Three Hundred Miles
The Oomaka Tokatakiya (Future Generations) Ride

Every year on December 15th people gather at Sitting Bull Camp, near Bullhead, South Dakota, to ride horseback nearly three hundred miles to the site of the Wounded Knee massacre. The ride is called the Oomaka Tokatakiya (Future Generations) Ride and the majority of the riders come from three Lakota (Sioux) reservations: Standing Rock, Cheyenne River, and Pine Ridge. Others come from as far as Germany and the Czech Republic. In two weeks they travel across rivers and farms, cross a major interstate, and arrive at Wounded Knee on the anniversary of the massacre that took more than 300 lives in 1890.

The Future Generations Ride is an offshoot of the Big Foot Memorial Ride that ran from 1986 to 1990. The original ride started on the 22nd of December and traced the route taken by Big Foot (leader of the Miniconjou Lakota from the Cheyenne River reservation) and his people, as they were chased by the 7th Calvary, from their camp near Bridger to where they were surrounded and killed near Wounded Knee Creek. Today the ride starts at Sitting Bull Camp, near Bull Head, to mark the anniversary of Sitting Bull’s death, and follows the route taken by some of his followers to join Big Foot. The ride then continues the rest of the way along Big Foot’s trail.

The sense of accomplishment and comradery that is nurtured by the ride goes a long way toward healing the pain of living in lands occupied for generations. With poverty rates of over fifty percent and unemployment rates over seventy, these are consistently the very poorest communities in the US. This is a place that gives people little reason for hope and the ride is a fight against that.

In contrast to the dominant, disheartening imagery coming from the reservation, this work concentrates on the Lakota’s efforts toward self-empowerment. While the ride is in many ways in homage to Sitting Bull, Big Foot, and those who lost their lives at Wounded Knee, this ride is also meant to foster leadership qualities in the youth. Along the way, the riders experience some of what their ancestors endured by embodying an intellectual, spiritual, and physical remembrance. Braving the cold—down to –20°F—these kids, some of them barely into puberty, ride as many as 35 miles in a day.

These photographs chronicle the 2004 ride from start to finish. The work focuses as much on the ride, its landscape and hardship, as it does the individuals involved. Taken from both horseback and support vehicles, the images offer a unique perspective and an intimate view. Included in the essay are images of the ride, in both cross-country and urban settings, lunch and dinner breaks, sleeping arrangements, portraits of riders with their horses, and a map showing the route.

Ken Marchionno