Thanksgiving Spirit Run for emotional cleansing

FORT RENO, Okla. - On Thanksgiving day the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma will present a "Spirit Run" from Fort Reno through the Sand Creek Massacre site in southeastern Colorado, and ending in Denver, nine days later. The run is a cleansing over the anger that is still felt in the tribe over the Sand Creek Massacre, which took place on Thanksgiving, Nov. 29, 1864 when 700 soldiers attacked a village of Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians along Sand Creek in Colorado Territory. The village was mostly inhabited by women, children and elders, 150 of which were slaughtered. The tribe recently purchased the massacre site to preserve it as a historical site.

The Spirit Run coordinator and tribal liaison Eugene Black Bear spoke with Indian Country Today about the 700 mile run. "We have a lot of people who still have hostile feelings about the massacre; they're still angry, with unsettled and heavy emotions about what happened," Black Bear said. "We decided that there must be a spiritual healing. We got this idea from the Northern Cheyenne in Montana and the Northern Arapaho in Wyoming. We're all directly tied by this; we're just separated by geography. They were having a spiritual healing and we thought about it, and we knew that a healing must take place, so we decided the only way we could do this was by involving our children. We asked our children what they like to do the most and came up with the idea of running for the spiritual healing to take place. By running up there we do a number of things; there's spiritual healing, we promote our culture to the children, and we're promoting that Indian culture does not involve drugs or alcohol."

While it may sound like a Herculean task, Black Bear notes that he and 30 other runners have already made such runs twice in the last two years. "We started at Fort Reno, near our tribal headquarters in Concho, Okla., and we ran out to the Washita River Massacre site near Cheyenne, Okla., then we ran up into the panhandle, up to Colorado. We started with the intention of going as far as we could each day. The second run lasted for two weeks. The first week we ran to the Sand Creek Massacre site, then we ran on to Denver, and on through Cheyenne, Wyo., and on to Jasper. We were on foot the whole two weeks. This year we didn't run that far, we just ran from the massacre site to Denver."

When they get to their destination they will have a ceremony with men from both the Cheyenne and Arapaho Sun Dance and blessings from the Cheyenne arrow keeper, and the Northern Arapaho pipe keeper; the four sacred old men. "Right now, because we don't have a lot of funds, we're only funding tribal members, but we are inviting all runners, if they can, to join with us," Black Bear said. "It is a logistic nightmare, there are many unforeseen things you would never think about unless you went out on a run and did it. There are a lot of things like water and the heat and safety is our main concern."

For more information on the run, contact Eugene Black Bear at (405) 226-4485.