Every December since 1986, horseback riders retrace the route that fleeing Lakotas took after the murder of Sitting Bull on December 15, 1890. The annual Big Foot Memorial ride starts from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation and through Bridger, which was the home of Mnicoujou naca Spotted Elk, who is also known as Big Foot. The ride eventually ends at the Wounded Knee Massacre site on Pine Ridge, after which runners make their way back to Takini, as survivors of the massacre did in 1890.
The horseback ride and the run take place to reflect the historical timeline of the horrible events that led the Wounded Knee Massacre and the subsequent return of the survivors, all in brutal subzero temperatures.
On Saturday, November 24, two groups of horseback riders who have played important roles of the annual Big Foot Memorial ride were honored at the Wakpa Waste Oyanke Wounded Knee Descendants meeting, which took place at Takini school.
The Shunka Wakan Agli riders from Bridger and Sitanka Wokiksuye Riders, who initiated the ride in 1986 and rode until 1990, were honored. In true form, the Shunka Wakan Agli group rode from Bridger to Takini in freezing temperatures.
According to Roderick A. Dupris, a mentor and member of Shunka Wakan Agli, the riders trekked 14 miles in two and half hours and encountered freezing temperatures, wind, and snow.
Upon their arrival, the group’s eagle staff was brought in and placed in the center of the meeting room. The riders formed a circle and an honor song and prayer was performed for them. Spectators then shook each riders hand and introduction of the riders commenced.
Guest speakers then spoke the group, encouraging them to continue riding and speaking of the importance of their deeds. Lunch was then served.
“The honoring showed the kids and riders who they are as a people, as a horse nation. When we started the ride from Bridger, there was a lot of prayer. Because of all the prayers, an eagle flew over us the entire ride and led the way to Takini. The kids saw this. It just shows them that prayer, remembering and honoring our ancestors is important,” said Dupris.