Check our Journal  for reports and reflections from past retreats.

Sending Our Voices In Prayer For Mother Earth

~ZPI Native American Plunge 2020~

Dates: Monday, June 22nd through Friday June 26th, 2020

Location: We have begun to transition this retreat onto a virtual platform.

More updates will be provided soon

“I was told by my father, Claude A. Iron Hawk, that my great-great-grandfather Iron Hawk, who fought in the battle of the Greasy Grass, told his grandfather that after the victory that day the Lakota leaders involved in battle were hunted down one by one and assassinated., after which there began a steady attack on our culture, customs, language and a thievery of our lands took place, which continues to this day.

Our very young children were taken by force and taught the American western education system, which is still being taught to them to this day. Through this education system our Lakota language was eradicated to the point that today there are less than 20% of fluent Lakota speakers in our Native communities. Alcohol was also introduced during this period of time, which has also had negative effects on all facets of our lives as Lakota people.

Today, we have begun to revive our language, customs and culture by establishing a Lakota Immersion language school for children kindergarten age through second grade. Lessons include information on our Indigenous history, lessons on our culture and customs and teaching Lakota language. We continue to struggle as Lakota oyate (people), but we are glad to still live in our homelands and some of us still have our culture, customs and language. Hau, hecetu yelo! (Yes, that’s the way it is!)”

-Toka Akansa (aka Manny Iron Hawk)


The 2020 Native American retreat, the sixth of its kind organized by Zen Peacemakers, is now open for registration.

The retreat will cover five days in June and consist of bearing witness as well as prayer for the earth and all its inhabitants.

Ahead of us, for our children and our grandchildren, lie the severe consequences of global warming. Most scientists believe that civilization as we know it will change, directly affecting hundreds of millions of people, indirectly affecting everyone and everything on our planet.

At the center of most indigenous cultures, and the Lakota culture specifically, lies our relationship with Mother Earth and all beings, all our relations. Safeguarding Lakota language and culture is a priority not just for the Lakota people, but for all of us, in our efforts to restore and heal our relationship with the earth.

We will spend three days of the retreat at the Bighorn Medicine Wheel in the Bighorn Mountains in northern Wyoming. The Medicine Wheel, on top of Medicine Mountain, is ancient. Scientists have long studied the Medicine Wheel for its astronomical implications, but this 80’ diameter Wheel serves mostly as a place of pilgrimage and prayer.

At 9,600 feet altitude, the Medicine Wheel is completely in the open and can be cold and windy even in summer. There is a climb to the Wheel, though we hope to have a few cars drive up close to it. After orientation, we will spend close to three days at the Medicine Wheel to bear witness to our disconnection from the earth and its flora and fauna, and pray for the awakening of all people and all cultures, and the healing of the earth, humanity, and all creations.

After our days at the Bighorn Medicine Wheel, we will proceed to the Busby Pow Wow Grounds to witness the Victory Ride. The annual Victory Ride in the month of June is significant to the battle of the Greasy Grass (aka: Little Big Horn Battle), because it memorializes the fighting for a way of life that all Plains tribes once lived. This ride has been going on for over ten years now. The horseback riders from South Dakota, North Dakota, Wyoming and Montana ride from their respective areas to a predetermined location in Busby, Montana. They gather there and ride into the battlefield at the Little Big Horn National Park located close to Crow Agency. 

Our final day will be in reflection and community at the Rosebud Battlefield.

Please join us, June 22nd to 26th for this heartfelt witnessing retreat.


When your shadow is close to your body, it’s time to pray.  This is what Violet Catches’ grandmother told her, referring to noontime when the sun is overhead. An important part of the pilgrimage is listening to the Lakota oral tradition of guidance, prayer, and ancestral stories, passed down from generation to generation, and told to us by our Native American leaders. This is a great and wonderful gift.

Manny, Renee, and Violet will tell us of the challenges they face daily as they work to teach the Lakota language, hold on to their story-telling tradition, and form circles to support Lakota men and women in the fierce work of recovery from inter-generational trauma, isolation, and despair.

Mitakuye Oyasin — all my relations — is an essential Lakota understanding, and Zen Peacemakers is honored to continue deepening our relationship with the Lakota.  Though formal programs began recently, they’re the fruit of an 18-year relationship between Lakota individuals and Zen Peacemaker members.

Since 2015, Zen Peacemakers have conducted programs annually in collaboration with the Lakota community in South Dakota. These programs are different every year, according to the needs of our hosts and our participants: they’ve manifested as the major 180-participant Black Hills Bearing Witness retreat in 2015, the intimate members-led Plunge in 2016 on Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Reservation (CRST), and the dual programs in 2017 of a Week of Service on CRST and the Bearing Witness Plunge in Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota.

Each consecutive year builds on the relationships we develop with our Lakota hosts. And, our program participants have individually continued their relationships with the Lakota through communications and actions, such as a nation-wide clothes drive, social-justice collaborations, their presence at Standing Rock camp in Winter 2016, a members-led Bearing Witness retreat in Minnesota, building a year-round hot-house in Pine-Ridge, and in many other forms.  Some of these stories are told in our online Journal.


This year’s pilgrimage will focus on sacred and historical sites at Bighorn Mountains in Northern Wyoming / Southern Montana.

Our Lakota friends, with their deep reserves of humility, faith, and endurance, will show the way. We will meet them with deep listening, respect, and the intention to plant new seeds of caring, trust, and wellbeing for all our relations.



Our Leaders

Manny Claude Iron Hawk is an Ikce Wicasa or a common man of the Oglala and Howozu within the Oceti Sakowin, the Seven Council Fires of the Dakota/Lakota/Nakota nation. My Great-Great-Great-Grandfather “Chetan Maza”, Iron Hawk, fought for the Lakota way of life at the Battle of the Little Big Horn, June 25, 1876. His immediate family members include “Hasani” (meaning partner), Renee Fasthorse-Iron Hawk, and his eight children. He has a Master’s Degree from Sinte Gleska University, graduating in August of 2013. Presently, Manny is a Science teacher for the Junior High School at Takini School. I serves on the Missouri Breaks Community Advisory Group, Circle of Hope Curriculum Board, All Nation Healing Center Board and serves as a Frazier Memorial Church member. My inspirations include being an Ikce Wicasa by following his Lakota values, Natural laws, Custom laws, and Spiritual laws. Read Manny’s complete bio.

Violet Catches describes herself in this way: “I was nurtured by my maternal grandmother who was a great teacher of the Lakota way of life.  She left us when I was ten. Then I lived with my mother, an aunt, other people including relatives. I was lucky to have been around speakers of our language and culture. I attended many schools including missionary school, boarding schools, and public schools. I managed to get a GED in 1970, then experienced life’s ways. I became homeless and a drunk. My father sent for me to come live with him in Chicago. There my life changed as my very traditional non-drinking mother was killed by a drunk driver. That sobered me up. I got my undergrad degree in 1986 and a master’s in 1996. I wrote a book which is pretty dormant. That’s all I want to share for now.”

Renee L. Fasthorse-Iron Hawk (Tokahe Hi Hunni Win, Arrives First Woman). An enrolled member of the Wakpa Waste (Good River) Cheyenne River Lakota Tribe, Renee has worked in different capacities in behavioral health, conducting research and active in disease prevention and finishing her graduate work in Lakota Management and Leadership. She serves on the boards of Lakhota Advocates Okolakichiye (Society), Three Rivers Mental Health Board, Lakhota Circles of Hope, Heartbeat at Wounded Knee Survivor Descendants Okolakichiye (Society), and the Lakhota Languages Teachers Okolakichiye (Society). She lives with her mihingna (spouse) Manny Iron Horse, Oglala, and 6 adult children. Read Renee’s complete bio.

Co-organizers Roshi Eve Myonen Marko,  Roshi Grover Genro Gauntt, Roshi Michel Engu Dobbs, Geoff  ShĹŤun O’Keeffe and Rami Efal will attend and help lead the event.

Roshi Eve Myonen Marko is a writer of fiction and nonfiction, head teacher at the Green River Zen Center in Massachusetts, and a Founding Teacher of the Zen Peacemaker Order. To read more about Eve click here.

Roshi Grover Genro Gauntt is a successor of Roshi Bernie Glassman, a founding teacher of the ZPO, a long time spirit holder in the Auschwitz-Birkenau Bearing Witness Retreat and leads street retreats worldwide. To read more about Genro click here.

Roshi Michel Engu Dobbs is a Zen priest and Dharma heir of Peter Muryo Matthiessen-roshi and a co-teacher at Ocean Zendo in Bridgehampton New York, an affiliate of Zen Peacemakers International. To read more about Engu click here.

Geoff  ShĹŤun O’Keeffe is the Executive Director of Zen Peacemakers International & is a student of Gerry Shishin Wick Roshi, Paul Gyodo Agostinelli, Sensei and Roshi Ilia Perez of Great Mountain Zen Center and Eon Zen Center, near Boulder Colorado. To read more about Geoff click here.

Rami Avraham Mukyu Efal is a dharma holder in the Zen Peacemakers lineage and Roshi Bernie Glassman last student. He is the former Executive Director of Zen Peacemakers International. To read more about Rami click here.


Registration for the 2020 retreat is now open.
Check out our Journal  for past years reports and reflections from the retreat.


Please note: 

A) The nature of the program is flexible and at times may be, or seem, unpredictable. Please come with openness to last-minute changes in itinerary and other parts of the program.

B) Much of the trauma felt on the reservation today is expressed through various forms of addiction. Please do not bring with you any alcohol or drugs, and do not plan on consuming them during the retreat. Please commit to abstain from these or risk being asked to leave the event by the retreat staff.

$850 fee covers direct costs of retreat such as honorariums, travel, meals and accommodations for Lakhota leaders; travel for ZP organizers, ads, outreach and camping ground fees for all attendees who choose to camp (recommended.) An additional donation of $250 will contribute to ongoing yearlong expenses such as administration, planning & scouting costs etc.

Note: Fee does not include individual participants’ travel, meals, hotel lodging (tenting is included in fee during the event), or transportation.

Cancellation policy – Cancellation is possible until June 05, 2020 and we will refund your full amount.  After this, refunds will not be possible because expenses will have already accrued. Thank you for understanding.

Other Preparations:

Please bring with you:

  • Full camping gear
  • Clothes for the week including high walking boots
  • Cash for daily food
  • Sun-gear: sunscreen, hats
  • Gifts to our Lakota hosts – encouraged
  • Recommended – Cell phone: We will be using Whatsapp to share information and coordinate the caravan along the retreat.

What Not to Bring

Much of the trauma felt on the reservation today is expressed through various forms of addiction. Please do not bring with you any alcohol or drugs, and do not plan on consuming them during the retreat. Please commit to abstain from these or risk being asked to leave the event by the retreat staff.

Camping and tenting are most encouraged. Campground fees included in the program fee.

You may choose to stay at a hotel, but you will need to make your own reservations. Hotel costs are not included in program fee. Below are hotel options in the area where we will stay each night.

American Carnage: Wounded Knee, 1890, by Jerome A. Greene

All the Real Indians Died Off, by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz and Dina Gilio-Whitaker

An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States, by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

Black Elk Speaks, By John Gneisenau Neihardt

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, By Dee Brown

God’s Red Son, by Louis Warren

Good Friday on the Rez, by David Hugh Bunnell

“I Am a Man”: Chief Standing Bear’s Journey for Justice, by Joe Starita

In the Spirit of Crazy Horse, by Peter Matthiessen

Lakota Star Knowledge, by Ronald Goodman

Native American Postcolonial Psychology, by Eduardo Duran and Bonnie Duran

Neither Wolf Nor Dog, by Kent Nerbern (Also a Movie Recently Released)

Oceti Wakan: Sacred Fireplace, by Pete Catches Sr

Prison Writings, by Leonard Peltier

Quiet Until the Thaw, by Alexandra Fuller

Standing in the Light, by Severt Young Bear

The Journey of Crazy Horse: A Lakota History, by Joseph Marshall III

The Killing of Crazy Horse, by Thomas Power

Xeyata: Up on the Mountain, by Violet H. Catches

The Land Along The River: The Ongoing Saga of the Sioux Nation Land Claim, 1851-2012, by Peter Capossela

The Ghost Dance Religion and Wounded Knee, by James Mooney