It is such an honor to have the opportunity to introduce the 48th State, Arizona, to our readers of “50 States in 50 Days”! I often tell friends around the world that Arizona is a wonderful place to go home to, and I truly mean it from the depth of my prickly pear soul. In all my explorations of the world, Arizona stands apart as one of the most magical. It never stops giving me breathtaking moments and unforgettable adventures. When I close my eyes I immediately think of cowboys and Indians, and in Arizona, those dreams are our reality! The brilliant sunsets and sharp desolation of the desert and cactus are wonders of the world that each of us should have the privilege to see some day. Whether in a city like Tucson, or in a long deserted ghost town, the mysteries are boundless in sights, sounds and smells. One of the most unforgettable scents on earth is the wet desert mesquite after a hard summer rain. It’s a freshness so unusual that no one can describe it better, than just experiencing it for yourself.
The state bearing the motto “Land of Enchantment” presents a fascinating mixture of the ancient and the futuristic within its borders.
Out of the Past
Native cultures flourished in New Mexico beginning around 1,200 BC, giving rise to the Anasazi civilization, which built fortified cities and cliff dwellings for defense and roads for commerce. “Anasazi” is a Navajo term to refer to the “Ancient Ones” who once lived in what later became the Navajo territory (encompassing large parts of what is now New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Colorado). The Anasazi were forced to abandon their stone cities, perhaps due to a 300-year drought, but the ruins have become National Monuments and Cultural Parks at Bandelier and Chaco Canyon, and their descendants may still live on in the Pueblo, Hopi, Zuni and other tribes that call New Mexico home. Every August, New Mexico hosts the Gathering of Nations Powwow, which features exhibitions and competitions in dance, music, and traditional crafts of native peoples from throughout North and South America.
South Dakota is a land of natural beauty and diversity. The types of landscapes found here range from, rolling hills, oceans of waiving grass, and lakes that cover the eastern part of the state, to the alien beauty of the Badlands, to the majestic granite peaks and pine forests of the Black Hills. Here the Midwest meets the West. Here, one can find both fields filled with amber waves of grain, as well as cattle ranches and cowboys. This is the land where the proud and fierce Sioux tribes once roamed. It is also the setting for some of the most dramatic History of the Old West.
My Experience Here
South Dakota is my home state. Here I have passed many memorable childhood summers, boating, hunting, fishing, walking through the tall prairie grass, driving old tractors and setting off fireworks on Independence Day. I like the sense of security that people have here, the friendliness found in the various small towns, the wide-open landscapes and the way the sky seems bigger and more beautiful here.
People and Cultures
My family, and a fair sized portion of the population, are ethnically German. However, probably the most distinctive ethnic group is the Sioux Nation (also known as the Lakota or Dakota). It is from these people that the state gets its name. South Dakota’s native tribes make up a relatively high portion of the population (even greater than in Oklahoma). Traditionally, the Sioux were a nomadic warrior people. Today, most live in several reservations scattered across the state. The Akta Lakota Museum and Cultural Center, near Chamberlain offers an opportunity to learn about the history and traditions of the Sioux. There are also a number of powwows (tribal gatherings generally involving dancers in costume) all across the state. A number of them welcome visitors (provided said visitors are respectful).