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Wounded Knee: 'The healing must pass on to the next generation'

January 05, 2021

Wounded Knee: 'The healing must pass on to the next generation'

As snow blanketed the hills and grasslands of South Dakota, young Lakota riders journeyed onward through the Badlands on horseback on their way to Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

The cold was undeniable, many mornings not reaching above single-digit temperatures. Those who awaited their arrival at each location they took up camp could feel the chill in their bones as they huddled next to one another. But no matter what, every year these riders honor their 300 ancestors lost at the Wounded Knee Massacre on Dec. 29, 1890.

The Omaka Tokatakiya (Future Generation Ride) is a nearly 300-mile trek from Standing Rock Reservation to Wounded Knee to Pine Ridge in 15 days. It also commemorates Chief Big Foot's flight from the Cheyenne River Reservation on Dec. 23, 1890. He was later intercepted by the U.S. 7th Cavalry Regiment at Porcupine Butte and escorted to Wounded Knee on Dec. 28, 1890.

Tanka Bar CEO Karlene Hunter's family participated in the ride in the past. She has been a long-time supporter of honoring the ancestors in this way and provided Tanka products to the riders.

Bigfoot Memorial Ride

Si Tanka Wokiksuye (The Bigfoot Memorial Ride) was the original Wounded Knee memorial ride and concluded in 1990. It acted as a Wiping of the Tears ceremony to remember those lost elders, women and children. Many of them rode in silence and fasted without food or water for four days.

Ed Young Man Afraid of His Horse, an employee of Little Wound School in Kyle, S.D., said many people from other cultures and countries were involved in the original ride.

"Buddhists walked along on the ride," he said. "German and French people as well."

Didier DuPont of Oglala Lakota College and of French origin, was one of the original riders. He and Mr. Young Man Afraid of His Horse are family.

Didier DuPont and Ed Young Man Afraid of His Horse

"We were on the trail traveled by our ancestors who were massacred, doing something beyond ourselves. The whole ride was a prayer, a ceremony itself," Mr. DuPont said. "So after that the younger generation wanted to carry the tradition. It is a good thing because it is like fulfilling one of the prayers -- that the younger generation continue the memory."

Mr. Young Man Afraid of His Horse spoke of how it is now the elders that come to meet the riders to help observe what they are doing and it is their families that pull the horse trailers.

At the sound of Percy White Plume saying, "Circle up," the riders gathered at the bottom of the hill and the drum began. From there they rode up the hill to the Wounded Knee site to prepare a ceremony. Prayer ties, chanupa, wasna, sage -- all of these things were part of the prayer among the graves covered in snow. Young leaders held staffs covered in eagle feathers as they entered the gate.

The ceremony took place at the mass gravesite of those massacred so many years ago at Wounded Knee Creek. On the morning of Dec. 29, 1890 the U.S. 7th Cavalry Regiment troops went into Spotted Elk's (Chief Big Foot) camp to disarm the Lakota which lead to the deaths of hundreds.

Mr. White Plume told the riders, as well as the descendants of the massacre who attended, that although there is grief, it is important to concentrate on healing.

"It is a sacred day. The ghosts are among us. They know our hearts," he said. "We must honor them by living a good life."

He expressed that it was important that the older generation must show the young ones how to live and not just talk about it. And that leadership belongs to the young men now.

"The healing must pass on to the next generation," he said. "It is a beautiful day. We must honor them [the ancestors], remember them. Our Lakota ways do not die."

*Tanka Bar also supported the recent Wokiksuye Memorial Ride which remembers the 38 Dakota men hung on Dec. 26, 1862, in Mankato, M.N., at the order of President Abraham Lincoln -- ending the Dakota War of 1862. Stay up to date on our website for a future story on this event.

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