Arvol Looking Horse--Keeper of Original Lakota Sacred Pipe

Arvol Tells How He Started on His Path,
Announces Prayer Ceremony June 21, 1996

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Following Arvol's personal recollection is the announcement he has circulated of a world-wide prayer ceremony at sacred sites, to be held June 21, 1996. Further info and updates will follow that.

When I was young, a black widow spider bit me. The venom started spreading and eating away at my skin. I remember my grandmother praying that I would live, and it was the prayer that pulled me through. But it left a bad scar on my face, which made me very shy when I was growing up. I stayed away from people because I was ashamed of the scar. I rode my horse, and spent time sitting on the hill in Green Grass, looking at the beauty of the land and thinking about how it must have been a long time ago. I'd feel secure and at peace. I'd find my center.

Another time, my brother died, I decided I wanted to do something to honor him because he was so good at everything he did. At that time, I was just the opposite, I had no confidence. The day he was buried, I thought about how he was so natural with horses and that he would have been the best rodeo rider. So I made a committment to ride rodeo for him, in saddle bronco riding that he loved.

I went to the rodeo in Deadwood, but my body didn't feel quite up to it. I got ready anyway because there were a lot of friends from the reservation who had come to see me. I saddled my horse, and was feeling good. I looked up at the grandstand. I got on the horse, he bucked and went straight up in the air. Then he spun around and fell backwards--right on top of me. I heard a crack in my backbone, there, shaking. I couldn't feel my body. The ambulance came and then I was lying there in the hospital. The doctor was telling me that I'd never walk again, that I was paralyzed from the neck down. I had broken three vertebrae, cracked one, and had a concussion.

I remembered my grandmother once saying to me that when a person is getting ready to go into the spirit world, their relatives come to them. At different times I would open my eyes and see them standing there.

Then the phone rang, and the voice on the line said "I'm your grandmother and the people need you." This grandmother chewed me out about the rodeo and said I had done this to myself. I felt my mother and father entering the room, but I kept my eyes closed because I didn't know if they were real or not. My dad started talking to me about trhe Sun Dance they were having. In my mind I kept thinking about my grandmother saying that it didn't matter how many people prayed for you, if you didn't pray for yourself the prayers wouldn't be effective. So I was trying to relax my mind. I kept picturing the Sun Dance and all the people circling around the Tree of Life in the center. I prayed so much, humbly, from my heart.

When the Sun Dance was over, my bones healed back together. The doctors couldn't believe it. A week later I walked out of the hospital. I knew deep down in my heart that my prayers had been answered.

For details about Devil's Tower, instructions how to get there, camping, facilities, and a detailed map of the park, I've linked to the U.S. National Park Service page. To the left here is a small inset from a Wyoming highway map, showing how to get there when coming west, east, or north.

BigFoot Riders Arvol is one of the founders of the BigFoot riders, hundreds of whom made a a cold ride in 1990 to memorialize the massacre of BigFoot's band at Wounded Knee, around Christmas, in 1890 on what's now the Pine Ridge Reservation. A video -- "Wiping the Tears of 7 Generations" -- of this was made that won the 1991 American Indian film festival "best video" award. It's avilable ($29.95 for schools and private use; $85 if you plan to give public-for-pay showings) from the makers, Kifaru Productions, 800/400-8433. They have a commercial web pagewhich is a catalog describing this and other videos, books, tapes. Kifaru also maintains a non-profit corporation that donates from its revenues to many Indian causes; they have a web page too, called Dream Catchers. Right now, their order info doesn't work. You can call for a catalog (or orders) to 800/400-84336

The BigFoot Riders (often accompanied by Arvol, carrying the Pipe for them) have become a permanent spiritual organization. Over Labor Day, they came from Canada with 7 horses (and Arlo) to a Wiping of Tears ceremony sponsored by the Lower Sioux tribe (and Dakota Open School) memorializing the 38 Dakota who were hanged as a result of a rebellion caused by losing most of their land and being cheated of treaty payments and food, in 1862. There was a 70-mile run from Mankato, where the hangings took place at Christmas, 1862, to Birch Coulee Park, site of a victory by the Dakota forces on September 2, 1862. The BigFoot Riders met the runners at midnight, halfway, and escorted them back to the campsite and powwow ground.

The runners ran all night and arrived before dawn Saturday for a purification sweat and a ceremony. The Tribe furnished food for the runners -- who included several women, and elder Emmet Eastman (Yankton Dakota), who has run the equivalent of twice round the world in the cause of peace and justice -- and several big feeds for those who attended the "Gathering of the Kin" powwow after the ceremony. There was a pretty good crowd for a Labor Day weekend doings with no prizemoney. People attended this one for other reasons.

Arvol spoke very movingly Saturday at the powwow about the spiritual education that is taking place among the BigFoot Riders, who include a number of youths who take part for a short while, as well as those with long-term committments. They cannot drink and must be respectful to their task and the people they meet.

Saturday night, it was hot, humid and there were zillions of mostquitos from the wooded park and nearby stream. Low clouds made us fear rain. When it was fully dark, one of the Drums began to play a beautiful, sad song honoring both the Riders and those who have perished. It was an honor dance for the Riders. Silver dancingly edged the thinning, ragged clouds, and a fat cresent moon showed herself, dancing among them. In an amazing optical phenomenon, fuzzy circles from spotlights of the Jackpot Junction Casino, miles away, somehow swung north and circled the moon, dancing. This wasn't done by moving the spotlights, which were on automatic, the air, moisture, moon, and song did it. The powwow ground lights were turned off. The clouds went away. So did most of the mosquitoes. There was dancing by moonlight, then. That very fat crescent moon, different from how I've ever seen it, gave a lot of golden, warm light, not silvery like high-up moon light usually is.

The BigFoot Riders and their horses returned to Saskatchewan; I'm not sure what they're memorializing there, because of my ignorance of Canadian First Nations history. I will try to keep this page updated with news about the June 21 world-wide prayer ceremonial, and would appreciate receiving email about it from those involved in preparing for it. As Arvol says in his announcement, there are sacred places all over -- probably 1 ever 100 mile radius or so, so there could and should be many World Peace and Paryer ceremonies June 21 -- perhaps you might organize one at a sacred place on land important to you?

The White Buffalo painting by Cherokee artist Jack Vance is running along with a gallery of other paintings by this artist and other Native artists at Powersource Native American Art & Education Center Jacobs' Two Turtles web gallery had only the 2 Ptesanwin prints when I saw it. He may be adding more of his work, too.

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CREDITS: Page prepared by Paula Giese.Photo by Dan Budnik. Interview of Arvol Looking Horse by Sandy Johnson. From The Book of the Elders, Sandy Johnson, HarperSanFrancisco. c. 1994. I drew the moon, which I beaded on my Pipe bag in 1980. The buffalo woman spirit cherishing some kind of light on the moonlit prairie is "Buffalo Woman;quot, painted by Susan Seddon Boulet and scanned from her beautiful book of spiritual paintings, Shaman, Pomegranate Artbooks, San Francisco, c. 1989. The paintings were inspired by or inspired the selection of many quotations by Native people, which are included in this highly recommended beautiful book ($19.95).Pomegranate: 707/765-2005. Boulet is not a Native American; she was born in Brazil of British parents, schooled in Switzerland, and wound up in California. Her paintings are all on spiritual themes, not necessarily Indian. Pomegranate publishes an annual calendar called "Way of the Shaman" that uses her paintings. Buffalo Woman was scanned and made into an award button, given to students at Heart of the Earth AIM Survival School for school achievements in 1993-94.

Last updated: Tuesday, December 19, 1995 - 12:11:46 AM