In support of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, people from all over the state, various Tribal Reservations, and some as far away as New York, California, Canada and Japan completed a 19 mile trek from Eagle Butte to Green Grass either on foot, horseback, bikes and one skateboard to bring awareness about ending sexual violence in our communities.
Over 300 people, men, women, and children, ranging from ages 1 to 84 came together for the Reclaiming the Sacredness of Women and Children Prayer Walk/Ride to the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe and to attend a traditional Lakota prayer ceremony by Chief Arvol Looking Horse, Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe on Saturday, April 24, 2004.
After eight hours on the road, participants entered the sacred site of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe’s home in Green Grass where the main prayer ceremony was held. There upon arriving two Eagles flew overhead and circled several times, as in greeting the people, making this long journey fulfilling and powerful.
Organizers planned four prayer stops before arriving at Green Grass.
“The Prayer Walk/Ride was a success. We started out very strong with many walkers including many children. The keeper of the pipe came too, and helped us to pray at the four prayer stops. All four stops were dedicated to the generations of women. At the first stop Arvol Looking Horse (keeper of the sacred white buffalo calf pipe) prayed for the elders, elder Alice Four Horns from the Rosebud prayed at the second stop for women and Arvol talked about womanhood. Cecilia Looking Horse (Arvol’s mother) prayed for the youth and children at the third stop and the final stop before reaching Green Grass was dedicated to infants and those not yet born. The prayers that went to the pipe house (where the sacred white buffalo pipe is kept) were very strong” said Tillie Black Bear, director of the White Buffalo Calf Woman Society’s located in Mission, SD.
The day long event, sponsored by the South Dakota Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault started with people gathering at the Cultural Center in Eagle Butte at 8:00 AM.
Donna Haukaas of the Sicangu Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence gave the welcome and explained the Road Rules for the walk.
“I’d like to thank everyone for coming today, it takes a lot of courage to be publicly vocal about ending sexual violence in our lives and in our communities, and every time we take this action it’s a step closer to realizing that, so we appreciate your participation and appreciate your commitment to ending violence.” Haukaas said.
Black Bear began the walk with a traditional Lakota prayer and song, followed by Lester Kills The Enemy singing a traditional Lakota song as well.
The walk proceeded east on Highway 212 with many participants carrying banners, flags and traditional Lakota staffs. A traditional drum group rode in the back of a truck and sang songs of encouragement throughout the day, which helped many of the walkers to keep going.
The first prayer stop was at the four mile junction on Highway 63. “I want us to remember those (four) generations of women and the sacredness of those women and that our women see a safer lifestyle and a healthier lifestyle,” said Black Bear.
Chief Arvol Looking Horse also addressed the walkers at each of the four prayer stops. “Today we are going to that sacred place because we still have the canupa (White Buffalo Calf Pipe) and a lot of relatives, Nations, and Tribes recognize us as the people of the Pipe.”
Lakota people believe that one of the first teachings of Pte San Win (White Buffalo Calf Woman) was that women and children are to be respected; even in thought. However, Sexual Violence in our communities has reached epidemic proportions.
From 1992 – 1996 the U.S. Department of Justice reported that Native women were raped at a rate more than double that of rapes reported by all races on an annual average or 2 per 1,000 for all races and 7 per 1,000 for Native people.
Looking Horse asked the people that as they travel to Green Grass to remember that there is a lot of sickness going on within our people and on Mother Earth. “That’s why we are traveling in our homeland, to bring attention to what’s happening in our environment,” he said.
Karen Artichoker, Management Team Director for Cangleska, Inc./Sacred Circle National Resource Center to End Violence Against Native Women, commented that the White Buffalo Calf Pipe Woman came to our people when we were in chaos and starving and that she brought us rituals and teachings so that we could live. “We are again in chaos and starving (physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually). This time we went to her” she said.
It was observed that one older man walked most of the way, refusing rides time and time again and that one little boy walked and walked, refusing rides until he was too far behind and his mother had to make him get into the car in order to catch up to the rest of the walkers.
During the second stop, Alice Four Horns, an 84 year old elder from Rosebud, said “I prayer for my family and all of you.” Four Horns spoke mostly in Lakota and also sang a traditional Lakota song. Also during this stop prayer buttons made by the Alaska Native Women's Coalition were handed out and made this join also. We appreciate their solidarity and show of support.
It was a very positive and powerful day. Not only being greeted by the two Eagles flying above that affirmed the people’s prayers were heard, but after the main prayer ceremony a light rain fell very briefly, which was surely a blessing to each participant for their strength and commitment they showed in taking a public stand to ending violence against all women and children.
“We know that she (White Buffalo Calf Woman) is with us and helping us. With no human justice system being willing or able to help us, all we have is prayer. We have called upon the forces of the universe for help. We have all been strengthened and our people will survive. A great healing has begun!” said
After the prayer ceremony in Green Grass, participants returned to the Cultural Center for a traditional feed and to visit about what they had experience during the day.
“Your presence today shall be forever remembered as we continue our journey to reclaim the sacredness of all women and children,” said Pearl Gulbranson, Outreach Specialist for SDCADVSA, at the closing ceremony.
Our most sincere thank you and respect goes out to the Looking Horse family for their gracious hospitality and participation.
We’d like to send a special thanks to all the men, women and children, who participated and helped to make this event a huge success and we would like to recognize the Bear Soldier District youth group from Standing Rock and the Lakota YMCA’s youth group who joined us and walked for those who could not. It was your strength and dedication that moved us forward in bringing awareness to ending sexual and domestic violence in our communities.
We would also like to thank Sacred Heart Women’s Shelter, their staff and families for helping with the organizing and the donation of t-shirts, the Cheyenne River Police Department for escorting and keeping all the participants safe while on the road, the CRST Tribal Buffalo Program for the buffalo meat donation and the cooks who prepared the wonderful traditional meal.
This was truly a day to remember for all who participated. It was a strong and powerful alliance of people coming together for one major cause, to end sexual and domestic violence in our communities and will be cherish memories.
For more information on how to help end Domestic and Sexual violence, please contact the South Dakota Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault at 964-7104 or 945-0869 or call your local women’s shelter program.