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Crazy Horse Memorial Ride

Horses graze at Fort Robinson State Park before the Crazy Horse Memorial Ride.
Amy Kucera/NEBRASKAland Magazine

From a humble beginning with a handful of riders to the largest gathering of the Lakota horse nation, the Crazy Horse Memorial Ride is a growing tribute to Oglala Lakota war chief Crazy Horse, as well as warriors of yesterday and today.

“The ride is in honor of all veterans,” said Bamm Brewer, ride organizer from Pine Ridge, South Dakota.

From Fort Robinson State Park near Crawford, participants of the 17th annual event traveled to Chadron on Monday to camp at the Dawes County Fairgrounds. On Tuesday morning, riders continued their journey to the Pine Ridge Forest in South Dakota, staying two nights before leaving for Pine Ridge, South Dakota as the “spirit horse,” a designated riderless horse honoring the warrior, leads them to their final destination.

“Riders have come from as far away as Germany.  It is now a national event. And we bring it right into Nebraska,” Brewer said.  “It’s really special. There is a lot of history in the area.”

Crazy Horse Riders camped together Sunday night at Fort Robinson. Amy Kucera/NEBRASKAland Magazine
Crazy Horse Riders camped together Sunday night at Fort Robinson State Park.
Amy Kucera/NEBRASKAland Magazine

Crazy Horse, or Tasunka Witko, was revered as a war leader during the time of the American Indian Wars in the late 1860s and 1870s, including the Battle of Rosebud and the Battle of Little Bighorn.  He stayed near Fort Robinson, awaiting relocation to the reservation on the Powder River as promised to him by the U.S. government, after surrender to federal troops in May 1877.

Amid rumors of an escape, he was arrested on September 5, 1877. He did not resist until he was led to be confined at the Fort’s guardhouse. A struggle ensued and he was stabbed with a bayonet by a guard member. After his injury, he was taken to the adjutant’s office next door and tended by assistant post surgeon Dr. Valentine McGillycuddy. He died the same evening.

No known photograph of Crazy Horse exists and details of his early life are often disputed, including the exact date and location of his birth. Although controversy continues to surround the details of his life and death, healing the effects of a tumultuous history between nations is ongoing.

“Crazy Horse never got to ride out of Fort Robinson,” Brewer said. “We ride out of here for him.”

Bamm Brewer uses sage to smudge, or purify, each horse and rider, before they leave Fort Robinson State Park on the Crazy Horse Memorial Ride.
Amy Kucera/NEBRASKAland Magazine

Hundreds of horses and riders camped Sunday night at Fort Robinson State Park before gathering in the morning at the site of his death.

“We have many supporters and we have made a lot of friends,” Brewer said. Among those are the communities and organizations in South Dakota and Nebraska including the High Country Organization, Grey Eagle Society, Red Feather Society and Lakota Riders. “We are thankful for all that have been there to support us.”

“Crazy Horse, the veterans, the youth and the unity of the bridging of cultures – without those purposes, the ride would not exist,” Brewer said. “The ride is for everybody.”

Crazy Horse Riders enroute to Chadron.
Amy Kucera/NEBRASKAland Magazine

The 5-day ride concludes today (June 5) as they follow the Spirit Horse to the powwow grounds in Pine Ridge, South Dakota. For more information, visit: www.facebook.com/CrazyHorseRide.

About amy kucera

A Nebraska native from Verdigre, Kucera received an Associate’s degree in English Education from Northeast Community College, Bachelor’s degree in English Writing from Wayne State College, and English language teaching certificate through the Cambridge University in Prague, Czech Republic. In addition to writing, her interests include history, music, art and traveling— especially via foot, horseback, canoe and kayak. She is currently the Executive Director at the John G. Neihardt State Historic Site in Bancroft.

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