Tarita Silk, left, talks to the media about her walk for humanity from Rapid City to Washington, D.C. Photo by James Giago Davies / Native Sun News Today

Native Sun News Today: Native mother walks to nation's capital for humanity

Tarita Silk’s walk for humanity
A Lakota woman plans to walk from Spearfish to Washington, DC

RAPID CITY— People gather at the band shell just south of the Civic Center in Rapid City for many reasons. On a rainy Friday afternoon in May, two of those reasons were combined, Lloyd Big Crow’s weekly feed for the homeless, and Tarita Silk completing the first leg of her walk to Washington, DC, to bring people together and save the planet.

This walk began in her hometown of Spearfish, and each day she would walk as much of the fifty plus miles, time and conditions allowed, and then start up again the next day. As rain began to pelt down and send people into the band shell for cover, Silk reached the underpass by Central High School, wound along the north path skirting the reflecting pond, and turned up the broad band shell sidewalk, a pickup shadowing her, a Lakota drum group seated in the box.

There were friends and well wishers aplenty to greet her, and a local television reporter, and disheveled homeless drifting in from every direction, gathering for the feed, but curious about the TV camera and the Lakota woman in the bright jogging outfit talking into the mic.

Tarita Silk is 46 years old, an enrolled member at Standing Rock, a mother of three, and determined to make the spiritual message she received in a dream, a reality for the good of her fellow man. Her journey to get to this point in her life, has been a somewhat turbulent one. Her mother struggled with alcoholism and she bounced back and forth between relatives as a child.

“My mom’s brothers and sisters cared for me as best as they could.” Silk said, but after she lost contact with her mother, “I got put into the system when I was about eleven, and the family that I have now, are my parents (Ken and Kathy Rost). ICWA (Indian Child Welfare Act) stepped in and was not going to let them raise me. They were trying to take me back to the reservation, and I fought, I did not want to go back, so we moved out to Spearfish in 1984 and my parents bought a business here and they both resigned from their government jobs.”

Despite loving adoptive parents that were committed to her, Silk wrestled with her haunted past, and she eventually left for Seattle when she was sixteen, to find her mother.

“It really bothered me that I hadn’t seen her,” Silk said. “I guess I had a lot of questions as to where she was and why she never came back. I didn’t realize the alcoholism had a hold of her like that.”

Nevertheless, Silk was shaped by those first eleven years in deeply fundamental ways she has been struggling to reconcile her entire adult life: “I was just able to get up and leave at the drop of a dime, if she said, hey, we’re leaving to hitchhike. I think where this walk for humanity comes from, my experiences as a young child, walking with my mother on the road late at night and it’s raining and cold, and were walking from Minnesota to Mobridge, and we made it in a day. I think had I not been put through that uncomfortable, terrible hardship, in walking like that with her, I wouldn’t have these survival mechanisms to be out walking on the interstate. Because people are like, ‘Tarita, do you know what you are doing, walking out there like that?’ I know what I can handle as a person.”

Relationships have been a problem for Silk most of her life, as they tended to make her do things that were not in her best interests. Once she got out to Seattle, “(my mother) treated me like I was this little girl, and here I was a teenager taller than her, and I realized I had to look after my mother. I quit school and went and got my GED, and I met my kids’ dad. and I was seventeen and got pregnant, and didn’t even realize I was pregnant, until I was like five months. I had my daughter, and I just learned to get through that, and I wasn’t prepared to be a mother at that age. I moved back to Spearfish when I turned eighteen, and I lived at home for about three years.”

Having avoided excessive substance abuse as a teenager, Silk found herself in an addiction cycle in her early twenties, where she would go on monthly benders, meet the wrong people, make the wrong decisions. As the years wore on, boyfriends came and went, but bit by bit, internally, she was forming an understanding of her dysfunctional history and reality, and then came the September dream, last year.

“In September this dream came to me,” Silk said. “And they (a creative power she calls the Star Nation) put me on this planet and trees were growing, plants were growing. There were animals, there were birds flocking around me. It was like a magical, mystical dream, and all this life was transforming…and they told me, this is your planet, and you’re going to take care of it, and you’re going to teach this planet about love and help other people learn to love it. We’ll be right here, we’re right above you, we’re watching you, anything you need we’re going to provide it for you.”

After talking with Jimmy Church, a radio and television host for the Game Changer Network, Premiere and iHeartRADIO and the History Channel, Church suggested that Silk take her walk past Spearfish to Rapid City, take it all the way to Washington, DC. It was a walk that did not protest or activate for any cause. The idea of the walk was to make the message of Silk’s dream clear, that the planet must be healed, and loved, and cared for, and that if people would do this, and treat each other in a kind and loving way while doing it, the planet would respond in kind.


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James Giago Davies is an enrolled member of the Oglala Lakota tribe. He can be reached at skindiesel@msn.com

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