DENVER — Dozens of people, Native Americans and supporters, are riding on horseback from Colorado to South Dakota.
It’s being done to bring support to the Lakota Sioux indians, some of the proudest and poorest Native Americans in the nation.
They first gathered Saturday at Buffalo Bill’s gravesite five miles west of Golden to reconcile what they say is a history of “broken treaties and lost lands” of the Native American people.
“We’ve asked riders to come in with pledges,” said David Ventimiglia, executive director of Tipi Raisers, a Colorado nonprofit that aids native peoples.
They’re going to ride 400 miles over 22 days to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, home of Oglala Sioux.
“Pine Ridge is the poorest place in the United States and we’re building homes on Pine Ridge. Some of the riders here are living in really difficult conditions,” Ventimiglia said as he prepared riders to mount up.
“Right now we’re just staying in a camper, it’s a little 20-foot camper,” said rider Waylon Belt, who lives on Pine Ridge. “My cousin helped me attach a tin shed.”
“Get the word out to everybody that we’re all human beings and if we can help each other out it would be a better world for a lot of people,” said rider Steven Driver, a Native American.
“Since my great, great grandpa was the Chief Red Cloud, it just makes me feel like I’m more a part of my culture,” said his daughter and rider Maria Driver.
Her mother said she is a direct descendant of the famed Lakota warrior Red Cloud, who led the Oglala people for 40 years. But the ride will be anything but easy.
“You got to deal with the weather the hot weather it can drain a person but you still … but you just gotta’ put that out of mind and be strong and look towards other things,” said Steven Driver, who said he prays for most of the ride.
“In this day even with experienced riders 400 miles and three weeks on a horse is enormously challenging,” Ventimiglia said.
They’ll be riding like some of their ancestors whose only support was the nature around them instead of the vans full of supplies following the group.
“I believe that indigenous wisdom can help us figure out how to live in a way that’s more sustainable,” Ventimiglia said.
The riders will reach Cheyenne, Wyoming, on July 29 to take part in the Cheyenne Frontier Days Parade. They arrive in Pine Ridge on Aug. 12.
Donations are accepted on the group’s website.