22-day jour­ney helps rid­ers share cul­ture with com­mu­nity

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Shan­non M. Hoff­man

A group of horse­back rid­ers, in­clud­ing sev­eral Lakota from the Pine Ridge Reser­va­tion in South Dakota, rode through Love­land on Wed­nes­day, the fifth day of their 22-day jour­ney through North­ern Col­orado, Wy­oming, Ne­braska and South Dakota.

The group of about 10 rid­ers started in Golden on Satur­day and will ride ev­ery day un­til Aug. 12, when they reach the reser­va­tion.

“These rides are part of the Lakota cul­ture ... it’s mixed, build­ing homes on the reser­va­tion and shar­ing the Lakota cul­ture,” said Dave Ven­timiglia, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of The Tipi Rais­ers, a non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion based on the reser­va­tion. “We do what we can to elim­i­nate some of the con­di­tions of poverty up there; we also try to share the Lakota cul­ture.”

The rid­ers have at­tracted at­ten­tion from res­i­dents who have Amer­i­can In­dian roots but who haven’t been cul­tur­ally con­nected. Res­i­dents such as Bri­ana Iron­wing of North­ern Col­orado.

“My dad called me and was like, ‘Bri! This is where they are,’ and I was like, ‘Oh, my God we have to go see them,’” said Iron­wing. “It was cool be­cause we’re Sioux, we’re Oglála.”

Sierra Ven­timiglia, 15, daugh­ter of Dave Ven­timiglia, has been a rider for each of the three years the ride has oc­curred. This year, she’s rid­ing with her leased horse, Pal.

“We build such strong re­la­tion­ships with each other and with our horses, too,” said Sierra Ven­timiglia. “There’s just some­thing spe­cial about not hav­ing Star­bucks or Tar­get to lean on and hav­ing each other in­stead.”

Sierra Ven­timiglia’s pur­pose for the ride stems from con­nec­tions with the com­mu­nity and the ex­pe­ri­ences they share to­gether dur­ing the ride.

“I hope we keep meet­ing new peo­ple and peo­ple keep stop­ping by,” she said. “Every­one has their own gifts that they of­fer to the ride and we’ve made such amaz­ing con­nec­tions with each other al­ready.

“We hop in the river, we play, we eat din­ner to­gether and my hopes for the next (17) days is just that more con­nec­tions are made with strangers who find out about the ride and who want to help and maybe who need some help them­selves too,” she added.

Thomas Belt, 10, is away from his home on the reser­va­tion for the first time and has had at least one new ex­pe­ri­ence.

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