Dakota Memorial Ride
“The horse is sacred; they come from the sun….” – Lakota tribute to the Horse Nation.
December 2014 saw more than 45 riders take part in a 16 day, 330 mile journey, barefoot. The event is the Dakota Wokiksuye Memorial Ride, also referred to as the Dakota 38+2 Memorial Ride, and commemorates the largest mass execution in U.S. history – the hanging of 38 Dakota people in 1862. How awful.
The ride began in 2005 and promotes reconciliation between Native Peoples and non-Native people. Other goals include providing healing from historical trauma, remembering and honoring those who died, bringing awareness of Dakota history and promoting youth rides and healing. With dozens of businesses, several churches and hundreds of volunteers donating to the ride, peace and inclusive community opportunity are foremost objectives during the trip.
Native Americans didn’t believe in shoeing their horses. They were, and many are, fantastic horsemen with horses that run over all types of terrain and eat nothing but local native grasses. Horses transformed the lives of the Native Americans, enabling them to hunt better and carry supplies. They were used to move villages, explore new territory and in warfare. They were seen as a status symbol and a system of currency and wealth amongst their peers.
The bond between rider and horse is a spiritual one: “Native peoples forged spiritual relationships with the Horse Nation. Plains tribes embraced the horse as a brother in the spirit and a link to the supernatural realm, and incorporated the horse into ceremonies. Embodiments of beauty, energy, and healing power, images of horses on ceremonial objects represent these spiritual connections. Horse visions are still reported by traditional believers who seek knowledge and strength through fasting. Although visions are intensely personal, some may be shared through song, performance, and art.” – quote taken from http://nmai.si.edu/exhibitions/horsenation/bonds.html.
You and I love our horses and I personally can always find strength with them when I need it. Historically, they have given us courage. So this is just a little reminder that in all its gruesome memories, the Dakota Memorial Ride invites us to consider that we can still refer to a little Native American wisdom in our horse relationships.