Updated March 27, 2018
CHEYENNE RIVER RESERVATION, SOUTH DAKOTA, USA. In July 2016, 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 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 also 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. And they withstood a fierce hailstorm and bore witness to a breathtaking, ever-changing sky.
The group joined a Simply Smiles 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.
Zen Peacemakers International supports these members-led plunges. We are grateful to Grover Gauntt and Tiokasin Ghosthorse for their offering, and to the Lakota people and land of Cheyenne River reservation for their hospitality and generosity.