|The following story was written and reported by Brandon Ecoffey, Native Sun
News Managing Editor. All content © Native Sun News.
About 50 runners ran 17 miles to Bear Butte during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally to raise awareness to Native American issues and treaty rights. PHOTO BY/BRANDON ECOFFEY
A run for sovereignty
By Brandon Ecoffey
Native Sun News Managing Editor
STURGIS — Amidst the roar of tens of thousands of Harley Davidson motorcycles, live rock and roll music, and rowdy drunken rally goers approximately 50 Native American runners and their supporters ran 17 miles to the sacred site of Bear Butte to bring attention to Native rights and treaties.
For anyone who has ever attended the Sturgis motorcycle rally you become accustom to a lot of extraordinary things; scantily dressed women, bikers breaking traffic rules, and the occasional scuffle. What you do not expect to see however is a group of sober spiritually driven runners trotting through the chaos headed for one of the most sacred sites in the Northern Plains.
According to Chase Iron Eyes founder of the independent Native media site LastRealIndians.com and newly named communicator for the Black Hills Treaty Council the event was organized after the treaty council asked him to find a way to bring awareness to the young people about the inherent sovereignty that Native nations possess. He said that he had wanted to use the rally as a place for something like this for a number of years.
“The past 3 years I have been wanting to establish a consistent presence at the largest biker rally in the world with a spiritual run or a race to reach the hundreds of thousands of bikers, presumably with enough intelligence to comprehend why we hold certain sites sacred and why we respect all land, water, life; this is a first step in education.”
The run started three miles south of the main drag in Sturgis where rally goers congregate and proceeded to run past the best known biker bars: the Full Throttle Saloon and the Buffalo Chip campground.
As the runners made their way down the highway some bikers honked while others seemed to be in awe of what was happening. The supporters of the run had signs and posters asking that the treaties made between the Federal government and Native nations be honored.
When asked why Bear Butte was chosen Iron Eyes provided a lengthy response.
“I feel it is important to internally construct and improve our collective state of mind as Tetonwan (indigenous) but it is also very important to reach the whole of the world with a posture our ancestors intended us to express, head up, back straight, eyes forward, which we have been doing thanks to those who came before us,” said Iron Eyes. “Bear Butte is the place where all the Tetonwan Lakota bands would convene each year to determine national policy for each year. There is nothing stopping us from reigniting this practice and continuing to express our inherent sovereignty as original independent owners of our treaty territory,” he added.
The event also seemed to be a way of educating both the runners and other Native people who did not participate in the run about the their right to use the Black Hills in ways that are culturally appropriate and rooted in historical precedence.
“No one is going to ask us or give us permission to return ourselves to the Black Hills. We will always belong to this land and we need to express our intent to physically reestablish ourselves within it as sovereign peoples. The health of our people is directly related to the health of our land and running is part of our culture,” said Iron Eyes.
The event was organized by LastRealIndians.com, Native Elite Performance, and the Black Hills Sioux Nation Treaty Council.
(Contact Brandon Ecoffey at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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