SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) — Native American Day started with a prayer in a park near downtown Sioux Falls Monday. Dozens of people gathered at Lyon Park for this pre-parade tradition. Some of those attending the event came a great distance to pray and to celebrate their heritage.

An honoring song echoed through the cool, crisp morning at Lyon Park. Then those attending the prayer service joined hands in a circle unified by their culture, history and spirituality.

“Any time that you see Natives standing in a circle and praying, it’s such a beautiful, powerful thing,” Dawne Renville of Tahlequah, OK said.

Dawne Renville came all the way from Oklahoma to attend the service.

“I’ve got chills from head to toe right now, just to be part of this experience has been amazing, it’s amazing,” Renville said.

The service also honored the Native American Day parade grand marshal, 94-year-old Opal Stars of Sioux Falls.

“We never hear the good that happens on our homeland. We hear just the bad and so there’s a lot of good to offset the negatives. So we appreciate the recognition she receives,” Butch Felix of Sisseton, SD said.

A prayer service like this is also a time for many of these people to reunite with friends and family who have been separated for too long by time and distance.

“I’m finding relatives I never knew I had. So many relatives that are from Sisseton or around. It feels like a family reunion,” Renville said.

The power of prayer bringing people of all backgrounds together, embracing their past while bridging cultures and sharing their stories with the wider community.

“It means that I can be a good example to others that it’s okay to be proud of who you are and represent in a great way,” Renville said.

Renville says more South Dakotans seem to participate in Native American Day activities than indigenous people in Oklahoma, where she says the holiday has taken longer to catch on.