The message of Manitoba’s Dakota Unity Ride made a deep impression on Connecticut statesmen. Senators, the State Indian Affairs leader, and local dignitaries turned out at two celebrations to honor the riders’ 4,000-mile journey. The riders called for honoring the earth and recognizing the dangers of drilling oil, fracking, and water pollution.
The week before, riders made their way to Upstate New York and met with several leaders from Haudenosaunee nations. The riders were greeted by 200 canoes that came down the Hudson as the riders crossed the Hudson River Walkway on horseback.
On Monday, August 5, the riders arrived at the rolling hills of Newtown, where they spent two nights camping at the Governor’s Second Company Horse Guard, also known as Connecticut’s cavalry.
Connecticut was the first state to witness a massacre, which was waged by European traders upon hundreds of sleeping Pequots in 1637. Canupa Wakpa Chief Gus High Eagle said, “Healing began the day after that massacre.” The Dakota Peace and Unity Ride is the first such ride to come through Connecticut.
This ride was also believed to be the first time after Wounded Knee that Native peoples have been welcomed “into the fort” by the cavalry. Second Lt. Ken Fay greeted the riders and said this was a powerful moment for both. Fay told the Dakota riders, “This is your home in Connecticut. You are always welcome here.”
Fay promised to try to open doors for the remainder of the riders’ journey so that the rider’s horses could rest comfortably. Some of the healing between the groups was said to happen “through the spirit of the horse.”
In Newtown, High Eagle spoke before about 300 locals. High Eagle said that the riders carried 26 ribbons during the trip, one for each person who was killed in last year’s shooting at the Sandy Hook School. The ribbons were handed to some of the family members whose children had perished.
In Danbury on August 6, the group was met by Sen. Michael McLachlan (R-Connecticutt) and the State Indian Affairs Coordinator Ed Sarabia, who introduced Golden Hill Paugusett traditional Clan Mother Shore Ann Piper. Sarabia presented High Eagle with a proclamation, signed by state legislators, heralding the gesture of healing and peace brought by the riders.
A star quilt, carried by Cheyenne River Lakota Big Foot rider Daniel Afraid of Hawk, was sent from South Dakota in honor of the Peace and Unity riders’ visit to Danbury in honor of their ancestor, Albert Afraid of Hawk—one of Buffalo Bill’s riders—who perished in Danbury 100 years ago and was repatriated back to Manderson, South Dakota last year.
The riders will continue to make their way to Washington, D.C. They plan to be in New York City August 9. To follow the riders, visit TheUnityRide.com.