Sunday, December 16, 2012

2012 Dakota 38 Horse Ride Begins

Departing from my own writing, I have permission to post some notes from a brother (Marque) who is on the Wokisuye (remembering and honoring) horse ride...
I have added some links and explanations in parenthesis for the reader...As a non-Dakota and a descendant of white settlers who would directly benefit from the removal of American Indians, his reflections on this ride for healing and reconciliation are especially insightful to the rest of us who also are non-Dakota.
Dakota 38 Riders On the way to Mankato

Joining with the Dakota 38, on a Journey yet to be Fully Known

The last few weeks I have been jogging a little more, working out my legs and thighs,  and trying to get as much time outside as I can.  I’m trying to prepare my body for what it will experience beginning next Saturday as I travel to the Crow Creek Reservation at Fort Thompson, South Dakota.  I am going to be participating the the Dakota 38 +2 memorial ride.

I need to be a little physically prepared to ride horse all day as this memorial travels the 330 miles to Mankato MN.  However, more that being physically prepared I am seeking to prepare myself mentally and spiritually for what I will experience.
Jim Miller and his son Issac at a showing of the movie in North Minneapolis
Jim Miller, founder of the Ride
The ride was begun a few years ago by Jim Miller, a Dakota / Lakota leader from the Pine Ridge Reservation.  As he states, the purpose is for healing and reconciliation as well as to encourage awareness and remembrance of the events that shaped the destiny of both MN and the Dakota people 150  years ago. 

One hundred and fifty years ago the state of Minnesota was in chaos.  Just 6 years had passed since MN had entered the union.  The civil war had begun in Fort Sumter, and MN was sending a steady stream of young men to fight in states far away to maintain this union.  In August of 1862 another war began to rage within the borders of MN.  Like the Civil War,  the seeds of this war had been planted years before through decisions made by self-centered power brokers who chose the quick and simple “solution” over justice and moral actions.  For the one it was the issue of slavery, for the other it was the issue of the Native people of this land.
In 2005 Jim Miller had a dream of Dakota riders riding east, where they saw their ancestors being hanged on the banks of a river.  At the time of his dream he had never heard of the mass execution that had occurred in Mankato after the war.  When the war that had begun in August was over, the Dakota were rounded up, some were forced marched to Fort Snelling where they were kept in a concentration camp near the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers.  Others were taken to Mankato for a public execution.   When the "kangaroo-courts" were over and the presidential appeals finalized,  38 Dakota warriors were sentenced to be executed.   

The largest mass execution in US history was held December 26, 1862 in Mankato, MN at the site of the present library.

I had not heard of the ride until two years ago when Janeen and I made a trip to Mankato on December 26.  We did not know what to expect, we only knew that there were memorial events that occurred on that day and felt a pull to come, to witness, and to grieve.  That day opened the door to relationships and experiences that have challenged, stretched and blessed me.  Most significantly I am able to count Jim Miller and Peter Lengkeek (the present ride leader) as friends.  Their friendship and integrity are a gift and at their invitation,  I join the ride to share in this ceremony for remembrance and healing.  I know that in both the present and in the past my story is tied up in theirs.  Our destiny is intertwined.   

We share belief in the concept that that Lilla Watson, an Aboriginal Activist from Australia, articulated;“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come here because your liberation is bound up in mine, then let us work together.”
I know physically this ride will cross the open prairies of South Dakota and follow the Minnesota River valley to Mankato.  However I am not sure where it may lead in other realms.  Peter is welcoming me to journal along the journey, to share the story and challenge all to consider how this story calls to us. Please join us in Spirit and even consider coming out to show support along the way and in Mankato on the 26th.

Horses, Feasting as they prepare for the Dakota 38+2 memorial ride 12/10/2012 | Author: marQue |
We made it on to the Crow Creek Reservation  right as the (Dakota 38) riders were making their way from the Lower Brule reservation across the Missouri River.  Big Bend Dam generates electricity for much of South Dakota and the region, it has created a  lovely lake but came at a huge cost in the 1950′s and 1960′s.  When the Army Corp of came in to flood the river.   The tribes on both sides (Lower Brule and Crow Creek)  were again forced to relocate, this time from the fertile banks of the river, to the more desolate, unprotected bluffs.  (1960  land-grab link)

Once we got to Fort Thompson,  we connected with Peter (Lengkeek who is the staff carrier)..  Then we met other riders over dinner in the community center and while feeding and watering the horses.  In a few moments we will join the team in the hotel lobby and go to the sweat lodge.
I have a million thoughts now as I write, am thankful to be here, and I am in anticipation for what our creator is doing in this time and place.

DATE                           DEPART                                      ARRIVE
12-09-12 Lower Brule, SD Check in Day
12-10-12 Lower Brule, SD Ft. Thompson, SD
12-11-12 Ft. Thompson, SD Crow Creek site
12-12-12 Crow Creek site Woonsocket, SD
12-13-12 Woonsocket, SD Howard, SD
12-14-12 Howard, SD Madison, SD
12-15-12 Madison, SD Flandreau, SD
12-16-12 Rest Day
12-17-12 Flandreau, SD Pipestone, MN
12-18-12 Pipestone, MN Russell, MN
12-19-12 Russell, MN Vesta, MN
12-20-12 Vesta, MN Morton, MN
12-21-12 Rest Day
12-22-12 Rest Day
12-23-12 Morton, MN Ft. Ridgley, MN
12-24-12 Ft. Ridgley, MN Courtland, MN
12-25-12 Courtland, MN Mankato, MN
12-26-12 Land of Memories Park, Mankato MN Hanging Site – 10:00 am – Mankato, MN

A Day Comes to a Close Over the SD Plains:
New Insights and Friendships Emerge
Posted: 12/11/2012 | Author: marQue
I sit on my bed now contemplating the day past,  as I consider the words spoken and the deeds done, I am aware of how little I know and how little I am.  Yet I am encouraged at how big God is and good his people are. After eating dinner together in the Crow Creek community center, (we corralled the horses and drove back for the night) Peter Lengkeek shared how thankful he is for the group and the opportunity again to ride.  He went on to say,  "I want you to be aware of something.  Tomorrow we will ride though the town of Wessington Springs."   Peter explained that we are going to be hosted to lunch at the Legion Hall by several families who want to welcome and support the Dakota 38 ride.  We are very thankful for their hospitality,  he said,  however, it is important to know that many of the first citizens of this town were bounty hunters, who came to track down and kill our people as they fled MN.  Bounty hunters were paid $25 – $200 for the scalp of a Dakota.
Peter went on to say that in the 1970′s two white men drove to Crow Creek with several boxes.  The men were the schools’ principals.  In the boxes were bones of Dakota who had been killed by the bounty hunters.  Up until that time the bones had been displayed in the school.  The Dakota leaders took the bones and gave them a proper burial.  Peter shared that there are many great people in the town of Wessington Springs, however the history of hostility has not completely ended.   Just a short time ago a basketball game had an ugly aftermath.  The Crow Creek Chieftains had badly defeated the Wessington Springs Spartans and a mob of angry students and fans cornered and intimidated the Crow Creek students who were gripped with fear.
Peter concluded his talk by saying, “There are many good people in this town, yet there are still some who hate us.  So tonight as you go to bed, tomorrow when you wake, pray for those people who hate.  Pray for them that one day we may be able to walk side by side as brothers on this earth.”   This is the call of love, forgiveness and reconciliation.   “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”   also found in Matthew 5:44. There is much to learn so that we can walk side-by-side in peace.

Riders Circling at the Memorial Flags on the Missouri River Dam
Ceremony at the Missouri River Dam

Riders enter Ft. Thompson from the dam site
Entering Fort Thompson

The dam is close to the point of Old Fort Thompson, the landing where the Dakota exiles where taken by barge in 1863.   I wanted to walk and reflect on the opening ceremony and the horrific history, yet stunning bravery, that occurred in this place.  Many times in the last 2 days have I heard the bravery and strength of the Dakota people who survived the horrific conditions they faced when deposited in this place.  Today was a day of walking, working, listening and learning!

Sunset Over Woonsocket SD
Posted: 12/12/2012 | Author: marQue |
Following the staff into town, after galloping and trotting the last 5 miles. More later after dinner and a charge. “Wasicu” the Dakota word literally means, one-who-takes-the-fat. (Wasi=fat, cu=one who takes) Peter explained to me that first contact between the Europeans and Dakoka occurred at a time when the explorers/trappers where starving. The hungery invaders would sneak into Dakota camps and cut off fat from the drying buffalo meat. Many people today know it is the word for white-man, few know the etymology. However the word became more than appropriate as the immigrant hoards again and again took the fat of the land.
The road we have been traveling, SD highway 34, was an ancient passageway from Minnesota, across the Missouri, and into the Black Hills, frequently traveled by Lakota, Nakota, and Dakota bands. Now we travel the road east from what became a prison camp and later the reservation to where most of the Dakota were banished after the war of 1862. Many of the riders from Crow Creek have relatives who tried to get back to MN after the prison-camp era ended. They too followed this trail while trying to escape being hunted and killed by bounty hunters.

Today, to ride as fast as possible, we ran relays. With 40 miles to cover, a fresh group of 4-8 would head out for a hard 5 miles, there another group would take the staff and launch out for the next 5 miles.As I’ve had the honor to be one of the riders following the staff with 40 eagle feathers (for the Dakota 38 +2) I ponder the significance. Riding with those whose ancestors were hung, exiled, hunted, and hated, while my ancestors received the “Wasi” of the land. Almost all of my 8 great-grandparents were the settlers who moved into Iowa and Nebraska immediately after the Native people were forcefully removed, and in ways not all, that different from the Minnesota story.

As I shared with one of my new friends today;  Perhaps if we can ride in peace together today, while also symbolically and spiritually riding for our ancestors, healing can begin from wounds inflicted long ago.