<“Now is the time to heal.” – Father John
Father John came up to me in Maria’s one day in July, 2013. “I need food Thurman. We’ve got some Native Americans coming in next week for a Unity Ride and we’ve got everything but the food.”
Well, he came to the right place. For sure, the only thing the pantry has is food.
“What’s the deal, Father John?”
“The Unity Riders are coming through here. The Dakota Nation representatives from Manitoba, Canada came together with the Two Row Wampum Renewal Campaign to partner between the Onondaga Nation and Neighbors of the Onondaga Nation. They’re coming with horses, riders, truckers, everything. Woodstock is going to be their base camp here while they make side trips to the United Nations, Washington, D.C., and several other places.”
“How many people are we looking at?”
“I think about twelve. But I won’t know until they get here.”
“Do you have anyone to cook the food?”
“Yeah. We’ve got a place for them to stay and we’ve got a chef.”
So, we got to work. Rich Allen figured out how much food they needed and we placed an order. We got in Miriam’s Well, Rich, Prasida and I, and drove up to the Food Bank and got it. We brought it in. At the moment we pulled up, Father John and his team with Chief Gus High Eagle of the Western Dakota Nation came in: men, women, children, horses, trucks pulling horse trailers.
Everyone was impressed with the men and the horses. And, they were a beautiful sight. Only, I also saw that the horses were really tired and so were the men. Both horses and men appeared to be drained spiritually and physically exhausted. This had been a very challenging spiritual ride.
The horses experienced much stress on this trip and would continue to experience the stress because they were the messengers of this momentous journey.
Father John and his team made a base camp at the Woodstock Riding Club. They transformed a barn into a commissary with freezers, refrigerators, and shelves to store dry goods. They built a teepee and two fire pits.
I was grateful to be a part of a pantry with a mission statement open enough to allow us to serve these people.
They traveled on this ride with a unifying message: to honor the bond that exists between all living creatures sharing this planet. The goal is to support one another, heal relationships between people, heal relationships between people and living things, to appreciate the beauty of our planet, and to create an environment where we can live in peace.
While in our area, the Unity Riders made side trips to Albany, Troy, Rosendale, Kingston, Beacon, and Poughkeepsie.
The first city to welcome the riders was Syracuse. Patrice Chang organized a ceremony at Dunbar House, one of the locations of the Underground Railroad.
They also visited Connecticut. While there, the Unity Riders met with families of those killed in the school massacre. The Dakotas understood the grief of the school members, testifying to reconciliation. They came with traditional prayer ties used to honor the dead. Children of the Dakota, Lakota, and Red Lake Tribes made these prayer ties in Minnesota for the surviving school children of the school massacre in Connecticut. They presented them to the children and then took the ties, attached to the horses’ bridles, on the Unity Ride to the U.N. The Native Americans brought prayer ties so riders could carry the spirits of the massacred children with them on their ride. The horses were the messengers here. When the ride was completed in August, the ties were returned and now adorn a large horse sculpture at the Second Connecticut Horse Garden. Several of these special ties were gifted to families surviving the massacre at a ceremony.
One destination on the trip included the riders travelling across the “Walkway Over the Hudson” between Highland and Poughkeepsie. Supporters in boats paddled along the Hudson River beneath.
The Two Row Wampum Renewal Canoe Campaign is a partnership between the Onandaga Nation and Neighbors of the Onandaga Nation.
This group assembled over two hundred kayaks, canoes, boats, and began rowing down the Hudson at Troy. Led by Hickory Edwards of the Onandaga Nation, this group timed their trip so they were coming down the Hudson as the Unity Riders crossed the the Walkway with the Two Row Wampum Renewal Canoe Campaign flotilla floating down the Hudson in two rows. One row was made up of and led by Native Americans. The other row was composed of Americans from all other backgrounds.
As they crossed each other at the walkway, a huge crowd assembled for this event which nearly didn’t happen.
This is the story: Father John tried everywhere to get permission to cross on the Walkway Over the Hudson without success. Success came from a park ranger, Steven Oaks, who issued the permit. Ranger Oaks saw no reason for denying the permit. The fact that his great-great-great grandmother’s life was saved by the Dakotas helped a little, I think.
Another stop was at the United Nations on August 9 for the presentation of the International Code for Sacred Sites.
This day began with the Dakota Nation Unity Riders trucking their horses and themselves to the city. The first stop was on 59th Street in front of the Con Ed building where the trailers parked for a short time while they rendezvoused again with the Two Row Wampum Renewal Campaign on the shore of the Hudson.
After this short side trip, the Unity Riders began their NYC trek to the U.N. with special tour guides: three members of the Federation of Black Cowboys, under the direction of Curley. What amounted to an impromptu parade traveled down Third Avenue led by three black cowboys in full ceremonial dress. The second vehicle was a white Prius with Stephanie Smith inside. Thirty Dakota Nation Unity Riders on horses with all men and horses in full ceremonial dress followed.
“As they travelled down Third Avenue headed for the U.N., people stopped, traffic stopped. The entire procession took on an unreal, vision quality.” recalled Father John.
The delegation arrived at the U.N. and stayed there for six hours. Someone from the U.N. arranged for the Unity Riders and their horses to spend the day at Dag Hammarskjold Park and in front of Trump Tower.
“There was only one slight catch.” Father John related. “No permits had been applied for. Everything was a surprise in the city.” No one seemed to care.
These Dakota Nation Unity Riders came to the U.N. on a mission. They journeyed several thousand miles to unite forces for a point in time at this momentous event to bring people together to heal. This event created groundwork for things to happen in the future.
Another Unity Ride is scheduled for the fall of 2015. The main focus of this event is to strengthen the healing which began in August of 2013. Much of the activity will take place at the Connecticut State Fairgrounds and many Nations will be participating. This promises to be a true International healing peace event which never could have happened without the energy generated at the first August event in 2013.
Other rides are scheduled to occur between now and 2015. Different tribes are conducting rides throughout the seasons. To learn more, or to offer support through a donation, contact the American Indian Institute at www.twocircles.org. If you prefer, you may send a check to American Indian Institute, 502 West Mendenhall Street, Bozeman, MT 59715. Please put “Dakota Unity Ride” in the memo portion of your check.
Thank you Father John, for thinking of us. You allowed us to be a part of this historic event. And, thank you dear blog reader, for participating in this event by reading this post. Your energy, everyone’s energy is vital to the success of this endeavor.
Peace and food for all.
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