June 14, 2013
Set on horseback, Pine Ridge Indian Reservation youth rode from Wanblee, SD, to Pine Ridge, SD, this week to speak up about the epidemic of suicide. The ride took three days with stops in between the nearly 100-mile ride.
Co-organizer Lauren Janis, a 16-year-old at Little Wound High School, started the organization Fight for Life along with fellow student Evelyn Quick Bear to raise awareness. They decided to launch Ride for Life as one of the events to do that. The suicide rate on Pine Ridge is more than twice the national rate with teen suicide at four times the national rate.
Tanka donated Apple Orange Peel Tanka Sticks to the Ride for Life riders when they stopped in Kyle, SD, to rest and eat and Lauren spoke about their expectations of the event.
"We hoped that the turnout was going to be great and get the point across that suicide is not a way to go out and there is always someone who loves you. Events like this bring community, friendships and family together," she said. About 20 riders participated. "Horses are sacred to us and fits into our culture. Suicide isn't part of our culture. When you are on that horse, you are honoring life -- not giving up on life."
Rodney Bad Hand of Wanblee said the ride gives an "eye-opening" experience. He said his son Ethan, 13, has experienced bullying. Ethan chose to be one of the riders and it was his first time riding a horse at such a large distance.
"A lot more students are dealing with what he's facing," he said. "We are always there for our kids. A family that prays together, stays together. We pray at every meal."
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