Zen Peacemakers Complete Bearing Witness in Cheyenne River Indian Reservation, South Dakota USA


This week twenty-four Zen Peacemakers arrived at South Dakota to commence the Bearing Witness in Cheyenne River Reservation plunge, with participants from Turtle Island (USA), Poland, Belgium, Switzerland, Palestine and Myanmar. This plunge, as actions inspired by the Zen Peacemakers’ Three Tenets are often called, was coordinated and organized by members of the ZPO, and led by Grover Genro Gauntt and Tiokasin Ghosthorse who was born in Cheyenne River Reservation, home of the Cheyenne River Lakota Nation. This effort was initiated following the momentum of the Zen Peacemakers 2015 Native American Bearing Witness retreat in the Black Hills.

Before setting out, they picnicked in Rapid City with Charmaine White Face, Tuffy Sierra, Alice Sierra, Chas Jewett and Grover Genro Gauntt, some of whom were among the leaders of the retreat last year. They welcomed the Zen Peacemakers back, reviewed the expressions of trauma and beauty they may expect to see on the reservation and Tiokasin Ghosthorse advised: “As you walk about the land, be silent, let the land get to know YOU.”


During the next five days, the group visited Bridger village, refuge of survivors of the 1890 Wounded Knee massacre, and met descendants Toni and Byron Buffalo to hear about the challenges of their community; They camped at and mingled with the volunteers and Indian visitors at Simply Smiles Inc. Community Center at La Plant; Dipped in and cleaned around the Missouri River (Tiokasin: “the Lakota word for water is Mni — ‘that which carries feelings between you and I'”); The group met with Julie Garreau, executive director of Cheyenne River Youth Project and heard about Graffiti Jams art events and community efforts to address teen suicides and teen empowerment; They met with Keren Sussman at the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs & Burros ISPMB, refuge of 550 wild mustangs, and learned about the animals’ intricate family dynamics and the challenges of contact with humans; They withstood a fierce hailstorm and bore witness to breathtaking ever-changing sky.

The group joined Simply Smiles Inc. construction crew and helped raise two brand new houses on the grassy mounds of La Plant, South Dakota. Simply Smiles puts up two houses per summer for local reservation residents.

The event concluded with paying respect and listening to Arvol Looking Horse, 19th Generation Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe who welcomed them at his home.

The Zen Peacemakers Inc. supports these members-led plunges and is grateful to Grover Gauntt and Tiokasin Ghosthorse for their offering and for the Lakota people and land of Cheyenne River reservation for their hospitality and generosity.


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  1. francine

    May The Great Spirit bless you all

    • annie

      Thank you Francine, it was an extraordinary experience, filled with beauty, sadness, hard work, natural healing of water by swimming and rain filled skies.

  2. Suzan Nolan

    Looks like a very intimate event with the Lakota people and the land. Blessings on these efforts.

  3. Blessings upon both your houses, what a delicious meeting of spiritual paths. Who can i contact to learn more of the problem of teen suicide among the Lakota, particularly among the Hunkpapa band or on Standing Rock Reseration? I also know that my dear brother, Ray Rudolph, who is a Bahai who served on Lower Brule joins me in praising this effort.

    • For gathering together in this strong time, bless you and as one who could not join you, thank you for sharing memories and reflections.

      Ara Fitzgerald

  4. Marushka

    From the connections with the beautiful people we met who are doing so much for their fellow tribesmen to the glorious spirit of the wild stallions that came to say hello to us, to the amazing gorgeous landscape and mother earth that stood out for me. I was moved on more than one occasion to go around the Missouri River and pick up all the trash that was thoughtlessly tossed on the great mother. One thing I learned from the Lakota, Tiokasin, and Harriet Brings a Lakota teacher and dear friend, is that we really need to be stewards of the land. It is not just the oneness of the people that is important but of the earth, of the animals, and the plants and trees. Thank you for this experience Genro, Tiokasin, Eve. and Rami.

  5. Laura Rivers

    Outstanding! So very happy and feelings of many blessings being offered and given to our dear family of the Lakota Nation in LaPlant S.D.
    I was unable to attend but hope in the future that i may be able to, my wishes are to assist the Lakota with their journey back to their traditional culture and a rewarding future fir all! And especially the young and growing children of this beautiful Nation!

    Thank you all for being there for them!!


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