Giving thanks to the ancestors of the Afraid of Bear and American Horse family

07 October 2018

After twenty years of holding ceremonial prayer in the Wild Horse Sanctuary south of Hot Springs, South Dakota, and the thirty-first year of sun dancing in the sacred Black Hills, the Afraid Of Bear and American Horse Tiospaye (related families) remember, give thanks and honour their ancestors who decades ago said, “Use the Black Hills, or lose it.”

Onaway is humbled to continue its support of this event. To follow are excerpts from the report written by Lead Sun Dancer, Tom Cook, who, in November 2018 will complete his 50th Sun Dance! When asked if it was time for him to retire, he responded: “I would, except for my grandsons. I want to continue for them so they can follow me into the circle. Circle of life…”

This year, 2018, marked the thirty-first year that the Tiospaye (related families) of the Afraid Of Bear and American Horse have sun danced in the Black Hills, honouring orientations received from several elders, principally Larue Afraid Of Bear, who told us decades ago: “Use the Black Hills, or lose it.”

“It is good for us to remember the elders of the Tiospaye who led us into the Black Hills; how they held inipi for several years in various places, seeking initial permission for the ceremony; how they instructed the first group of dancers, shared their songs from their elders and set the structure and sequencing of the great ceremony. In consideration of the many allies that have come into their lives over the decades, and in contemplation of the original pipe instructions on the sacred four colors of humankind, they instructed as positive the respectful inclusion of peoples originating in other cultures and races.”

Tom Cook: Staff-bearer and Sun Dance leader

Following ten years at ‘Grey Horn Butte’ (Devil’s Tower), and twenty years at the Wild Horse Sanctuary south of Hot Springs, our elders were pleased this year to petition the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe and to receive their invitation to continue this ritual on their tribal land – a beautiful tract of spiritual homelands south of Cheyenne Crossing, S.D., on Highway 85.

At this year’s Sun Dance, our 68 dancers were led by Willard Fool Bull, Jr. and staff-bearer, Thomas Cook. The Dance lineup began with Fool Bull holding before him a 600 year-old buffalo skull provided graciously by Mae Inchimuk, while staff bearer Cook carried the Tiospaye’s new staff of a dozen ancient eagle feathers selected for the purpose via family tradition of natural world education, shared with the Farm and Wilderness Camps of Plymouth, Vermont. Through these feathers our prayers would carry their prayers, was the stated intent. Overseen by Intercessors David American Horse, 86, and his brother Joseph, 83, most of the dancers were of Native lineage, including twelve tribes and people from the four directions like Canada, Mexico, Europe, and Chile. 80-100 people were there in support, camped along the tree lines.

Upon completion of the ceremony there were two Hunka adoptions and one honouring, conducted by Richard Broken Nose. Loretta Afraid Of Bear Cook adopted Dr. Delphine Red Shirt as her sister. Delphine is a professor at Stanford University in California, and her book George Sword’s Warrior Narratives was published last fall. Loretta and Tom Cook then adopted Essen Alvarez Alvarado of Mexico as their grandson. Then, Cruz Collin, 14, was honoured for his steadfastness in life after participating in four Sun Dances at the Wild Horse Sanctuary.

This year’s Sun Dance had many challenges due to the weather, but it was nonetheless a wonderfully energetic experience on many levels. The days resonated with amazing prayer energy for the people.

The heartfelt thanks of all the relatives extends in gratefulness to our principal supporters, including Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe, Onaway Trust, Plenty International, Running Strong for American Indian Youth, Sacred Healing Circle, Mariel Foundation, Ketels Family Charitable Trust, Farm and Wilderness Camps, and each one of you.

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