male pronghorn antelope.

I’ve tried many times to get good footage of pronghorn.  You may see them along the road, but the moment you stop and try to get footage, they quickly gallop out of sight.  Usually all you can get is a shot of their white behind.  But this time, the pronghorn was walking confidently along a slight ridge line that separated Gus and myself, and camera assistant Justin Koehler and Gerard Baker, another Native American who we were preparing to interview.

The antelope was magnificent, walking like a proud warrior – confident and with absolutely no fear.  For a few seconds, everything seemed to be in slow motion.  Things unfolded slowly enough that we were able to look the antelope in the eye as he moved towards us.  Finally, the beautiful animal strutted by, crossed a dirt road, then broke into a muscular trot down the hill.

Smiles broke out on all of our faces as the reality of what we had just witnessed began to sink in.  Moments earlier, Gus and his seventeen-year old daughter Tianna had sung a song for our cameras that spoke to the Lakota’s attachment to their sacred Black Hills.

I’ve been fortunate to have been telling stories about America’s Native peoples for more than 20 years.  It’s long enough to not be surprised when wonderful things like this happen – long enough to understand that what happened this day in the Black Hills was no accident.

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