One of the best things we got to see on this visit to the reservation was the return of the Crazy Horse Ride participants on Thursday, June 9. In the center of the Pine Ridge settlement, people started lining the streets, staking out prime viewing spots early. The riders would come up Rte 407 from White Clay, NE and turn left onto BIA Road 32 at the center of Pine Ridge, ending at the Powwow Grounds.
Since we were going to the concert at Billy Mills Hall shortly after the riders passed, we found a parking space at the hall, right along the riders’ route. It was quite convenient, since it was also directly across from Big Bat’s, the convenience store/snack bar/gas station that is today’s version of a trading post. There are rest rooms, too, always a plus!
The riders approached in the distance from the top of a hill with an escort of police cruisers with their lights turned on. It was a beautifully clear, sunny day. The colors of the massed flags and flashing lights were truly a sight to behold! We recorded the event and you can actually view it for yourself by using the link at the end of this post.
So what was the big deal, anyway? Was this just a parade? Why did all these folks ride horses from Ft Robinson, NE to Pine Ridge, SD on an extremely long, 4 day trail ride?
The annual Crazy Horse Ride, now in its 14th year, is a 4-day trail ride held the second week in June to honor all veterans and the war leader, Crazy Horse. This year the ride ran from Jun 6 to Jun 9. Approximately 200 riders participate each year according to organizer Charles “Bamm” Brewer. Although the group is primarily made up of Oglala Lakota riders, all are welcome. Many young Lakota take part in the event, which gives them an opportunity to learn and understand their culture and heritage in a more concrete way. It is a pilgrimage of sorts and has a definite spiritual aspect.
This year’s ride had special meaning for the riders. On the first morning of the ride, the governor of Nebraska and other dignitaries gathered with the riders to dedicate the section of US 20 from Ft Robinson to Hay Springs as “Crazy Horse Memorial Highway.”
The ride forms in Ft Robinson, NE each year since that is the location of the death of Crazy Horse on September 5, 1877 as he was being taken into custody by government troops. Day 1 of the ride proceeds from Ft Robinson to Chadron, NE where the riders camp for the night. On Day 2, the riders proceed from Chadron to camp in the Beaver Valley. This is a particularly meaningful stop, since this area was the land of Crazy Horse and tradition holds that his parents brought him here to be buried after his death. Day 3 is a rest day in that special place, with many activities planned for the riders. On Day 4 the riders complete their journey, traveling from Beaver Valley into Pine Ridge for the All Veterans Gathering and Powwow at the Pine Ridge Powwow Grounds.
The 2011 ride included Spiritual Leader Wilmer Mesteth, Crazy Horse Ride Elder Mel Lone Hill and the drum group Creekside. A riderless Spirit Horse for Crazy Horse was included and can be seen in the video and photos.
Here is the link to the video: http://youtu.be/Pody6Yn9-mk
I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!