• Lakota Youth Ride to Recapture Heritage

    20 May 2008
    Kent report - Download (MP3) audio clip
    Kent report - Listen (MP3) audio clip


    The Lakota Indians of the northern plains have been called a "horse nation" because they have strong ties, culturally and historically, with the animals. A group of Lakota teens recently saddled up for a four-day ride across South Dakota's Pine Ridge Reservation. This Youth Ride was aimed at reconnecting the group with their culture and with their land. Jim Kent caught up with the young riders in the middle of a spring snowstorm as they neared the end of their expedition.

    Lakota horses show their energy is up for the long day ahead
    Lakota horses show their energy is up for the long day ahead
    It's the last morning of a 160-kilometer journey on horseback across the land of the Oglala Lakota. The weather has been tolerable for the last three days. But this morning, the situation has taken a turn for the worse. The temperature has dropped and rain is turning to snow.

    As firewood is cut, a group of Lakota adults huddles around a small blaze trying desperately to keep warm. Other adults and Lakota youth sit inside their vehicles, motors running. The cars and trucks are hauling hay for the horses and food and supplies for their riders.

    Lakota youth prepare their mounts before breaking camp for the last day of their 160-km journey
    Lakota youth prepare their mounts before breaking camp for the last day of their 160-km journey
    Percy White Plume moves from one group to another, preparing everyone for the start of the last day's ride. White Plume says he organized the event to remind Lakota youth of their traditional connection to their land. "The opportunity to ride across the land is for them a realization that we do have a reservation...this is our home." He explains that many young people never venture into the more remote parts of the reservation, "They don't see the land out there other than what they see from the car driving along the highway. They don't get out and go off up into the hills. And, so, this was an opportunity to give that to the youth."

    Braving wind, rain and snow, 50 young tribal members forged their own trail across the Pine Ridge Reservation over the last three days, climbing hills, negotiating buffalo pastures and crossing valleys as they rediscovered the land of the ancestors. At night, elders passed on traditional stories by the fireside as the group erected tipis under the stars.

    A Lakota youth guides his horse toward "breakfast" before hitting the trail
    A Lakota youth guides his horse toward "breakfast" before hitting the trail
    This morning, the Lakota youth start to break camp. They've spent their last night on the trail in a valley near the reservation town of Manderson. Some are still in their tents, but others are busy preparing their horses for the final leg of their journey. One horse, tethered to a truck, shivers as the wind picks up and the temperature continues to plummet.

    A group of young men fights off the morning cold inside a traditional lodge, or tipi. The air inside is thick with the smell of sage and the previous night's campfire. Like many Lakota youth, they're reluctant to talk. Eventually, Angelo Red Elk, 17, offers a few comments, beginning with the point that no one forced him to go on this long and difficult journey. When asked why he decided to join the Youth Ride, he responds, "Because this is my country," adding that it's an important event "to bring all of us together."

    Sitting in the warmth of her family's truck, Vonna Blacksmith, 16, is a bit more talkative. She's grown up around horses and says she didn't hesitate to take part in the Youth Ride. "It's important 'cause it's our land and we're the next generation that'll be living here." Blacksmith adds that rides like this also help dispel many misconceptions about American Indian youth. "Most of us are staying away from alcohol and drugs," she says. "And we're participating in our culture... riding horses... just getting involved."

    Lois White Whirlwind (left) gives Vonna Blacksmith a few pointers before the Lakota teen joined her peers for the conclusion of their Youth Ride
    Lois White Whirlwind (left) gives Vonna Blacksmith a few pointers before the Lakota teen joined her peers for the conclusion of their Youth Ride
    Lakota elder Lois White Whirlwind has three grandchildren taking part in the Youth Ride. She sees their journey as a positive experience. "The benefit of it is seeing the land... seeing what's out there. Because in today's world it's just town, highway and you see the graffiti. But being out there, you become more observant of [nature]." She recounts how one of the young riders had noticed an eagle flying about the group as they rode through a valley. "You know, those are significant things that are important to us."

    In the end, Vonna Blacksmith says staying in touch with their culture is the best way for Lakota youth to stay on the right path.

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    Who are we?

    Association for assistance (of any kind) to the Sioux Lakota children living on Pine Ridge reservation (USA). Our association has been registered at the " Prefecture des Alpes Maritimes " under number 0062022884. Published in the " Journal Officiel " on March 10th, 2001 under number 58.

    Our head-office address is :

    Pine Ridge Enfance Solidarité
    24 rue des boers
    06100 NICE 



    mail ; phil.creveau@wanadoo.fr

    blog ( french) : http://pres06.kazeo.com

    Myspace ( English/French) : www.myspace.com/pineridgenfancesolidarite

    President : Phil Creveau ( mail : phil.creveau@wanadoo.fr)

    Vice-president : Catherine Duclos

    Treasurer : Claudine Gianfermi



    By becoming a member of our association, whatever your origin, your religion or your political ideas. Pine Ridge children need your help. Any associative life rests upon a collective work concept. By oneself, we're not able to do enough. So, this is the idea: to gather in order to be more efficient. Therefore, this project needs your membership in order to help our young Lakota friends to survive (for lack of a better life) in this part of South Dakota, where the living conditions are extremely difficult. By taking part in this humanitarian cause, and striving in love and respect for the Lakota people, you will be an active part of this project.

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    At least 1,600 wild buffalo were brutally killed this winter by the Bush Administration and the State of Montana.


    We need your support now to win a new and more humane policy that will protect this spring's newborns from slaughter next winter. Help NRDC Action Fund protect America's last free-roaming
            buffalo herd.

    Dear phil,

    The massacre of buffalo that took place in Yellowstone National Park this winter must never be allowed to happen again.

    More than 50 percent of America's last free-roaming buffalo herd has perished in just six months from a brutal winter, starvation, and wholesale slaughter waged by the State of Montana and the Bush Administration.

    With 1,600 wild buffalo killed in cold blood -- and 700 felled by the long winter -- it was the highest death toll since the 1800s, when these noble creatures were almost wiped off the planet.

    That's why I'm urging you to make an emergency donation to the NRDC Action Fund right now. We cannot let this annual government-sponsored massacre to occur again...ever.

    Your emergency donation will help us end the cruelty now. The NRDC Action Fund is ratcheting up nationwide pressure on the government to end its inhumane policy of killing wild buffalo that wander outside of the park in search of food or to give birth.

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    NRDC Action Fund


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    Hau Kola - Bienvenue ami


    Our Lakota friends on the various reservations of South Dakota have been facing extremely difficult living conditions for a very long time.

    There is no more buffalo hunting, no more teepees installed in the grass moist with morning dew. No more campfires at night, where each and everyone tells how he struck "a blow" on a crow warrior, the hereditary enemy. No more melodious singing accompanied by the drums, while dancers turn, turn and turn… until they fall from exhaustion.

    There are no more white people to scatter away: white people are everywhere. There is no more freedom, no more sacred circle…


     Now there are the badlands, the trailers in which coldness creeps through doors and windows that don’t shut properly, bringing “white death” to the weaker ones, the ones who don't have the strength to fight anymore. There are days and days that wear away at the throbbing rhythm of seasons, when one must kill time, if not kill oneself when hopelessness is too deep, when life becomes unbearable and one prefers to join Wakan Tanka, the Great Spirit.
    There are lots of misery, lots of stress, and lots of sadness... but behind all that...

    ...there is the Sioux nation.

    Still there, still standing, proud of its ancestors who marked the history of their nation, proud of its women and its men who today hold their heads high again for their right to exist and who shout at the face of the world: “See, we are still here”. And it is these women, these men, these children our association wishes to help.

    Our approach is based on two points: love and respect for this people. It is not a matter of changing the face of the world, of believing that everything will change overnight on the Pine Ridge reservation.

    Our Lakota friends are the only captains on board to know how to conduct their political fight and what meaning they want to give to their lives.

    We solely and humbly wish to bring our modest contribution to the improvement of their living conditions on the reservation. We wish to mainly help the children, because they are the most vulnerable ones and because they also are the future of the Sioux nation. By supporting our association, you will join all those who refuse fatalism and who decide to take action.

    We need your help ; our young Lakota friends need your help.

    Together, we have a beautiful humanitarian page to write, for the love of our young friends, to help people who are suffering, to help a nation, a culture not to die out, so that this third millennium sees a positive prolongation in the renewal of this Lakota culture and so that this people can live better on this reservation which once was its land of freedom.

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