What I’m riding for this year – on horse – during my anti-colonial holiday season

By Special Correspondent Jessica Yee


As I rush off and dash to jet-set again for yet another destination and another area of Turtle Island – I’m reminded this time around that the place I’m going to requires me to stop, pause, and really think about what it is I’m about to do.

This year I’ve decided to join my Dakota/Lakota/Sicangu/Crow family on a journey they call the “Big Foot” or what it is now known as the “Future Generations Youth” ride. The story goes that 25 years ago, this ride started with the Lakota Youth of Pine Ridge (Red Cloud Agency) to retrace the steps of their ancestors from Standing Rock to Wounded Knee. This 7+ day non-stop horseback ride commemorates the December 1890 events with Chief Big Foot’s band, where more than 250 men, women and children were shot by the U.S. 7th Cavalry in the Wounded Knee massacre, including Sitting Bull.

I wrote about this ride last year, along with the Dakota 38, when I learned about them here: http://www.shamelessmag.com/blog/2008/12/riding-to-remember/ At the time I honestly thought it would have been at least a few years before I might eventually do one of these rides myself. It was one of those “yeah, I hope I’ll do it ONE day” type of things, but last month things changed for me and I knew I had to do it.

I’m riding because to be honest – my frustrations with differing opinions on what actualizing Aboriginal youth leadership really means have been maxed out on many different fronts and far too many occasions as of late where people saying they support youth is one thing, but actually DOING something where youth ARE actually in power and being leaders and taking up our rightful space is quite another (and in most instances not happening at all despite the nice and fine talk about it at conference after conference – or if it is happening it was short-lived since apparently people didn’t seem to be “used to” youth having “that much power”. It’s really just bullshit).

Knowing that so many of the youth on this ride live through countless hardships, chose not to celebrate Christmas, and decided themselves to give back their time, energy, and spirit to their community in this most honorable way by riding on the trails of the ancestors during the so-called “holiday” season fills my heart and soul with incredible hope for what are next generations are capable of doing. I’m so completely excited to learn from all these youth I will meet.

I’m also riding because I need to do my best to go somewhere where I’ll be forced to feel ultimately guilty for checking the Blackberry and doing work on the computer (or at least go to a place where I’ll have limited access so tough shit for me).

Most importantly of all these though – I’m riding to support some of my family living in South Dakota. They have continuously welcomed me with open arms into their home and life, and I have received so many teachings from watching their devotion to building up our communities again from some very tough places, and adopting children and increasing their family unit daily, on top of it. These people are Richard Milda, Tawa Witko, all their wonderful and beautiful children, and I especially mean Maria Milda. Maria’s strength and tenacity to persevere through all kinds of difficult situations these past few years and come out of it stronger and wiser is a huge inspiration for me. It basically shows that she has done somewhat of a “Big Foot” ride herself in her 15 years of life so far – and I want to ride to honor THAT.

We’re breaking down borders and we’re coming together for our future generations. I might not be from South Dakota myself, but the border is up here (I’m pointing to my head) and what we need to remember is the innate strength of our unity as peoples across Turtle Island being down here (I’m pointing to my heart) and what we are prepared to DO about it. I’m hoping to find out more of what that’s all about during this ride.

So I’d like to say I’ll blog or write and keep you all updated on what’s happening out there – but I’m not sure if I’m going to do that – both because of access and because I’m not sure how my body and spirit are going to fare with this to decide if that’s the right thing to do.

Be sure to check out the Facebook Fan page Big Foot Memorial Riders/Si Tanka Riders for all the latest updates they will be posting.

Be well. And take care of each other.