What Brings You Here?

Below is Whisper #3 from my latest book, 48 WHISPERS, which is a collection of photographs and personal meditations created across a decade of travel to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and the surrounding northern plains. 

It was the day before Halloween, and I found myself standing alone at the Wounded Knee Massacre site on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in the southwest corner of South Dakota. The sky was gray, the air was cool, and the highway behind me was empty as I paused before the red wooden sign that memorialized the events of December 29, 1890. On that morning four hundred and seventy soldiers of the Seventh Cavalry opened fire on Chief Big Foot’s band of Miniconjou Sioux who had surrendered the night before without incident. The Lakota fought bravely but the killing was indiscriminate. There were few survivors.

As I contemplated the implications of this tragic encounter, a dusty sedan from a bygone era pulled up beside me. The driver, an old jewelry maker, rolled down her window and warmly proceeded to ask the simple question that changed my life: What brings you here?

This question sparks self-inquiry, demands intentionality, and invites us all to take control of the path we walk. It’s a question capable of adding meaning to any moment in our lives.

I will never forget that jewelry maker’s query, and to this day I wear the beaded eagle pendant necklace she sold me. As for her question—it turned out I was traveling alone to the northern plains in search of my own true voice. Ironically, I was searching for my voice while visiting a community that did not feel fully heard. That’s what brought me here.