Many of the Big Foot Riders have ended their 300 mile journey across the harsh landscape of South Dakota at Wounded Knee in commemoration of their ancestors massacred by US Cavalry Soldiers more than a century ago.
While the journey will take on a new shape next year and focus on empowering Lakota youth the pain and suffering their ancestors endured at the hands of invaders in their own lands will never be forgotten.
Jim Standing Bear Wheatley says, “these riders are surviving very cold temperatures, long rides and they’re praying the whole time and they’re not just praying for our people they’re praying for your people and people around the world."
Big Foot Riders converge at Wounded Knee SOURCE Jim Standing Bear Wheatley Facebook
Since 1986 the 'Big Foot Riders' have taken this journey, following in the footsteps of Minconjou Chief Spotted Elk.
In 1890 Spotted Elk followed the exact same trail seeking refuge for his people, but while camped at Wounded Knee Chief Spotted Elk and more than 300 of his people were slaughtered by US soldiers.
Despite the relentless attempts of colonisers to annihilate the indigenous nations, Natasha Noel Hart Luger says her people will never forget who they are.
“We’ve been put down as a people in our spiritual ways and they try to break us that way. So from here on out its going to bea future generations youth empowerment ride. For myself, I don’t know how else to thank the world for coming and standing with us for mother earth and we are trying to save our earth just the same as you guys,” says Luger
Lakota youth participating in the journey are empowering themselves through building a knowledge and deeper understanding of their culture, their language and their people.
They, like many other indigenous nations across the globe have struggled with alarmingly high rates of suicide, alcoholism and poverty.
However, thanks to the tireless efforts of groups like the ‘SUNKWAKAN IGRIS’ (Bringing the Spirit of the Horse back to the people) and many others like Standing Bear a new pathway is being carved out using the ways of old to help save the up and coming generations.
“The secret is returning to ‘The Spirit of the Horse’ the Lakota people are the horse nation and the reason that I am here, the reason that any other Lakota continue to be here is to teach them the old ways to help them live a better life, and it’s working.”
Although this year’s journey has come to an end, those who have participated will never forget the strength of their ancestors.
Three of the direct descendants of those massacred at Wounded Knee told Te Ao the experience was an awakening for them all.
17 year old Logan Lawrence of the Minconjou Lakota says, “I feel like it’s a very healing process for us because I am a descendant and once you complete a ride then it’s like pure happiness.”
15 year old Ariana Hollow Horn said “I will always remember this and the days I've lost track of just keeping focused on this ride.”
Heavenly Lone Eagle who is on her second Big Foot Ride says the connection with those involved is always strong, “We will just talk about our journey here, how long it took and what we’ve learned and the sacrifices we've had to make.”