PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The past four years have seen dozens of tribal people on horseback ride in remembrance from Santee, Nebraska, to Fort Thompson, South Dakota.
Those are places where members of Dakota tribes were forced to go, after the Minnesota unrest of 1862.
The rides honor the tribal grandmothers for their suffering at Crow Creek Indian Reservation, after it was established in what today is central South Dakota.
They also are to remember some 300 children who died of starvation and malnutrition while under care of the U.S. Army more than 150 years ago at Crow Creek.
Thirty-eight members of Dakota tribes were killed December 26, 1862, in a mass hanging at Mankato in what is now Minnesota.
This year the memorial had an additional emphasis and an additional rider: South Dakota’s new governor, Kristi Noem.
The extra leg started at Fort Thompson on the reservation and ended at the state Capitol in Pierre.
The purpose was to honor the many indigenous women and children who have gone missing or have been found murdered in recent decades.
Noem met the group Tuesday morning at Farm Island state campground east of Pierre and joined the ride for the final stretch to the Capitol.
They rode in a circle to start and rode in a circle again on the Capitol lawn at the end.
The governor had the reins of Tibbs, a family horse named for the great South Dakota rodeo rider, Casey Tibbs.
Earlier this year, Noem signed legislation on missing and murdered indigenous women.
The bill from Senator Lynne DiSanto directed the state Division of Criminal Investigation to work more closely with other law enforcement agencies on missing and murdered indigenous cases. No one voted against it.
Afterward Tuesday, the riders and support people gathered on the Capitol steps.
Noem spoke, as did tribal members Jim Hallum, Robin Bowen Campbell, Leta Wise Spirit and others.
“I, as governor, need to be aggressive in making sure we have state laws, and that we are leading by example, in protecting individuals,” Noem said.
Hallum, the ride’s organizer, explained why there’s no face on the tribal staff that is the ride’s symbol for those missing.
“That way it represents allll the nations across Turtle Island,, because this just didn’t happen at Crow Creek,” he said, using a tribal religious term about how North America came to be. “It happened everywhere — California, North Dakota, South Dakota, Canada — everywhere.”
Hallum read names of more than 130 missing women. A drummer put a simple, mournful accent after each, followed by a high-pitch cry from someone in the audience.
The governor had been watching, first from the steps, then from the side, but left by the time the names began. David Flute, the state secretary of tribal relations, received for her a red, hand-stitched quilt.
Most of the 25 squares carried shapes of tribal women, but four spots purposely stood blank. Hallum said the open spots were in recognition of the thousands missing.
Flute said he plans to talk with the governor on Thursday about the next steps they’ll take regarding the quilt.
The riders told him they plan to continue coming back to the Capitol each of the next three years.