Big Foot Memorial Ride overcomes vandalism


CHEYENNE RIVER SIOUX RESERVATION, S.D. - Vandalism briefly stalled the Big Foot Memorial Ride, the first such incident in the 15-year-history of the event, but according to spokesperson Paula Horn, the damage was quickly repaired. The riders were expected to arrive in Wounded Knee Dec. 28 on schedule, she said.

The annual ride commemorates the trek of Lakota Chief Si Tanka (Big Foot) in December 1890 from Standing Rock Reservation after the killing of the great spiritual leader Tatanka Iyotake (Sitting Bull) in the midst of the Ghost Dance ferment. Si Tanka intended to seek protection from Chief Red Cloud on the Pine Ridge reservation but was intercepted by the U. S. Seventh Cavalry and escorted to Wounded Knee. An outbreak of fighting on Dec. 29, 1890 led to the massacre of more than 250 Lakota men, women and children, an event widely said to have broken the morale of the Plains Indians.

The two-week Ride started in 1986 after a dream told one of its founders that it would "mend the sacred hoop" and heal the wounds of the famous massacre. For the first four years, the ride was led in intense cold by Arvol Looking Horse, keeper of the White Buffalo Calf Woman pipe bundle in Green Grass, S.D. It is now carried on by youths from the Lakota nation, starting in Grand River near Mobridge, S.D. on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation and continuing south 200 miles to Pine Ridge.

According to Horn, tires on several campers and horse vans were slashed Dec. 21 at the encampment near Cherry Creek, by the Cheyenne River reservation. She blamed the incident on local youths from a region of endemic anti-Indian sentiment but she said it was quickly overcome.

"Instead of arresting the kids," she said of the suspected vandals, "they should put them on the Ride. They would learn from the camaraderie."

"Everything is good now," she said.