|The following story was written and reported by Cinnamon Spear, Native Sun News Correspondent. All content © Native Sun News.
This group of Northern Cheyenne runners, made it to the top of Bear Butte. Photo by Cinnamon Spear
Cheyenne children reconnect with Bear Butte
By Cinnamon Spear
Native Sun News Correspondent
BEAR BUTTE - Recently, a group of thirty Cheyenne children were brought from Lame Deer, Montana to Bear Butte and taught lessons of history, prayer, and sacrifice. Their goal was to make prayers at the top of Bear Butte, and run those prayers nearly 200 miles back home to the people in the span of two days. The youngest participant was a two year-old girl.
Though the Lakota are most often associated with the Black Hills, the Northern Cheyenne Tribe has also held strong connections to this area from time immemorial. Bear Butte (No’a’vo’se) is particularly significant because it is known as “The Place Where We Were Taught.” Coordinator of the run, Abdel Russell, expresses the holy land’s importance: “This place can really heal our people- all people, not just Cheyenne.”
Oral history provides that the prophet Sweet Medicine went inside the mountain and met with all the grandmothers and all the grandfathers and returned to the people with the knowledge of how to live. Sweet Medicine (Mutsiev) delivered four sacred arrows, two of which would ensure successful hunts so the men would always provide food for the people and the other two arrows were for protection, ensuring the warriors would destroy their enemies. Sweet Medicine also brought back a political structure and the people were arranged, not by family or into clans, but into Warrior Societies, each with unique duties and responsibilities, which still operate today.
Encouraged by Sweet Medicine’s return, the possession of the arrows, and the ceremonies that accompanied them, the Cheyenne bravely broke loose from the once sedentary lifestyle they were living and entered a new era which ultimately lead them to became a major force in Great Plains trade and politics. Russell shares, “A lot of these kids don’t understand the traditional connection to this place. We bring them here to teach that.”
With Native Sun News’ recent reporting of the pollution of oil drums, transmission residue, and trash being dumped in pits just three miles from the Sacred Mountain, Russell elaborates that, “This run shows the kids the reality of what’s happening in our world today- in their world; the disrespect, the bars, and everything going on around it.”
The night before the run took place, the Cheyenne youth ran a full sweat at the base of Bear Butte. One of the elder women who participated said, “The kids started singing the Chief’s Song; I didn’t expect them to know that song. I was like, ‘Wow. We’re right here next to this sacred mountain where all these good spirits are. They hear these young pure spirits.’ I’m worried and I always pray, but that showed me that our ways are going to go on.”
Tim Whistling Elk, another coordinator of the run, affirms, “These kids are priceless. They inspire me.” There are a number of reasons for running. Some participants are still grieving the loss of loved ones; with the recent ousting of the tribal president, the Northern Cheyenne Tribe is in a state of confusion and disarray; on top of the every day struggles people face on the reservation. Dewey Little Coyote (12) shared in a soft voice, “I’m running for family and my niece; she passed away, but I know she’s still out here with me.”
Whistling Elk spoke in amazement as he recounted how one girl ran 34 miles on the first day. “I’m pretty proud of myself,” says Truvy Hardground (17). One male runner carried an eagle staff and was accompanied by one female runner who carried a Northern Cheyenne tribal flag. Each runner would switch out when they felt they needed a break, anywhere from a quarter of a mile to three miles at a time. Truvy said she ran two miles at a time and stopped tracking her miles after she counted to thirty. With the Morning Star flag blowing in the wind, Hardground reflected, “What kept me going was the prayer I made at the top of Bear Butte. I prayed really hard to Ma’heo: ‘If I finish this run, please bring many blessings to my family and everybody that is having a hard time.”
Miss Hardground has a personal story that is strikingly familiar to a number of youth on reservations across Indian country. “I struggled with drugs and alcohol for a long time. I was always getting in trouble. I almost lost my life.” After the completion of recovery type boot camp, Truvy states, “I don’t want to go back to that life. I just want to keep myself positive and active. I want to get more involved in the community. This run is helping me do that. Just watching these younger kids run, knowing we’re doing something for the people, I feel good. ”
Though the Bear Butte Spiritual Run is not yet an annual event, co-coordinator Russell has hopes for its future. “If we could get other kids, elders, and speakers from this area- Pine Ridge, Rosebud, Crow Creek, Lower Brule- we could all do this together; that would be something! It would be just like when the tribes met up along the Little Bighorn River. When you think about that, it brings excitement into your heart. You’re meeting them, feasting, and having a good time. That’s what I’d like to see here.”
(Cinnamon Spear can be contacted at email@example.com)
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