22-day journey helps riders share culture with community
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.