It's early on Monday morning. The ride was over last week, but I've been busy and did do some riding after we completed the commemorative ride from Ft. Snelling in Saint Paul, MN to Fort Thompson, South Dakota. Last year was the first time we tried doing this ride. We had 18 motorcycles and 19 people. This year we more than doubled that number with 40 bikes and 45 people. We also had many people come from quite a distance in their cars and meet the group at Fort Thompson. They didn't drive the same route the motorcycles took, but did make the shorter version of the journey to show their support for the people of the Crow Creek Indian Reservation.
Just a short paragraph of history. In 1863, during what is called the Dakota Conflict in history books, Dakota and Winnebago Indian people were loaded onto boats and shipped away from their homeland in Minnesota down the Mississippi River. They were put on rail cars near Hannibal, MO and taken across Missouri to the Missouri River near Saint Joseph. Then, back on boats North to Fort Thompson. There, they were left, in a strange place, to fend for themselves. Many died on the journey. Many were treated harshly, beaten, raped and starved. These people survived and their decendants are there today. Our motorcycle ride is to remember this journey, remember these ancestors who were forcibly interred and moved away from their homeland.
We don't do it to point fingers and call names to a government that treated the first residents of this land so brutally. We don't show or speak of hatred, but we remember and in remebering, we give the people who live there now, hope. Last year, no one knew what to expect. The motorcyclists didn't know where the gas stops were, the route was confusing, nightly lodging for the four day journey was in disarray. The people at Crow Creek knew we were coming, but weren't sure what that meant. It was after we arrived there that we all came together and realized that in remembering someones past, we build a future and we make new friends. We learn our history by seeing the places where things happened. Old stories conjure images of the plight of the people, but now, when we are living in the future of this event, we see that time has past and the people live on. We experience a closeness. We were all of one human race. There was no color. There was peace in our circle.
The people who didn't participate last year had the same feelings I experienced. The thought that our discomfort from hot asphalt, thirst, breakdowns, flat tires, accidents, confusion and disorganization was nothing compared to what happened to the people who were put on the boats. And when they saw the reception that the people prepared for us, they cried as they found something in their hearts. I cried again as well.
The residents of Crow Creek held a childrens Pow Wow. They had a feast prepared. Horseback riders led us into the grounds where teepees were set up for us to use overnight. A beautiful shaded arbor was made from small trees to shade us as we watched the children dance in traditional regalia. Songs were written for us, honor songs, because we remembered their ancestors. We were prayed for, smudged and given healing ceremonies for anything that might be on our minds. The people did all that they could do. I cannot tell you the emotion of this reception and how powerful it is when people come together this way. It must be experienced. We realized that a yearly town celebration has started. If I stay a part of this, I'll be able to watch those children grow up. Like having a bigger family.
As for the ride itself, it was great. Good weather in the fact that we didn't get any rain. It was hot and sunny every day on the road. The City of Winona, MN fed us lunch on day one as we passed through. The people of Winnebago, Nebraska fed us lunch on day three. A motorcycle group from Prairie Island, MN bought everyone a tankful of gas in support of the ride, and dinner for everyone in the group. Motels and restaurants and small out-of-the-way gas station convenience stores treated us kindly. No small task when 40 motorcycles pull into the islands all together and want gas, snacks and to use the bathrooms.
The journey took us through beautiful river bluffs and lowlands, across rolling farmland and through the plains. The bison are gone, teepees are replaced by houses, air conditioning gives comfort from the hot sun, travel is fast compared to methods of long ago. What took two days in a rail car took a few hours for us.
We sort of took over Big Lake State Park north of Saint Joseph, MO. Usually, facilities, like the restaurant, being not open except on weekends, the proprietors opened up and had specials on hand to feed us dinner on the second night, and a great breakfast buffet the morning of day three. They allowed us to spread about their parking lot as we assembled in the early morning to continue on.
At the end of the third day, we pulled in at Fort Randall, SD. There was a big Pow Wow going on that weekend. They invited us to camp without charge. Every one of the riders and passengers were invited into the Pow Wow circle and we told the people what we were doing, why we were on this ride. The Veterans who were on the ride were honored as is tradition. We were invited to participate in flag raising ceremonies Saturday morning before we left for the final leg of our trip.
As I get time and a problem with my photo generating equipment solved, I'll tell some stories about the ride, the people and the motorcycles. I'll post some great pictures, maybe even a Youtube or two. But for now, I'll leave it here. It's good to be back, but in some ways, I wish I could continue riding forever.
Peace to all. And thank you all very much for your support.