Graveyard at Wounded Knee - Entranceway to the past
One of the four principles of Second Generation CPTED explains how neighborhood culture can create a common purpose. That can become the glue that binds people together to work against problems like crime.
Attaching culture to neighborhood safety can be tricky as I discovered this week on a tour of South Dakota. Sociologists say culture is everything beyond genetics passed from one generation to the next. In their view language, religion, values, law, and fashion all fit.
Yet in my experience, it is much more useful for each neighborhood to define its own sense of culture and then build on that common definition. That narrows the list considerably. When that happens music, art, sports, and historical events rise to the surface. One great example is the Intersection Repair programs in Portland.
Another example emerged while I visited an unforgettable and deserted place on the Lakota Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. I'm referring to the haunting, windswept cemetery overlooking the valley when hundreds of Native Americans were slaughtered by 7th Cavalry Regiment in 1890.
I stood looking at the run-down graveyard, where a single faded monument notes the inconceivable tragedy that was Wounded Knee, and I wondered how such a thing happened.
What lesson can such a place tell us about community culture? How can good arise from such evil so long ago? Can a remote, rural place of such political furor offer anything helpful to urban dwellers seeking a cultural touchstone of their own?
Some will say no. Yet I cannot so easily dismiss the lesson of Wounded Knee. It is a lesson worth studying and remembering for its exhibition of human folly. I struggled to make out the fading inscription on the lone monument which recounts the words of Sioux Chief Big Foot "I will stand in peace till my last day comes."
That, more than anything, makes the point of a shared, community culture. At least it should.
Perhaps this is where the truly difficult work of building a community culture begins. Places like Wounded Knee are a warning for civil vigilance - we must not allow prejudice to infect our civility.
As I watch the latest CNN "controversy" about locating a mosque near Ground Zero, I am again reminded this message - standing in peace - is relevant in rural and urban places alike.
Monument at Wounded Knee