Today was the 6th annual Suicide Awareness Bike, Run, and Walk put on by the Lakota people to honor those who have prematurely passed on. We gathered in the parking lot of the Little Wound School to start the 30 mile bike to the town of Wanblee. After registering a small girl approached me with the biggest smile I have ever seen and sat down in my lap without question. The friendliness of the Lakota people is unmatched anywhere else. Before the ride started we participated in a smudging ceremony and prayer. Once the ride started a community woman took the young girl like she was her own mother and looked after her throughout the whole day. This demonstrated to me how much the Lakota value family.
On the ride we stopped roughly every mile or so to listen to the story of a lost loved one. The pain of the families was very obvious in their speeches; however, they were incredibly thankful for us participating in the ride. They were so willing to give us anything we needed including water, Gatorade, and granola bars.
After the halfway point I switched with a fellow student: She rode the bike and I rode in the van. In the van with us was Shadi, a Lakota student at the leadership camp, and she was telling us about the Lakota religion. She explained the sweat lodges to us and told us about her upcoming ceremonies. Within the next few weeks, she will go through a ceremony and receive her Lakota name from the spirits through the medicine man. When I asked her to explain the white buffalo, she launched into an elaborate and beautiful story:
Two hunters went out hunting buffalo and found a herd in a circle. As they walked up to the circle, they found the buffalo surrounded around a white baby buffalo. As soon as they had seen the buffalo it transformed into a beautiful woman dressed in white robes. The men were terrified and left. Later that night, one man was thinking bad thoughts about the woman and the other was thinking she was a goddess. She transformed in front of them and made the man thinking bad thoughts disappear, and the other she spoke to him and told him to gather the elders. Once the elders were gathered, she appeared to them and told them she was going to return eight more times and on the eighth time she would restore the tribe.
Shadi told us the white buffalo has been sighted four times already and has four more times to go.