PRESS & MEDIA
PRESS & MEDIA
The day had started out easily enough – it was hot, however a light breeze was coming in every now and then to cool both the horses and riders down. A half dozen young riders had tacked up their horses early that morning, warmed them up in the corral and ridden towards Oglala without a problem. One of our young riders noted to himself something interesting he observed with a cow when we were tacking up- but for whatever reason, chose not to say anything.
The horses, this time of year, tend to be a little more frisky than normal – not having been ridden for most of the winter and super charged up on the nutrient rich grass that covers much of the reservation in the Spring. And so, when the riders came back in – with no bumps or bruises, we thanked the horses, gave gratitude for a good ride and readied to go back to base camp, shade and ice water. . . until our wrangler noted that there was a cow lying under a nearby shade tree, looking mighty distressed as one tiny calf hoof and one miniature calf tongue appeared from its reproductive regions. Well, that neither looks comfortable nor the way it should be, we all noted.
The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is an extraordinary place for so many reasons. The bluffs, rolling hills, magnificent culture and historical significance have drawn so many for generations. The rural and remote nature of it is (for many) a breath of fresh air when the chaos of daily life begin to take their inevitable toll. Those same qualities also tend to help visitors learn to appreciate the conveniences normally taken for granted, one such convenience being…veterinarians. There are NO veterinarians on the 3,000 square mile Pine Ridge reservation. And so, when one sees a cow trying to give birth to a calf --- and the only body parts that are showing or moving are a tiny hoof and a tiny tongue ---- and mama is clearly in distress and not able to push her calf out, then one does what one does.
So, we grabbed a rope – two actually. One to rope and help hold mama down and the other to loop around the exposed hoof and pull. And so, pull we did.
Now, I’m not sure what a veterinarian would have done to rescue that calf and to help the mother. I’m not sure what the chances were of a live birth, given that the calf’s tongue and hoof had been observed three hours prior. I’m not sure if the calf is grateful to have been freed or angry that we didn’t let it stay right where we found it before we roped and pulled. I do know that the bellowing of the mother cow and the sweet and startled mooing of that calf when it came flying out covered in birthing fluid was among the sweetest and happiest sound I had in a long time..
I also know that I am grateful every day for the lessons learned on Pine Ridge; the experiences gained; the people – and animals – that we meet.
René Duamal once spoke about similar experiences and lessons learned when mountaineering and they seem especially applicable to my experiences, over the decades, on Pine Ridge: “You cannot stay forever; you have to come down again. So, why bother in the first place? Simply just this: What is above knows what is below, but what is below does not know what is above. One climbs, one sees. One descends, one sees no longer, but one has seen. There is an art of conducting oneself in the lower regions by the memory of what one saw higher up. When one can no longer see, one can at least still know.” And so it is.
Post Script-- Both mother and baby are doing great!
By Dave Ventimiglia
I had a magical, educational, exhausting, fun, inspiring, and heartbreaking trip this past weekend to Pine Ridge Reservation. I was extremely impressed with the impact that Tipi Raiser is making and the way they go about their business – and I suspect that this is the first of many trips I will make to learn and work alongside my Lakota brothers and sisters.
The exhausting part was the work that we were able to accomplish – reorganizing a food pantry, establishing two vegetable gardens, chopping wood to prepare for winter, completing a storage shed for fire bricks, starting a shed for bike repairs, and delivering furniture. We accomplished a lot in just a few days – but the work never got in the way of building new friendships or deepening existing connections with our Lakota hosts.
The rhythms and rituals of the weekend were all structured around the Lakota way of life – providing an education in indigenous wisdom that we sorely need as we face the challenges of climate change and an increasingly polarized society. We learned how to connect with each other through a sharing circle at the beginning and end of each day – how to both honor the wisdom of our elders and hold the young people accountable – and to see a glimpse of this rich culture through learning a bit of the Lakota language.
Magic was everywhere. It was in the sage we burned as part of our sharing circle – in the magnificent sunrises – in the beautiful horses – and the wide-open spaces all around us. It was in the Lakota prayers and songs we heard, the sweat lodge ceremony we were honored to be a part of, and the peace pipe that we passed. It was in the Lakota people’s deep connection to this land and to their ancestors.
I was deeply inspired by the work that Tipi Raisers is doing at Pine Ridge. Their values of alleviating poverty, doing the hard work of reconciliation, embracing indigenous wisdom, and empowering youth aren’t just empty words – they are lived out in the way that this organization partners with the Lakota people and with volunteers. As part of the work of gratitude and reconciliation – we had the privilege of being a part of a tipi raising ceremony – a gift to recognize the long-term contributions of Pansy Weasel Bear and Nobby Bell to Tipi Raisers mission.
I have done volunteer work in rural Haiti and have lived in Africa doing electricity access work for the past five years – so I am no stranger to the challenges of extreme poverty. The suffering that is endured by the Lakota people is heartbreaking – dealing with a lack of running water, electricity, access to healthcare, and unemployment. I had the chance to visit the massacre site at Wounded Knee and can feel the generational trauma from that event that remains with this place and its people more than 130 years later.
In the midst of all these moving parts – Tipi Raisers does a great job in providing a fun and rewarding experience. There is enough flexibility so that everyone can participate in ways that are most meaningful to them, enough structure to walk away with a sense of accomplishment, and enough of a focus on relationships that deep connections are forged among volunteers and with our Lakota hosts. Executive Director Dave Ventimiglia somehow holds it all together – organizing a large group of volunteers, making sure that everyone is having a good trip, honoring the Lakota way of life, and making a lasting impact on the Pine Ridge reservation – he is a teacher, leader, and organizer – and maybe part magician all at the same time. Last weekend was my first trip to Pine Ridge – I am quite sure it won’t be my last.
- David Gibson | May 28-31, 2021 Volunteer
Kalon, a Gen7er, and two of her friends embarked on an epic Rocky Mountain adventure on the Colorado Trail last summer! But to these outstanding young people, it was important to tie it in with a higher purpose. Kalon, a recent graduate from the Rocky Mountain School of Expeditionary Learning, had just completed her senior thesis on “Equity and Inclusion in the Outdoor Industry” and, as you’ll see in her piece below, this perspective helped her maintain an appreciation for the original inhabitants of the land she was hiking on. But the group wanted the hike to have more tangible meaning as well, Kalon reflected that they “saw it as an opportunity to make it about more than us”. Having visited Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and connecting with the Lakota people, they determined that they would use the Hike-a-Thon model and prior to pulling on their hiking boots to hit the trail, they solicited sponsors per mile. Kalon shares; “sending weekly email updates to our sponsors was challenging - but such an important element to keep them engaged.” Seven weeks later, the group raised nearly $4,000 and completed 486 miles, averaging 16 miles per day with only a few rest days along the way. Kalon shares her reflections from the adventure below:
“When I found myself sitting on a mountain at eleven thousand feet in the pouring rain under a tent that I had sewn and waterproofed myself, hearing lightning strikes all around, preparing for bed because I had seven passes to hike the next day, I thought I had gone crazy. I thought my two best friends were crazy too. What did we think we were doing?
The Colorado Trail is a 486-mile trail that weaves through the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. During the summer of 2020, craziest of them all, Lucy Weyer, Gabriela Pisano and I, laced up our hiking boots, filled our backpacks and started walking. While I wish it had been as simple as that to get started, as 2020 highschool grads, our parents each had something to say.
Though we had been backpacking since the 9th grade, our parents were still unsure that three 17 and 18 year old girls should be backpacking across the state for two months. So naturally, we created a slideshow complete with hors d’oeuvres and all our gear, to make them feel more comforted about our trek. We were quite lucky to have friends scattered all over the state to help deliver us food and give us places to rest and shower along the way. With our parents’ blessing we hit the trail at the beginning of July.
As we kicked off our journey, we reflected on the month of preparation and planning that we had done. We were thoroughly reminded of our privileges as we prepared for a thru hike in the midst of a global pandemic and major social rifts within our country. The discussions surrounding race in America are an important factor when discussing hiking and outdoor recreation. We constantly reminded ourselves that with every step that we took, we were in fact walking on stolen land with hundreds of years of utterly horrific history. We reminded ourselves that we live in a country that operates to hold back those whose land we have stolen. We reminded ourselves of the warm houses that we have to go back to after this trek. We reminded ourselves of the blessings of time and resources that have enabled us to hike such a magnificent trail. We reminded ourselves that for the purpose of this trip, we are more than just hikers; we are echoes of the voices in our country that have been silenced and forgotten.
The purpose of this trip for “The Warden”, “Chipmunk”, and “Zinc” (our respective trail names) went beyond our personal desires for self growth and challenge. During our trip we were each in a constant state of awe. We often wondered what it must’ve been like for the first peoples who ran into the Rocky Mountains. Our amazing community came together around the CT hike to support The Tipi Raisers in their efforts at Pine Ridge Reservation.
Since then we have been incredibly grateful to learn more about the history of indiginous peoples, and to spend time on Pine Ridge. This trip was truly a life changing experience unlike anything else I have ever done. I am also grateful to now be a Gen7 youth ambassador which is also proving to be an incredible experience”.
In the simplest of terms, my job with The Tipi Raisers is to seek out donations. Some might say that I navigate the system by re-distributing excess product to those who have dramatically less material wealth. And that would be accurate, too. But that dry description doesn’t come close to capturing the magic that sparks when we exist in relationships.
Donations have always relied upon the generosity of others. This work moves within a gift economy where the rewards of sharing one’s abundance doesn’t rely on monetary exchange but with more intangible benefits like the sense of contribution, nurturing a community or creating opportunities to connect.
These exchanges often happen on a porch, in a driveway or online where supporters from all walks of life bring more than just their donation. Some come curious, others with deep empathy. Some are quiet while others feel called to discuss at length the ongoing obstacles facing indigenous people. I never know who I will be meeting for the first time.
But what all of these beautiful people consistently bring to the table is solidarity and a deep mutual longing to change our narrative with Native Americans. And although there is no rewriting of the past, there is a sincere desire to nurture a bond that enhances the well-being of our friends on Pine Ridge. We share an emotional dependency where no one feels more comfortable than the least comfortable neighbor. It is in this common humanity that we are connected and where the magic happens. I seek out donations, for sure. But, I also like to think that I extend an invitation and foster those who respond with a sense of belonging and oneness.
To express their solidarity, supporters offer a variety of gifts. From appliances to diapers or boots to blankets, they are all rather like the casserole that is lovingly made and offered in times of struggle for those we care about. It’s humble but sincere. The gift brings us together to engage in difficult conversations where the universe hears our regrets, hopes and cries for a future that is more generous and ethical. It’s not about perfection. It’s about the effort. So we oppose injustice by creating communities because transformation requires our participation.
It would be naïve to not recognize the bigger work that needs doing. Service alone isn’t enough. And hopefully, one day, my job will be obsolete. But grassroot organizations like The Tipi Raisers rely on the cultivation of relationships where we are asked to slow down, actively listen, earn trust and engage in meaningful dialogue. It requires courage, grace and reciprocity. And there will always be a space for that.
We exist simultaneously in both the physical and spiritual and the nourishing of our well-being and achievements relies on all of us. The Lakota have a mantra, “Mitakuye Oyasin.” It means, “We are all related.” When we move through the world with that in mind, we move in magic.
The storming of the Capitol building in D.C. on January 6th, 2021 never had a chance.
The symbols it was organized under were alternatively chaotic, incongruent and some even grounded in Evil. Portions of the rally were led by varied men and women carrying a confederate flag, an American flag, a Trump flag and a Gadsden flag. At least one person wore a shirt glorifying the Auschwitz concentration camp, another shirt proclaiming that six million dead was not enough.
There were Elders in the crowd, but mostly they were jostled and shoved to the back. Mr. Trump and Giuliani certainly took the lead in the beginning – their call to action ultimately heard and heeded. There were arguably other Elders amongst the thousands in attendance that might have provided some of the guidance, wisdom and experience that was so desperately called for. However, any semblance of wisdom and guidance of age and experience that is so critical to healthy communities, organizations and societies was, at best, marginalized and misguided on that day.
The “warriors”, who might have led, seemed largely motivated by the opportunity for a selfie, self-promotion, wanton destruction or some sort of combination of all of those desires. Donald Trump Jr., who is of the right age to lead in this way, seemed to prefer to aggressively exhort other “doers” and then retreated to the safety of the White House. At varying points, a self-proclaimed “shaman” dressed in a bison headdress and fur, wearing face paint and carrying a spear appeared poised to lead. In so many pictures of him, however, he appeared more the lone wolf than a leader of others. He dressed in the trappings of – and apparently characterizes himself as – a shaman. However, the camera shows the truth of him to be much more a buffoon and cartoon character than anything else. And then there were the others who appeared to lead not because they had followers but because they were being followed and pushed forward by the mob. All appeared to be acting independently of the crowd whilst in the midst of it. Most seemed motivated more by cameras and cell phones than by principle. At the very least, most, if not all, betrayed the Warrior values of humility, respect and self-sacrifice. The cameras that they were worshipping exposed their lie.
And so it was.
Indigenous wisdom from all over the world has striking commonalities that we may choose to learn from and live by:
This year we've seen first hand that even in the darkest times, maybe especially in those times, the best of humanity can be easily found. We count ourselves blessed to witness this more often than can be counted. While, this has been an extraordinary year in so many ways, what stands out the most is the kindness from our Tipi Raiser's family. YOUR support this year helped us pivot and find our way, from a calendar packed with in-person events, to an immediate and ongoing response to a complex and fluid situation that was - and is - unfolding on Pine Ridge and other Indigenous communities.
Our commitment to you, as stewards of your hard earned resources, is born from the same place as our commitment to the Indigenous communities we serve. It comes from a moral obligation to answer when there is a call for help, to listen deeply and work alongside those we serve to restore self-determination, dignity and healing.
The real magic of this work is our WHY - and it is not easily quantified. Of course, we are proud to share that you have helped us achieve the following outcomes in 2020:
"There is a story that I have told that involves a hummingbird, as I look at the smiles on my children and then the reason why, I would like to thank The Tipi Raisers for the opportunity to meet and make connections with people all over the place, from England to the West coast. Each of those connections made are seen by me as pin holes of light. As I look back over some of them connections made go beyond the title of Friend and goes straight to family. I looked around and see that in my own way I'm the hummingbird in my own story. For those that have been lucky enough to have made that connection we are blessed".
We've said it before; this is slow work- the fruits of which won't likely be seen in this lifetime. But we believe that a layer of mistrust and wounding, passed down through generations, gets peeled back when we're in our WHY and that is when a little bit of healing can happen. And, ultimately, we believe it is that healing that might be passed down to future generations.
Please know that YOU, too, are at the center of our WHY. Our Tipi Raiser's family is the special sauce, it is where the magic happens and makes all of this possible. We look forward to working and playing alongside you again in 2021 and thank you for the sacred trust you have endowed in us.
"When I think back to the “me” that stood over the sign-up sheet for a trip to Pine Ridge with the Tipi Raisers in my sophomore year of college, I think of someone who hadn’t woken up yet. Someone hoping to make a difference, but who hadn’t quite arrived at the “why.” Someone who knew of the ongoing injustices committed against Indigenous communities, but who did not fully grasp the manner in which myself, and all people who look like me, continue to be complicit in them. I wanted to make a change, but was occupied with all the things modern life tends to occupy us with, and my plans of the impact I hoped to have in life definitely outnumbered the actual experiences I had to show for it. I held, and still hold, much privilege that had kept me from truly seeing others and my connection to them.
And then I spent a week on Pine Ridge with a handful of people from my college whom I did not yet know well, Tipi Raiser's Executive Director, two of his children, and countless new Lakota friends. We all became a family that week. Work felt like play, every night was marked with hilarious antics and eye-opening conversations, and I realized that the “why” at which I had not yet arrived was not a “why” at all; it was a “who.” The work mattered because the People mattered. The Spirit that was moving and working through all of the people we met that week, and every Tipi Raisers trip I’ve been on since, has made me understand that we do not exist in a vacuum; we need one another. We exist in connection with everything and everyone in this world. The phrase “Mitakuye Oyasin- We are all related” had been taught to us non-Native volunteers earlier in the week by a Lakota elder, and it has resonated more and more with every passing day. 3 years later, I am still humbled by the way the Tipi Raisers community continuously lives into this way of being. It is a community which shows up consistently for the people whom they serve, for the difficult and important work of reconciliation, and for unity across cultures towards a more just and caring future.
Even if I cannot fully put into words the “why” behind my motivation to continue to work with this incredible organization, I know the “who.” Each and every person (and horse; shout out to my favorite Tipi Raisers horse, Okiniha!) who I have come across in my work with the Tipi Raisers is a reminder of the fact that we are all related. We have an obligation and a sacred duty to work with and for one another. Though I have so much more to do in order to even begin living up to that obligation, it is an honor to be able to do that work alongside the Tipi Raisers and the Oglala Lakota People who have generously opened my eyes to so much".
I had come from a long struggle (health-wise) and the struggle was not resolved and found myself with some free time. To occupy that time, I learned how to surf the net. I came across a post that advertised " The Lakota Ride " a Ride of Reconciliation. A 400-mile horse ride to the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota. I thought to myself, I'm Lakota, I like horses, I even have ties to that Reservation (I was pretty sure). The post advertised horses, food, in & outdoor lodging (camping). With a strict adherence to Lakota codes of value and spirituality. Also, it would take a week at least just to get to Cheyenne Wyoming and That was only a little over an hour's drive away. So, I figured I could always come home?
So, I reached out and got in contact with Dave Ventimiglia, the CEO of the Tipi Raisers. We met at a small 4- or 5-acre open lot adjacent to a greenbelt alongside a fairly busy street (South Kipling Rd). there was a small ramshackle open stable and a part of the lot was fenced off. In the open section there was a large horse trailer, 2 horses and Dave himself.
After introductions I was enlightened to the organization and to this particular event. I learned that this was the beginning prep work for the third Lakota Ride. I gathered the impression that help and support was much needed and would be appreciated. We had a small lesson in horsemanship and then rode for a few miles through a park, school and neighborhood. We talked about the organization and why this event was needed. I talked about my previous experiences with horses. It being just a photo op at a 6-year old’s Birthday party and a 2-mile crash down a mountain track on a runaway horse. Holding on like a frightened monkey until being rescued by my older Brother (probably more on that later). On our return trip to the horse stables there was some construction by the gate and we thought it best to dismount and walk the horses the rest of the way. That's when the saddle and I decided to see what the bottom of the horse looked like .... Luckily for me I simply stepped off (sort of) and landed on my feet. Even Luckier the horse, Eshna, and I decided to remain friends, much to Dave's relief. Upon our return, we said our " Doc-sha's " (until we meet again) with promises of signed waivers and medical clearances
On our second meetup, I had the needed paperwork in hand and after saddling the horses (a requirement to be a rider) I parked my ride next to a hay bale, climbed on and we were off. Looking down at Dave’s saddle I noticed a lariat that wasn't there before. After the "almost" fiasco at the end of the last meetup and the story I told, I asked if it was for me? He got serious, and then we laughed, we both saw the truth in it. We started working up to a fast trot and Dave was ready for a gallop. I pulled up on the reins and did my best to look like I knew what I was doing to stop. Dave quickly spun around and wanted to know if anything was wrong (my ability to be a rider was still not set in stone)? I told him I just wanted to make sure I knew how to stop before I learned how to run! Along the way I told Dave that I had a commercial driver’s license and was more than willing to help out in any way that I could. That got me to the third meetup.
About 10 days later I met Dave for the third time along with his son Adam in a parking lot with a big truck, horse trailer and a rental car with plans of caravanning up to the reservation to pick up horses and Lakota Tribal members (Elders, Singers, other riders and some of their family members that will travel with the Ride). That's how I found myself at 6:30-ish in the morning at the top of Lookout Mountain overseeing 5 strange horses feeling a little inadequate of the title of " Horse Watcher “. At a set time all of the people and horses gathered together and with Words, Prayer’s, Songs and Ceremony, the 2017 3rd annual Lakota Ride was off!! After driving the trailer and eating lunch I got the opportunity to get on one of those " unknown horses named " Wicahpi " to finish out the day. I parked my ride next to a fence and climbed on. I was far from sure that I would be able to handle the rigors of such a journey but I didn't want to Not ride a bit of it. Being new to riding and more than a bit nervous I found that you still have time for contemplation. So, while I was all clenched and knotted up I was convincing myself that " Me " being on this trip was " Reckless and Irresponsible " and I should probably just go home, when Waylon ("The" Horse Guy and soon to be great friend), gives me a gentle, unexpected push that almost startles me out of the saddle. He says relax, loosen up, have fun .... He then keeps riding up & down the line of other horses and riders. I try to take his advice and focus on the good times and the moment. I hear someone inquire about me and someone else answer "He's on Wicahpi". I looked down at my horse and settled in and started thinking again, " Wi-cah-pi “? I think of my names and how I got them. The tradition in my family is to have 2 middle names. Supposedly to give my Parents an opportunity to help define our character and paths in life (my Sister's name means " Sweet Peaceful Earth " in 3 different languages). My name is Jason Scott Eric, after Jason and the Argonauts, Sir Robert Falcon Scott (Arctic Explorer) and Erik the Red (Father of Leif Erikson). On contemplation I realized that " Jason " had a ship full of Heroes but his quest was fraught with danger, tragedy and bad decisions. Sir Robert Falcon Scott (though Noble in His endeavor) still arrived 5 weeks too late and perished of starvation and exposure 10 miles shy of food and supplies. And Erik The Red, who was kicked out of Iceland and fell off his horse, considering it a bad omen and decided to stay home on the day that his son Leif set off to North America... I dwell some more.
I am reminded of a story of when I was small (2nd grade or so). I was trying to stay up all night to watch the "Jerry Lewis Telethon" and I pleaded with my Mom to let me stay awake and watch it. Two hours after " bedtime " and I couldn't keep my eyes open. My Mother scooped me up and took me out into the cold night air. She rolled me out of my blanket and around the lawn for a bit. Then she wrapped me and the blanket up in her arms and told me a story. It was about when She was young. She and her older Brother were left alone in their home, it was dark and the house had no electricity. Not wanting to draw attention to themselves they sat quietly in the dark. My Mother, being very young, was frightened and started to cry. Her Brother (not being much older) tried to be comforting and asked about her tears. She told him that there were No Lights!! “Yes, there is”, he says, and leads her outside and pointing up he tells her to "Look". It being Dark, the Milky Way looked like a river across the Sky with so many dots of “Light"! "See", he says, "there are lots of them! And they are always there. Even when it's cloudy or the Sun is out, all you have to do is look up and know that those "Lights" are always there"! When She finished, I looked up into the sky with new wonder. She squeezed me and whispered in my ear "Wi-cah-pi"... That means " Star ".
And that's when I fell off my horse!
Wicahpi and Shunka (Dog) were the first words I learned in Lakota. And much like that night long ago, I wanted to learn more and I didn't want to miss a thing.
From the first meeting with Dave and the Tipi Raisers Family (which is what it has become) I thought " Wow ", I hope this works out well. After just a few minutes though I saw Dave's manor and approach to the simple acts of introducing me to the animals and the act of placing tack and saddles on. I saw the respect and care he took and the ease and temperament of the Horses, Masa and Eshna (I was on Eshna) . We discussed the struggles and shortcomings of life on the Reservation and the needs of the people. As I listened I saw the genuine concern about the topics he mentioned, which awakened the same feelings in me . It seemed like A lot to "Take on", but I never saddled a horse before that day and the need seemed great. Upon spending more time with Dave I knew there were lots of ways I could help, and who didn't want to ride a horse and be a part of such an adventure?
It was easy to find ways to help, there were so many things that needed to be done and I was drawn more and more into the excitement of it all. Things that would normally seem like a chore or burden turned into something else. I began to fill roles that were needed and to rely on other people in a way I wouldn't have been comfortable with before. Most importantly I listened... things like driving 6 hrs one way to places I've never been, to pick up people I've never met seemed like a small price to pay for the opportunity to talk, listen and become good friends, more like family, with all the concerns, warm thoughts and feelings that come with Family; "Mitakuye Oyasin" (We are all related). It was more than a sense of Community. I didn't even understand that word until after my involvement. If anything, I never wanted the visits to end and my thoughts and heart stayed with all of my new found relations ! I feel thankful and blessed for the opportunities that the Tipi Raisers have given me and honored to aid the Tasunke Wakan Nation ( Sacred Horse Nation ). Humblie Le Anpetu ki Oglala Lakota Oyate ki unsiwica kila pi ye ( I ask for compassion for my Relatives ). Oaye Waste , Wowasake na Woawanglake wicayaku pi kte ( Give them good direction , strength and protection ).
The help the Tipi Raisers bring to the Oceti Sakowin is immeasurable .
Wopila, WOPILA Tanka (Many MANY Thanks )!!
Jason Larkin, Lakota Rider
About six months ago we became aware of an annual performance that takes place in Lusk, WY (a small town about 2 hours southeast of Pine Ridge). In this performance the actors dress in regalia and red-face and "re-enact" an event they claim took place during the overland migrations of the mid-nineteenth century. This Harper's article details the annual production. Since discovering this article we have had conversations with our Lakota friends on Pine Ridge and have come to learn that many do not feel safe going through the Town of Lusk- their stories are heartbreaking but all too familiar their voices join a chorus from other People of Color across this nation.
We have met with the planning committee of the event called the "Legends of Rawhide", in a meeting attended by two Gen7 Youth Ambassadors and two adult Tribal members, and have since had conversations with the Lusk Mayor, the Anti-Defamation League and members of the American Indian Movement. We are exploring a strategy with these partners to engage in constructive and meaningful dialogue with the community of Lusk over the coming months and years. We hope that by sharing the Lakota perspective, factual historical context and facilitating courageous conversations and vulnerable conversations, the possibility for compassion and understanding can evolve and our friends from the Native American community can feel safe driving through the town of Lusk – or maybe even gain allies and friends in the process.
The virus that now threatens every human inhabitant worldwide poses a specifically even more harmful threat to the lives of not only the Oglala Lakota Nation, but also to indigenous Peoples the world over. Wigmuke Was’te Win (“Beautiful Rainbow Woman”) notes in her recent article for the Lakota Times, that for reasons not clear yet, this virus – as well as similar viruses (the Spanish flu in the early 1900’s and most other cases of influenzas) – dramatically impacts her People at rates almost four times that of European derived populations. Some of this might have to do with genetic differences. Clearly, there are also factors linked to conditions of poverty, unequal healthcare and differences in diet – all of which are related to the systematic oppression Native American’s have been subjected to for generations.
And so, the Oglala Lakota Nation has moved aggressively to protect its People from this virus. Not only because it is a clear and present danger to them physically, but also because it gives rise to historic fears of diseases brought by the Europeans in the 18th century that devastated their populations.
They have blockaded roads leading into the reservation in perhaps a futile attempt to keep the virus from crossing a line.
Last year’s harvest of sage and cedar is virtually impossible to find anymore as the bundles kept in closets and hanging on walls have been burned day and night.
Many traditional families have set up tents and tipis next to their homes – refusing to send their infected family members to quarantine sites away from their homes and loved ones.
And they have listened and adapted to this new world, incorporating guidance and teachings as much from their elders and Spiritual leaders as from the scientific information being offered from the outside.
The borders will open again at some point. The virus and fear will recede. And good will come out of it. Perhaps the social and economic legacies of colonialism will finally be meaningfully addressed as they were exposed by the Pandemic. As with so many of the other fissures that have been exposed as the Coronavirus pulled back the curtain, perhaps the reality that there are significant parts of our population that still live without running water, healthy homes and adequate food will be too obvious in the death tolls to ignore. Our belief is that in the midst of this chaos and upheaval there is an opportunity to see more clearly what we have become – and where we want, and need, to go as a species.
Hecel lena Oyate kin nipi ket – so that our People may live.
The Tipi Raisers is registered as a 501(c)(3) non profit organization in the State of South Dakota. All donations are tax deductible and a receipt will be mailed or emailed.
Donations can be made online or mailed to:
7830 W. Alameda Ave. Ste. 103-186
Lakewood, CO 80226
Physical Location: Little Finger Building
29128 US-18 Oglala, SD 57764
All media/graphics/photographs on this website © 2013 The Tipi Raisers/Ti Ikciya Pa Slata Pi.
Copyright © 2018 The Tipi Raisers