Native Sun News: Elders hand Big Foot Ride to future generation
The following story was written and reported by Randall Howell. All content © Native Sun News.

Bernice White Hawk, Charley New Holy, Chubb Thunder Hawk

Anpowin While Plume, Jeremiah Young Bull, Rosie Lipp

MANDERSON, SOUTH DAKOTA — This year – the 120th anniversary of Chief Big Foot’s ride into disaster on the creek banks of Wounded Knee – marks a significant transition from elders to youth leadership for the annual trek.

“The younger generation – young men and young women – need to step up. That was our planning several years ago … to put our younger leaders in front of our elders,” said Chubb Thunder Hawk, Porcupine, during yet another planning session for what is transitioning from the SiTanka Wokiksuye/Chief Big Foot Memorial Ride to Future Generation Riders/Oomaka Tokatukiya.

The yearly ride, which starts at Bullhead in mid-December on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, is seeing an increasing number of youth leaders – leaders who already are significantly involved in planning this year’s event.

“Our younger riders are the ones needed to start practicing leadership,” said Thunder Hawk, long a spiritual member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe and a consistent elder offering his organizational skills to the quarter-century event. “We are losing our elders and these youngsters were depending on the elders for (traditional and cultural) teachings. Now they must step up.”

Thunder Hawk, who opened the Oct. 16 meeting at the Oglala Lakota College’s instructional building in Manderson, with Lakota prayer and a hand-drum song.

“We already have leadership commitments from some of our younger-generation riders,” said Thunder Hawk, widely known on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation as a spiritual leader and talented horseman.

He pointed to four younger generation leaders selected to spearhead some of the planning for the 2010 ride, that follows – as close as possible – Chief Big Foot’s trek. The inaugural ride was in 1986.

Meanwhile, elder Bernice White Hawk, Manderson, asked the Creator “to look after each of the young leaders and the riders – each one here today – and to give us guidance.”

The 78-year-old expressed concern that the sacredness of the ride could be lost during the transition to what is being referred to as the Future Generation Riders group, which is about 20 strong, unless the younger leaders make it a priority to protect its significance.

“I learned it (the traditions) when I was a little girl through the wacipi, the Sundance, the ceremonies,” White Hawk told nearly 20 Lakota men and women at the meeting. “I didn’t learn it yesterday. But you guys, in terms of my learning, were born yesterday. I was born way back there.”

The planning session was spearheaded by four younger-generation leaders: Jeremiah Young Bull Bear of Kyle; Rosie Lipp of Manderson; Anpowin While Plume of Manderson; and Charlie New Holy of Oglala.

Youth leadership — selected in December 2009 — for the ride also includes: Tre Goings of Pine Ridge; Tyson White Plume of Manderson; Joe Sierra of Manderson; Edgar Yellow Earrings of Bullhead; Paige Bailey of Fort Yates; Martin Taken Alive of Bullhead; Nicole Silk of Green Grass; Joseph Looking Horse of Green Grass; Lisa Lone Eagle of Cherry Creek; and Kelly Romero of Cherry Creek.

In addition, the ride’s youth leadership includes the Spirit Riders of Wakpala: TC Hill; Ramey Hill; Melania Fast Horse; Kim Cameron; Wiyaka His Horse is Thunder; Kody NaDeau; and Teddy Iron Cloud.

Part of the planning session included an update on organizational work already in place as well as a review of projects awaiting attention from youth leaders.

Additional ride organizers at the meeting included: Phyllis Wilcox; Denver Wounded; Vina White Hawk; Chance White Plume; Percy White Plume; Cyndi Red Star; Justin Bradford; Ramona White Plume; Sina Kasna Maniwin Tall; LaVonne Mesteth; and Kyle White Hawk.

In addition to expressed appeals for everything from stock water tanks to donations of warm clothing, meeting attendees discussed ground rules and regulations for this year’s ride, some of which involved better supervision to eliminate alcohol and drugs, as well as personal conduct issues, such as a ban on cursing and disrespect – particularly that shown toward elders.

Elder White Hawk reminded the planning group that youngster’s riding around reservation communities and showing disrespect for elders as they do “also have ridden with Big Foot Memorial Ride” participants in previous years. She urged younger generation leaders to eliminate that – along with fighting — this year “because the ride is sacred.”

Young Bull Bear said that when it came to rider discipline he felt the young leaders had “to come at it really hard. That will get passed along.”

Urging better treatment of elders, Thunder Hawk said: “As we are going to go blind, they (the youth) will begin to see for us; As we are going to lose our hearing, they will hear for us; As we are going to begin to forget; they will remember.”

Thunder Hawk also advised the younger-generation leaders to follow the traditions and cultural instructions on such things as “feather drops.”

“Stop to do the ceremonies, the smudging,” he said. “Do the prayers. Sing the songs.”

Meanwhile, New Holy said that one of the reasons for the transition is that the Big Foot Memorial Ride – after nearly a quarter-century – “already has done the Wiping of the Tears Ceremony – but hasn’t had the chance to organize the younger generation, though in most cases has handed over the leadership roles from previous riders.”

He said that the ride remains a “memorial for the Chief (Big Foot) and the people who are buried there (Wounded Knee).” Referring to it as an “open ride … and international ride,” New Holy reminded the group that “some of our young people have grown up on the ride. Our grandchildren are now coming along on the ride. We have hope for them. It is our hope they have better lives for themselves than we did.”

He also said the local youth leaders were selected in each area for their skills, talent, commitment and resourcefulness.

“It’s starting to become a society,” New Holy said. “The next step is to become a society. Youth leaders need to come to these meetings. They will witness a vision for the celebration of life. Our families survived the massacre. We survived and we are here. We are always going to be here. We encourage them to be here.”

New Holy talked about “life beyond the reservation,” telling those at the meeting that the younger generation “can step over that (reservation) line and make something of themselves while still keeping the culture and traditions … until one day they can look back and know that we made a difference.”

New Holy, who built the staff for the Younger Generation Ride and explained the symbolic meaning of the design and its colors, noted that each of the 19 leaders selected last December “needs to tie an eagle feather to it.” He said that, for groups such as the Spirit Riders, were allowed only one from the group. New Holy also reminded the planners that, during the ride, “all other staffs must remain behind” the Younger Generation Riders’ staff.

“A lot of people are willing to help us, but they are waiting for us to get organized and provide a donations list (of needs),” said New Holy, who has ridden each year since the start of the ride.

Thunder Hawk told the group that the Younger Generation Riders “become role models,” not only for the ride itself, but also in their communities across Indian country. He also urged the younger-generation ride leaders to “respect the horses.”

“They are the second family,” he said. “Pray for them. Doctor them. When they make the ride, honor them. Sing for your horses.”

Discussions also ranged from cooking and food distribution for the riders and support teams, such as medical and veterinarian resources, to feed and water for the horses.

Many of those categories involve “works in progress,” according to Young Bull Bear, who reported to the group that he was connecting the dots for the trail on a county-by-county basis.

Before adjourning, the group set a tentative schedule for upcoming meeting schedule. Similar planning meetings have been set for Oct. 30, Nov. 13, Nov. 27, Dec. 11 and Dec. 18 – basically, every two weeks until the ride begins.

For more information on this year’s ride, contact: Charley New Holy at (605) 454-0481; or Anopowin White Plume at (605) 441-4710.

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