The other piece of exciting news that came out of the last few weeks: Photographer Matt Normann joined the Annual Chief Big Foot Ride to Wounded Knee in late December. He joined the riders right after Christmas and continued to the finish line on the Pine Ridge reservation.
I was extremely fortunate to be welcomed for the final two days of the ride, which began on December 14 on the Standing Rock reservation,” Normann said.
“The facts of the 1890 Wounded Knee massacre are straightforward,” he continued. “What you cannot get from reading those facts, however, is the living history that unfolds each year with this ride. It isn’t so much a journey of distance as it is a journey of the spirit."
Normann said he quickly realized the toll a ride like this places on the body, although he is an experienced horseman. “The weather, terrain, speed and distance were compounded by the challenge of trying to photograph with a 5-pound professional camera in one hand and the reins in the other,” he recalled with a laugh. “Then came the bigger challenge: trying to not simply document the trip, but to tell the larger story in a handful of images.”
Throughout the ride, Normann said he experienced three important things. The first was the spirit of community, of a deeper connection forged between people on a united quest. The second was respect — during the ceremonies for the different legs of the journey, and in the way each rider cared for his or her horse. And the third can best be said the Lakota way: mitakuye oyasin. We are all relatives.
“I began the ride thinking it would be a journey over land and distance, with the reward coming at the conclusion at Wounded Knee,” Normann reflected. “Instead, I gained an understanding that it is within the journey itself, within the process itself, that the true reward is found. The rolling South Dakota prairie became the canvas for a Jackson Pollock masterpiece, with colorful splashes of kinship, stewardship, respect, hard work, determination, tradition, connection, humility and a strong sense of place and of self.
“I’m deeply grateful to Bryce Little Thunder and Carl Buffalo for helping me, and for sharing the experience of the ride with me,” he concluded. “I’ll carry that experience with me for the rest of my life.”