PAHA SAPA – THE SACRED BLACK HILLS
The most potent symbol of the tribal connection between spirituality and sovereignty are South Dakota’s Black Hills, or Paha Sapa. The Hills – named for their dark silhouettes smudged against the horizon - have long been of spiritual significance to the Cheyenne and Lakota.
The Lakota always called He Sapa, the Black Hills, 'The Heart Of Everything That Is', and when James B Herrington (Chickasaw), a Native American astronaut took a photograph of the Black Hills from space, unsurprisingly to traditional Lakotas, they looked exactly like a map of the human heart.
•Begin at Wind Cave, learning of Lakota genesis, visiting the cave entrance from whence The People emerged to the face of the earth. •Seek out Tatanka, the buffalo - which was everything to the Lakota: the meat sustained the people, the hides clothed and sheltered them and the bones provided tools and arrowheads. But more importantly, the buffalo was, and remains, a direct spiritual link to the ancestors. And in the undulating grassland, encounter the descendants of the great buffalo herds that once roamed the plains. •At The Place of the Thunders, Hinhan Kaja Paha, appreciate the beauty of the highest point in the Black Hills upon which Black Elk experienced much of what embodied the story of his life as told in Black Elk Speaks. •Among the granite spires and brook laden grassy meadows of the Black Hills experience the tradition of storytelling, listen to the earthy wood wind tones of the Native American Flute.
MACO SICA – THE BADLANDS
The Badlands are a geologist’s heaven. This land was seventy-five million years in the making (now eroding at the rate of an inch per year) and amid the multi-hued pinnacles and buttes you will explore a barren moonscape, seemingly impervious to life, yet as inhospitable as the corrugated terrain sounds, the Badlands brutality is deceiving. Look with native eyes and you will see Prairie dogs twitch and chatter by their burrows like nervous commuters waiting for a late train, while buzzards, coyotes, hawks and bobcats hope it never arrives. Bighorn Sheep leap precariously over crumbling ledges on cliff walls and mule deer scour crevasses at dusk and dawn. On the mesas, antelope bucks groom themselves for impressionable does and, indifferent to their performances, the buffalo watch them all come and go. This area is known to Lakotas as Maco Sica.
•Hear of the sheltering place in the Stronghold that those who survived the Wounded Knee Massacre fled to for survival. •Stop at Bigfoot Pass and try to put yourself in the place of one of those who trekked the 150 miles by pony and foot through the vagaries of that Dakota Territory winter. •Listen for the stories of the Spirit Prayer movement, and the fortitude of The People. •Learn about the indomitable spirit of the two-legged, four-legged and winged who survive here.
PINE RIDGE INDIAN RESERVATION including Wounded Knee
Travel to Pine Ridge Indian Reservation (Wazí Aháŋhaŋ Oyáŋke in Lakota) and hear in situ the story of the Oglala Lakota people. From rolling hills and prairie terrain to rocky outcrops, Pine Ridge was originally included within the 18 million acre territory of the Great Sioux Reservation, but in 1889, the boundaries were cut by Congress to just 2 million acres, or 3,468 square miles of land.
With the Lakota’s sacred He Sapa, the Black Hills in view on the horizon from some edges of the reservation, explore with your Lakota guide who will explain tribal perspectives and lifeways.
See the beauty and artisanship of the Lakota and learn of the patterns and symbolism that define their tribal art, and begin to understand why arts have become an economic lifeline in this, one of the poorest places in the entire United States for over 40 years (shockingly, the median annual income of residents is $6286.)
•See the original Pine Ridge Agency, the Oglala Lakota Tribal government, and the Oglala Lakota College history center. • Tour the Heritage Center at Red Cloud School to admire the beautiful Fine Arts and crafts, and if your dates coincide, enjoy the fabulous summer Art Show there. •Enjoy food from local eateries and on Pine Ridge you will have opportunity to buy art and jewelry direct from Lakota artisans. •Your day culminates with a visit to Wounded Knee; there can be no substitute for visiting the site yourself and hearing the truth of the event from Lakota guides who can also explain the reverberations of the massacre of 1890 into contemporary Indian life.
ARTISANS OF THE LAKOTA NATION
Your guide is a renowned Lakota silversmith with a passion for lapidary and the relationship between his beloved culture and the rock from which it was founded when in the beginning, Inyan (the rock) opened a wound upon himself and as his blood flowed blue to create the oceans and skies, the world began.
Fascinated by, and immersed in, the origins of Plains Indian silverwork he soon realized an inherent talent of his ancestors was their constant incorporation of new materials and techniques and their willingness to experiment and blend these within the Lakota way of life. So, having mastered many traditional artistic techniques within his Lakota culture such as stone and wood carving for traditional prayer pipes, bead and quillwork, feather-work, hide-tanning, and rawhide work, Jhon now incorporates related modern technologies for ceremonial and artistic expressions.
Walking a parallel path with his Lakota ancestors, head out on a tribal Arts experience like no other.
•Visit reservation arts galleries and trading posts •Visit artists in their home studios •Visit places that inspire the Lakota art you see and hear explanations of their importance within Lakota culture and expression •Learn of the symbolism, color references and cultural imperatives necessary to comprehend the tribal messages within art forms from petroglyphs to beadwork, silver-smithing to star quilts and much more...
Nearby In Wyoming
MATO TIPILA - DEVIL’S TOWER
Native American star knowledge teaches the concept that what is on earth is merely the reflection of the real world in the sky; sites that are important within the Lakota world are directly related to constellations. Convene with your Lakota guide at one of the most sacred of those earthly venues; Mato Tipila (Devils’ Tower) to learn that this is not simply an giant, awe-inspiring obelisk of granite jutting forth from the ground for the benefit of rock climbers – this place has deep spiritual significance and historical record to seven different Plains cultures. And as you walk the circle in the shadow of the Great Bear who created the defining features rising before you, ancient knowledge supersedes modern science and the ethereal transcends the literal.
•Hear the tribal explanations of the Lakota, Cheyenne, Kiowa, Shoshone, Arapaho, Crow and Pawnee. •Learn of the history of this area as a Sun Dance site •Among the grassy meadows of this idyllic venue, hear the story of the Racetrack and understand the true relationship, and the compact of survival between the buffalo and the People. •Listen to the earthy wood wind tones of the Native American Flute.
In Wyoming, on the way to Yellowstone:
THE MEDICINE WHEEL
The sacred reality of the stone Spirit Wheel high above the Bighorn Basin on Medicine Mountain began with the wisdom of one man who carried a spirit wheel lance in 500 BC and led his people from the darkness to the light. Thirteen hundred and eighty six years later, the so-called Great Sioux War began in 1876 with a surprise attack on a predominantly Cheyenne village on the Powder River. Old Brave Wolf was blind, and his daughter, Elbow Woman, sat him upon a horse she then led from the village on a rein. The three made conspicuous targets, but though bullets whined and crackled around them, they walked away unscathed. Across his lap Old Brave Wolf had rested his spirit wheel lance, which became his eyes in that darkness and rendered the soldiers sightless. The spirit in the wheel was alive and long since had been called into the wheel.
- Atop Medicine Mountain in the Bighorns we discover the stone-formed Medicine Wheel.
- We discuss the Massaum Ceremony, “the Medicine Dance of the Ancients,” in which the wolf, and the “Wolf’s Lodge,” is essential to creation, to life, and renewal in the spiritual and physical.
- This day involves some walking – please wear comfy shoes and take water.
The spectacular Bighorn Canyon is an important cultural site for the Crow and Cheyenne, as well as a breathtaking natural wonder. Wild Mustangs range in the Prior Mountains that shadow the canyon, the descendants of Crow and Cheyenne pony herds from the old days and among their number bays, sorrels, along with some grays, roans and pintos, roam the range, their distinctive ‘primitive’ markings including a stripe running down the back, or "zebra" stripes on the legs, differentiating them as member of the tribal Horse Nation.
- We go in search of these mustangs, survivors from the Horse Nation's proudest days.
- Hear stories of Crazy Horse’s skill capturing wild horses, of the relationships between warriors and their mounts and of equine valor beyond imagination in the face of war, where army was pitted against family.
- In 1970 Congress declared the mustangs “living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West”. Learn of the ongoing fate of these magnicent four-leggeds as you watch them in their most natural of habitats in the West.
If you were to believe anthropologist's opinions about the place of Native People in the Yellowstone region, you would imagine tribal people cowering from the geothermal features that they are supposed to have been scared of. But not so. Native people respected and revered this area which long before the discovery of the Caldera, they knew creation was still an on-going process.
In Yellowstone, the wolves are the rock stars of the park. But how much do you know about their place in Native American tribal culture and the Meaning of the Wolf to Plains Indians?
In Yellowstone there are about 150 grizzly bears remaining in the wild and maybe 650 in the Greater Yellowstone region. These elusive four-leggeds taught The People about wisdom, strength, healing and tenacity. With your guide, a world-class wildlife photographer, go in search of the Spirit of the Grizzly
The Cheyenne culture is complex, deeply spiritual and beautiful, the Tsistsistas language is still spoken, and traditional people have retained their ways. Formerly named the Tongue River Indian Reservation, the 707 square miles of what nearly 5000 residents call ‘God’s Country’ is the home of the Tsistsistas – the Morning Star People, or the Northern Cheyenne.
Here is an unmissable opportunity to see the reservation the old way – on horseback - with one of the best wranglers in Montana doubling as your historian and ethno-botanist. Take a day to ride into the reservation hills. Horse owners, bring your own mounts, or enthusiasts, your wrangler has great horses available for your ride. Inexperienced ? You can still ride, but for your comfort, we recommend a 1/2 day
The Little Bighorn
Your tribal guide is well versed in military historical perspective on the Little Bighorn, but combine his detailed knowledge of the Cheyenne and Lakota tribal military actions on the Little Bighorn battlefield on June 25th, 1864, and you are in great hands if you want to learn the truth of what happened.
Stare across the field and from Crazy Horse's eye view imagine the actions of the Lakota and Cheyenne warriors as they defended their way of life in one magnificent last victory ...with cataclysmic results that reverberated throughout tribal cultures across the West.
Visit one of the most important cultural and historic sites on the Northern Plains where the Great Sundance was held at the Deer Medicine Rocks just days before the impending Little Bighorn Battle.
As dusk fell on June 16, the forces that would converge on the Rosebud were only thirty miles apart, but in philosophy and origin were separated by an ocean. Hear the story of the Fight Where the Girl Saved Her Brother; an event of cultural magnitude and inspiration which still resonates in the present day culture of the Cheyenne people.