The 2018 retreat is underway. Check our Journal in the coming weeks for reports and reflections from the retreat.



The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places.
-Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms


Please join us on July 15-19, 2018, for a Zen Peacemaker retreat bearing witness to the history of relations between the First Nations and European Americans. This will be a pilgrimage with Manny and Renee Iron Hawk and Violet Catches to some of the broken places; sites of conflict, cruelty, and tragedy, in Lakota history.

This is not past history. Trauma continues for the Lakota, generation after generation, finding expression in grinding poverty, substance and alcohol abuse, high suicide rates, and sky-high unemployment. It also challenges white Americans to question the voracious grasping that has characterized their settling of this country, Turtle Island, at the expense of America’s indigenous people and of the earth we share.

But this pilgrimage is also dedicated to healing trauma, for the places that were broken are the places where we can be strongest.

In Japanese Kintsugi, cracks in pottery are repaired using lacquer made of gold and silver, leaving precious scars that become sources of pride, strength, and beauty. When we bear witness to what is broken and shattered, we begin to see how the pieces can come together again, using the cracks themselves for light, prayer, and inspiration.

Listening deeply to Lakota elders as they tell their stories and coming to grips with our responsibility as individuals and as a society, we bring forth the intention to listen, learn, and heal with kindness the earth and all its people, especially those we’ve harmed in the past.



Beginning on Sunday with introductions and ceremony at Sioux San, a hospital in Rapid City that was once a boarding school and tubercular clinic for Native Americans, we will travel west into the Black Hills, driving through Hot Springs with stops for food, sharing, stories, and more ceremony.

We will spend Monday at Fort Laramie, the frontier army post which hosted the 1868 conference where the historic Fort Laramie Treaty was written, purporting to make peace between the whites and the Lakota tribes, establishing a Great Sioux Reservation which included the Black Hills. This treaty, of course, was broken almost immediately by white settlers following the Gold Rush.


On Tuesday we will travel to Fort Robinson in northwest Nebraska, where the great warrior Crazy Horse surrendered with his men and was then killed. In Violet Catches’ words: He was our hero back then. He fought for us. In spirit he is still fighting for us. Visionary leader and a mythic figure to this very day, Crazy Horse was as dedicated to preserving the Lakota traditions and way of life as he was fearless in battle. The details of his wounding and death are endlessly debated to this very day.

On Wednesday we will travel back across the southern Black Hills to Crazy Horse Camp, where Crazy Horse’s family took his body after his murder. This is also the route of the annual Crazy Horse Ride and includes Sundance grounds and the grove where the great warrior’s body was placed on a burial scaffold.

On Thursday we will travel through White Clay to Wounded Knee. While we will spend some time in the main memorial site where only the men are buried, ceremony, teachings, and bearing witness will take place on the actual killing field below, across the road and Wounded Knee Creek to the south of the highway.

At the end of the day we will return to Rapid City.



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.

This year’s pilgrimage will focus on sacred and historical sites in the southern Black Hills, which belong to the Lakota by treaty. It is the first of a three-year pilgrimage that will circle clockwise around the Black Hills, bringing us on the ground where events took place that we must never forget.

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.

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.

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.”

Roshi Grover Genro Gauntt has lived and worked for long periods at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation for close to 20 years. Head Teacher of the Hudson River Zen Center, he has also led street retreats in various countries all over the world. He has served as Spiritholder in bearing witness retreats for many years, including at Auschwitz-Birkenau and the large 2015 Retreat in the Black Hills.

Co-organizers Eve Marko, Michel Engu Dobbs and Rami Efal will attend and help lead the event.


Registration for the 2018 retreat is closed.
Check our Journal in the coming weeks for 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.


REGISTER HEREWatch a Comprehensive Question and Answer Video

$700 fee covers: Planning costs; honorariums, travel, meals and accommodations for hosts; travel for ZP organizers; administration, ads and outreach; tenting fees.

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

Cancelation policy – Cancellation is possible until June 29, 2018 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.

Each participant is responsible to either have their own vehicle or to find a car-share with other participants. Participant travel to South Dakota and transportation during the program is not covered by the retreat cost. Arrangement can be made on first day of program at the gathering point, or beforehand. If you’d like to secure a ride before the event, please post on the event page on the ZPI platform.

Starting Point

7/15/2018 10am
Sioux San Hospital, Rapid City South Dakota USA
3200 Canyon Lake Dr, Rapid City, SD 57702

End Point

7/19/2018 5pm
Wounded Knee Monument, Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota USA
Wounded Knee, SD 57794

We will return to Rapid City or our personal destinations by mid to late afternoon.

Camping and tenting are most encouraged. Campground fees included in 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:

Saturday 7/14 (night before the event), Thursday 7/19 (night after the event). Rapid City, South Dakota.
1. Holiday Inn, Rapid City.  (605) 348-4000
2. Hampton Inn, Rapid City. (605) 348-1911
3. Grand Gateway Hotel, Rapid City. (605) 342-1300
4. Residence Inn Rapid City.  (605) 791-9600
5. MainStay Suites. Rapid City.  (520) 433-4633
Sunday-Monday 7/15-16, Ft. Laramie. Guernsey, Wyoming. 
1. Bunkhouse Motel, Guernsey (15 mins to Ft Laramie). (307) 836-2356
2. Cobblestone Inn & Suite, Guernsey.  (307) 836-2325
3. Travelodge Guernsey,  (307) 392-2000
Tuesday-Wednesday 7/17-18, Ft. Robinson. Crawford, Nebraska.
1. Hilltop Motel, Crawford (10 minutes fr Fort Robinson). (308) 665-1144
2. Best Western, Chadron (30 minutes fr Fort Robinson).  (308) 432-3305
3. Bunkhouse Motel, Chadron.  (308) 432-5591
4. Blaine, Chadron. (308) 432-5568
5. Westerner Motel, Chadron.  (308) 432-5577
6. Prairie Wind Casino, Pine Ridge, SD. (15 mins fr meeting site. (605) 867-6300)

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

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

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.