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Fort Robinson Outbreak Spiritual Run commemorates ancestors

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LAME DEER, Mont. – A 400-mile journey commemorating some 130 Northern Cheyenne murdered by the U.S. Cavalry in the 19th century ended Jan. 13. Participants were left with “a strong sense of spiritual justice,” event sponsors said.

The 10th annual Fort Robinson Outbreak Spiritual Run began at Fort Robinson in northwestern Nebraska at 10:30 a.m. Jan. 9, the date and time when, in 1879, the sick and starving Northern Cheyenne, mostly women and children, attempted to escape military barracks where they were confined.

“Although most were killed at the door step, some fled 40 miles before the cavalry caught up with them,” said a statement issued by Yellow Bird Inc. (Heove ve ‘keso), sponsors. “They sought cover in a deep depression, where they were slaughtered and buried. This location is known as ‘The Last Hole.’ A small group also found safety among Red Cloud’s people.”

Among the initial survivors, however, one encampment was given blankets infected with small pox by the cavalry, and their remains were discovered on Cheyenne Creek just outside Pine Ridge, S.D.

The Fort Robinson spiritual run includes participants ranging in age from 10 to adulthood, including the elderly, “all of whom have been brought together to honor their ancestors, learn of their history and to address the issues of historical trauma so they can strive towards a better future.”

The spiritual run joins similar annual commemorations across the Great Plains, including the Big Foot Memorial Ride from Cheyenne River Reservation to Wounded Knee, S.D. to remember the massacre of Big Foot’s band in 1890; the Sand Creek Memorial Spiritual Healing Run/Walk in Colorado remembering Cheyenne and Arapaho victims of the Sand Creek Massacre of 1864 and the Memorial Run in Minnesota for the 38 Dakota men hanged after the 1862 Sioux Uprising.

On the first day, runners were to “break out” of rebuilt barracks at the approximate time and on the spot where their ancestors escaped 130 years ago, beginning the journey to Pine Ridge the next day to pay homage to those killed at Cheyenne Creek and to be honored by Oglala Lakota and Northern Cheyenne Tribal presidents and other dignitaries.

On Jan. 11, the runners’ schedule through the Black Hills included a gift of appreciation to supporters at the Crazy Horse Monument. The following day, at 100 miles-plus the longest stretch of the journey, runners were to begin at Deadwood, S.D. and continue into the night to Hammond, Mont. after a meal at Belle Fourche, S.D. provided by the community’s Chamber of Commerce and the Butte County Historical Society.

The chamber said the meal in Belle Fourche creates a bridge between cultures and stimulates cultural awareness and understanding, concepts that are taught throughout the run.

On the last day, runners were scheduled to reach the Two Moons Monument in Busby, Mont., the grave of Northern Cheyenne killed at The Last Hole and to conclude the journey at Lame Deer, Mont. with a community feast.

Phillip Whiteman Jr. and Lynette Two Bulls were coordinators for the Fort Robinson Outbreak Spiritual Run, headquartered in Lame Deer.

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