Historic Horseback Ride Commemorating Cheyenne Exodus of 1878 Departs on June 1
On June 1, a 1,391-mile journey across seven states begins for eight riders who will set out from Fort Reno, Oklahoma to remember the Northern Cheyenne Exodus of 1878.
After Custer was defeated at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, the United States government removed the Northern Cheyenne from their traditional homelands in Montana to a reservation in Indian Territory in Oklahoma. What came to be known as their “exodus” was the “bloody but futile attempt to return to their homeland in Montana,” says the description of In Dull Knife’s Wake: The True Story of the Northern Cheyenne Exodus of 1878 by Vernon R. Maddux and Albert Glenn Maddux.
The journey was set in motion by Margaret Behan of the International Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers and Cheyenne Elders Council, who will join the riders at locations along the way.
“My prayer is to bring spirit back to my people. So much has been lost,” Behan said in a release. “We need to bring our Cheyenne identity and pride back to the young people, teach them the traditional ceremonies and language.”
That trek may be a dangerous one according to Jesus Garza, the 21-year-old Texas A&M University-Kingsville junior history and political science major who created the map the riders will follow. He said the ride will cut through tornado alley during peak season, but as the expedition’s chief navigator and historian he will is prepared and has plotted the course on paper maps as well as using GPS technology.
Garza became involved with the ride after organizer Juan Villareal, Texas Lipan Apache, came to speak with his historic methods and research class. Villareal had never ridden a horse before the idea for this ride came up. He has been training with Suzi Landoplhi from Red Horse Nation, a Native American Horse program of Lifesavers Wild Horse Rescue to prepare for the ride. Lifesavers is supplying all the horses for the ride.
At sacred sites along the way, Earth skill educators will share wisdom of caring for the planet through storytelling, land stewardship and wilderness survival training for families. There will be hands-on trainings and teachings of traditional skills like fire making, shelter building, animal tracking, and flint knapping.
Garza is honored to be a part of the ride and ceremonies. “I’m even more grateful that I’m in a leadership position for this ride, that I’ll be able to see sites and ceremonies,” Garza told ICTMN. “The fact that I get [to join] in… is nothing short of amazing.”
He’s also hoping the ride itself will bring attention to the history of Native Americans, something he is now learning about himself.
“I’m very proud to be providing some of the foundation for this ride,” Garza said in a release. “My hope is that the ride itself will help to increase people’s knowledge of what this group of Native Americans suffered.”
“The Cheyennes’ flight,” write James Leiker and Ramon Powers in The Northern Cheyenne Exodus in History and Memory, “had left white and Indian bones alike scattered along its route from Oklahoma to Montana.”
A film crew will be documenting the journey with Native filmmaker Chris Eyre acting as key advisor.
To follow the ride, visit GrandmothersHorses.com.
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