The Sidney Sun-Telegraph - Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

By Don Ogle 

Lakota journey


Don Ogle / Sun-Telegraph Editor

Lakota Sioux and guest riders passed through Sidney on their way to South Dakota. As part of a ride through The Tipi Raisers, the group resumed their journey Thursday morning after an overnight stay.

Lakota Sioux call it Wakan Tanka. Giving it a literal English translation is difficult at best, but one translation describes it as a sacred power, or sacredsness that resides in and has an effect and blessing on everything.

No matter the translation, "Wakan Tanka" was the explanation a Lakota Sioux Elder, Jake Yellow Horse, gave to a group of travelers when their journey through Cheyenne County took a much different turn than expected Wednesday.

The group is riding horses 350 miles from Boulder, Colo. to Oglala, S.D. on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation to raise awareness to the conditions on the reservation and share Lakota traditions.

The journey is part of an awareness effort by The Tipi Raisers, an organization that Executive Director Dave Ventimiglia said works to alleviate the poverty on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, one of the poorest areas in the United States. The group fixes homes, plumbing and works to make life better through its community service work.

The trip's interruption came about half way through the morning's ride Wednesday when, while the group was switching out and watering horses in the Buffalo Point area on Hwy. 30, was told by a state patrolman responding to a traffic complaint, they would need to load up and trailer their horses.

The trooper brought the group to Sidney, where he had made arrangements for them to water their horses and stay at the Cheyenne County Fairgrounds.

While members could have become upset, Ventimiglia said Yellow Horse told the group "it was Wakan Tanka" and that they shouldn't look at the experience as a bad thing.

"Jake said 'you don't know what that might have kept us from,'" Ventimiglia said."

As their journey resumed Thursday morning, Yellow Horse said he was thankful for the "interruption," which benefitted both people and horses.

"We didn't plan for it," Yellow Horse told the group as it gathered. "We had hoped to be closer to the end of our journey. But because of the interruption, our horses got extra rest, and we got extra rest, so now we can go forward with a renewed spirit."

During their time in Sidney, part of the group members' respit was an offer of showers at the Cheyenne County Community


While there, Ventimiglia sat down with the Sun-Telegraph and shared some of the group's story.

Ventimiglia said the group's journey doesn't follow a set plan - that its only known travel points were the beginning point in Colorado and the destination in South Dakota.

From there, "there is no real plan," Ventimiglia said. "We don't know where we'll stay every night. When we're getting toward the end of the day we start looking for a ranch house to see if they might have a pasture where we can stay."

Along the way, Ventimiglia said the group has discovered something somewhat surprising.

"It's unbelievable how kind people are," Ventimiglia said.

The rider's Sidney experience followed a similar show of hospitality just the night before near Dix. There, a rancher allowed the horses to be turned out in a pasture and set out a round bale as well. Because the pasture's well was out of commission, a call to the Dix Volunteer Fire Department resulted in a load of water to fill the water tank.

On an earlier night, Ventimiglia said the group asked if they could water their horses at another place. The farm wife, who was grilling brats for her and her husband, not only provided water, but went to the store for more brats "and fed a dozen strangers."

Ventimiglia said such surprises have made the journey better in a way not expected. He said people's attitudes toward Native Americans can be less than welcoming sometimes, something they've come to expect.

"We didn't expect to be treated badly," Ventimiglia said, "but we didn't expect to be treated so well, either."

Yellow Horse said the trip has been a tremendous experience so far.

"With our horses, with nature, with the onlookers, it had been good," Yellow Horse said, "And we've been put up by the most kind-hearted people."

The elder said like other journeys, this one started as an idea. He said it began with the call, then talks amongst the group to figure out the do's and dont's of the undertaking.

"At the end of a a day, or two day's we'll figure out 'let's go,'" Yellow Horse said. "We don't know what lies ahead of us, but we go with an open heart, a little prayer, and we leave it up to our caregiver to take care of us."

He was thankful for the people in the community, who made it possible for the rest and restful place they had, singling out the good facilities for the horses.

"The horses will have a chance to catch up on their rest," Yellow Horse said. "They not only carry us, but they also carry our thoughts and burdens. They sense how we are, and they carry those too."

As the group pushes toward its South Dakota destination, it will continue to share information about the Lakota and accept donations toward helping the reservation.

Some of that information about the Lakota and the organization can be found on The Tipi Raisers, Website "the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota is the home of the Oglala Lakota and it is a powerful place -- the land of Crazy Horse, Black Elk, Red Cloud, the Wounded Knee Massacre site, Whiteclay, the AIM standoff and sacred ceremonies rooted in traditions passed down from thousands of years ago. It is a land that attracts Christians, Buddhists, Jews, New Agers, those looking to heal and to be healed and countless others... from across the world.

"It is also a place of abject poverty, crushing unemployment and a land that plays host to a multitude of social issues that can leave some of its people desperately hopeless. And yet, outsiders still come and most of its people stay. It's a place where the promise of the Lakota --and the best of the modern world -- can (if they choose) dance together in a sometimes confused though powerful dance of possibilities.

"For all its richness of beauty, culture and tradition, though, the reservation is also a hard place to visit - and to live. Because it is here that exists a clash of cultures and Spiritual perspectives as well as hundreds of years of misunderstanding. There was an attempt at genocide here, and other mistakes, betrayals and lies that were made... and continue to be made... from outside and now from within. And so, there are ghosts that haunt because of that."

Thursday, the riders headed east, hoping to make it a good way toward Lewellen. The remainder of the ride will take them through Rushville on the way toward Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, hoping for an arrival of the 19th or 20th.

For more information on the ride and to keep up with its progress, go to or Facebook:


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