Posted: July 25, 2016
Indigenous Riders - A Small Group with Big Hearts
With all the violence being blasted in the news and social media, the negativity, political news and postings, it’s refreshing to spend three days with a small group of people from Indigenous Riders in Arizona. They may be small in number, but they have big hearts. It amazes me how much these few people accomplish during their annual Iron Pony Run event, which they put on to honor Native people. Each year they chose a different Tribe to honor. This year, Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe was the recipient of their hospitality. Buffalo meat and other food, supplies and travel funds were donated by InterTribal Buffalo Council. Without their support, the event wouldn’t happen. It takes hours of preparation to host an event like this – time volunteered by people who organize it, but who don’t want to be acknowledged for it. Their goal is simply to honor and to educate Native people.
The event began at the North American Indian University at Crazy Horse. Rex Carolin began with an introduction about what Indigenous Riders are hoping to accomplish during their Iron Pony Runs. The students took turns introducing themselves sharing what Tribe they are from and what their educational goals are. It warms the heart to see so much potential in the Native youth who attend this University program. From doctors and nurses, to lawyers, to biologists, teachers, business people and this year, three psychologists – there is a massive amount of talent in the room all rolled up in their hopes and dreams for the future.
After introductions, the students, along with Indigenous Riders guest, Katherine Guerrero, enthusiastically contributed their time preparing for the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe’s meal, chopping vegetables and forming buffalo patties. They also prepared the buffalo burger for the meal they shared with Indigenous Riders and the staff of the University. After those preparations were done, a tipi setup demonstration was directed by Rex Carolin and his son, Cameron. Students got hands on experience. Most have never seen a tipi being set up before and they seemed to enjoy participating. Entertainment was a surprise visit from B Max – the students loved the photo op. Then everyone gathered outside to admire the motorcycles. Rex Carolin answered questions from the students and encouraged them to keep reaching for their dreams. He talked to them about being proud of their heritage and culture.
On Friday, Indigenous Riders prepped up their motorcycles and lined up their support team (me) and drove the Eagle Butte, about 160 miles. The heat topped out at 104 degrees late morning, but they kept riding onward. Arriving in the afternoon hot and tired with the trailer full of supplies needing to be unloaded, they started getting ready for guests. The two cooks, Martha Morales and Gerald Shipman worked their magic on a gigantic pot of stew, along with assistance from Chuy Garza. The people from the Eagle Butte community began to arrive and were served hot buffalo stew and salads. The salads were donated by North American Indian University. Around 150 people were honored with a meal and learned about InterTribal Buffalo Council’s role in providing the meat and how they help restore buffalo herds to Native American reservations.
Saturday morning, Indigenous Riders popped out of bed after having spent the night on benches and cots at the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Cultural Center. They might have been tired after having listened to several booming thunderstorms throughout the night, but that didn’t stop them. Unselfishly, they prepared breakfast for around 150 more guests from the community. After all food was distributed, they cleaned up, packed up and rode back to Crazy Horse Memorial.
The event concluded with a sunrise ceremony on the top of Crazy Horse Memorial. This year’s prayers were offered up by Mona Greybear of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. I am ashamed to admit that I didn’t make it for the sunrise ceremony, but each of the Indigenous Riders were there thanking the Creator and praying for Native people, for an end to the violence and hatred in the world and for all the police officers who are sworn to protect people. As a co-sponsor of the event, Crazy Horse generously donates camping space and some staff time, so that the Iron Pony Run is a success.
It was my privilege to work alongside these hardworking folks from Arizona who volunteer five days plus of their time to help others. Everything just flows, no one needs to be asked twice to do something, but somehow everything gets done. The logistics of putting this event together are time consuming and mind boggling, but no one complains. I got to participate in doing good for others, which in turn makes me feel good. There needs to be much more of this type of news shared with the world. Good things are going on all around us. Let’s make it our responsibility to share it.
Also good to note, one of the students who attended the North American Indian University at Crazy Horse learned about the program from Rex Carolin, who did a presentation at his high school in Eagle Butte in February of 2016. It’s good to see results from all the hard work Rex and his group put in.
Thanks for the honor Rex Carolin, Gerald Shipman, Cameron Carolin, Katherine Guerrero, Martha Morales and Chuy Garza! I couldn’t have been in better company.