By Molly Miron
Special to the Pioneer
RED LAKE - “Keep all the memories, but don’t mourn,” Henry Skywater told participants starting out on the last segment of their 250-mile journey from Spirit Lake, N.D., to Red Lake.
Skywater, a Dakota from the Birdtail Reserve in Manitoba, is leader of the Tatanka Chante And Those Loved Ones Who Left Us Memorial Unity Ride.
He said Unity Rides open to all nations have been held since 1993. But this year, the ride and run honors those who suffer the aftermath of the 2005 Red Lake High School shootings, as well as others who have buried loved ones.
“I’m riding for everybody, as one of the main leaders,” Skywater said. “My prayers are for everybody.”
At about noon today, riders and anyone else seeking healing will hold a memorial service at Red Lake High School, followed in the afternoon by healing ceremonies at the Red Lake Powwow Grounds. Skywater said exact times aren’t available because of the variability of the time needed for riders and runners to reach the sites. Everyone, tribal and non-tribal, is invited to join the ceremonies and memorial, Skywater said.
“Maybe they’re mourning for somebody, too,” he said. “All the rides from ’93 to this one are spiritual. It’s a spiritual journey. We pray all the time.”
Jay Rosebear of Ponemah lost a child in the school shooting, and more recently, a grandchild in an accident. Rosebear said her mother urged her to join the ride. She signed on as a member of the support crew cooking for the group of about 60.
“When I’m here, I feel just good,” she said. “I finally went into accepting.
“The healing process started right away. This is a new experience for us.”
Bryden McArthur, 18, of Pheasant Drum, Saskatchewan, said, “I’m riding for the people. I’m also riding for my sick uncle who’s very ill.
“When I get home, I can’t wait to tell him about this ride.”
He received a little help saddling his horse from his grandfather, Wayne McArthur.
“My first time riding was the first day,” Bryden McArthur said.
Derrek Eagle, 13, of Standing Rock, S.D., said he is also riding for his uncle “and the people who got lost.” He said he has been riding since he was a baby, but his horse, Lightning Jack, is the first one he trained himself.
The riders, runners and support crew started out Aug. 6 traveling 20-30 miles per day and camping at various parks and private properties and farms in North Dakota and Minnesota. Rosebear described one such site — a big mowed field with a creek running along one side. The farmer provided bison meat and invited the members of the group to harvest whatever they wanted from his garden.
“We don’t ask for anything,” Skywater said. “If someone wants to donate anything to us — money or food — that’s up to them. We ask for nothing.”
He said the trip is also a learning opportunity for the many children in camp. “These children will never forget this,” he said.
Skywater expressed gratitude to Red Lake Chairman Floyd Jourdain and everyone who donated to the journey. “And we thank the Red Lake Nation for letting us be in their territory,” he said.
By Molly Miron