In 2015, a group of 57 Lakota students
from American Horse School traveled to a minor league Rapid City Rush hockey game as a reward for their academic achievements.
Three men seated above the group spilled beer on the students and yelled racist
remarks. Only one man, Trace O’Connell, was charged with disorderly conduct and later cleared of the charge
Shortly after the incident, a trip to honor the students was organized by Cody Hall, a Lakota who operates a sports oriented non-profit. The students traveled to Minneapolis through Hall’s connections.
Not all 57 students were able to go, but those who did go were able to tour the University of Minnesota campus, attend a University of Minnesota women’s soccer game, receive a signed Timber Wolves jersey, go to a Vikings game, and be honored with a meal and gift of 57 eagle feathers that was organized by the local Native American community of Minneapolis.
Even though not all 57 students were able to go on the Minneapolis trip, Hall said that the trip was supposed to be “their exclamation point.” Hall would later take more students from the Lakota 57 on a ski and snowboard trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
Lisa Bellanger was the main organizer of the meal and gift of 57 eagle feathers.
“I sent a couple of emails and made a few calls and then those people made a few more calls and the feathers just came,” she said.
All of the eagle feathers were given to Travis Thunder Bull who was a chaperone on the trip. Thunder Bull was approached to chaperone the trip the day that the group left, and he had anxiously accepted the invitation.
“They fed us traditional rice dishes and we had a good meal,” said Thunder Bull about Bellanger’s event. “Then we all gathered around and Jerry Dearly gave a speech and we all smudged. From other Natives throughout the world, they were able to secure 57 eagle feathers. Some of the eagle feathers were very pretty and the color of rainbows.”
Thunder Bull took the feathers back to South Dakota where he was to organize a ceremony for the feathers to be distributed to each student or made into a display for the American Horse School. After returning to South Dakota, Thunder Bull told Pass Creek district president James Cross that a ceremony would need to be organized.
When Thunder Bull was not home two days later, Cross obtained the feathers while telling Thunder Bull’s wife that he would assume the responsibility of conducting a ceremony.
“I was a little frustrated because I was the one that was put in charge of the feathers and I was the one that needed to see it done,” said Thunder Bull. “I let it go because he is an elected official.”
Contact Travis at firstname.lastname@example.org
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