LYON COUNTY - About 60 riders from many Indian nations came through Russell on Tuesday evening and through Marshall on Wednesday, ending the day in Vesta before continuing on to Mankato.
The Dakota Riders' eighth annual commemorative ride is a 340-mile, 16-day spiritual journey of reconciliation and prayer. The ride starts in Lower Bule, S.D., and ends in Mankato on Wednesday, the day 38 Dakota Sioux were hanged in 1862 after the end of the Sioux War.
Two Dakota leaders who escaped to Canada were later captured and hanged at Fort Snelling in 1865.
Photo by Steve Browne
The Dakota Riders passed by Ruthton on their way to Russell where they spent Tuesday night on their journey to Mankato. The Riders, commemorating 38 Dakota Sioux hanged in 1862 in the aftermath of the Sioux War, passed through Marshall on Wednesday and ended the day's journey in Vesta.
"It's a ride for reconciliation between Indians and non-Indians and healing between Indians and non-Indians. For historic trauma and historic grief," said Pete Lengkeek, member of the Dakota Hunkpati Oyate tribe and keeper of the sacred eagle staff. "It's also a ride for unity and to honor the 38 men whose lives were taken because they stood up for their culture, heritage and for life."
Every year, the riders trace the route from Fort Thompson to Mankato. Along the way they are hosted by communities that offer food, shelter and care for their horses.
"They've been doing it now, going on eight years," said Roger Hook, who serves on the Russell City Council and organizes support for the riders on this leg of their journey. "It's a different group every year, but it's getting bigger. I've been helping them every year, making sure they've got food to eat and a place to stay and keep their horses."
The Riders are of all ages from pre-teens to tribal elders. Hook remembers one young friend who was 10 years old when he first passed through Russell.
The Riders are accompanied by support crew in vehicles. Unlike the old days, Riders must ride along the highway for much of the journey, hemmed between the road surface and the fences that mark the boundaries of farms where there used to be open hills and prairie. These days, the dangers of the trip aren't enemies, but cars and semis.
Julian Boucher from Sisseton, S.D., accompanies the riders with the tipis now used for ceremonial purposes.
"We had them put up in Lake Andes for two nights," Boucher said, "three in Flandreau."
Boucher has been making tipis since 1994 when he was a retailer and got interested in manufacturing them. He's been involved in the ride since the first one.
From Vesta, the Riders will go through the Upper Sioux Community where they expect their numbers to grow to more than 200 before they reach their destination. Each year the ride becomes better known, but Lengkeek would like people to understand the meaning of the ride.
"Everybody thinks we're just riding down the road on a horse," Lengkeek said. "But we are in constant prayer. We pray for the people in the houses we pass by, for reconciliation and healing."
According to Lengkeek, anyone who wishes to know more about the ride can look up a documentary on YouTube by searching for "Dakota 38."