What does a new ski lodge in Breckenridge, Colorado, the Lakota tribe from Pine Ridge, South Dakota, and F.M. Light & Sons have in common? A historic 400-mile ride on horseback from a Colorado resort to a South Dakota reservation, that's what!
It all started when the owners of the ski patrol lodge in Breckenridge decided that they didn’t want to simply destroy their old building after replacing it with a new one. So they offered to give it to The Tipi Raisers, an organization working with the Lakota tribe. All The Tipi Raisers had to do was take the old building away.
As you might guess, disassembling an old ski lodge and reassembling it several hundred miles away isn’t an easy undertaking, or a cheap one.
At the same time, when someone gives you a building free of charge, you do your best to accept the gift. Consequently, representatives from Tipi Raisers and the Lakota tribe arrived in Breckenridge and began to methodically deconstruct the lodge, a process which they managed in just over a week. The parts were then loaded up on trucks and sent to South Dakota.
However, members of the tribe remained in Colorado to complete an important part of their mission: A mission to ride on horseback all the way from Breckenridge back to the Pine Ridge Reservation, symbolically making the same sojourn as the building, while raising awareness and support along the way. In preparation for this adventure, The Tipi Raisers contacted F.M. Light & Sons to see if we would be willing to outfit some of their riders on their journey.
Now, we at F.M. Light & Sons have been outfittin' the west for over 100 years. And what is more western than a historic horseback ride that lasts for hundreds of miles over mountain and plain, through pelting sunlight and the Fall's first snow, that takes over several weeks to complete?
The riders began their trek on September 19th and already their ride has made an impact. The riders have stopped at several schools to educated children about the Lakota people, and likewise the riders have been invited into people’s homes to stay the night, churches have donated their property for camping, equestrian centers have offered their services for the horses, and a local farrier even re-shoed their lead horse – Dakotah – when he threw all four of his shoes between Georgetown and Idaho Springs.
The word “Lakota” means “allies.” And that is what the ride is all about, making allies.
Making allies, meeting friends, and showing hospitality to complete strangers. Being neighbors, in short. That friendliness and willfulness to take part in the lives of others, however brief the encounter might be, is what makes the West unique. And strong.
The riders still have a long road to travel before they reach Pine Ridge. But the journey isn’t about the distance traveled or even the destination. It’s about the relationships that are built along the way. It’s about the Lakota making allies in this wide world.
When they do reach Pine Ridge, the riders hope to have raised enough awareness and consequent support to fund rebuilding the ski lodge. The Tipi Raiser’s plan is to reconfigure the building as a Retreat Center that will provide recreational access to both the Black Hills and Pine Ridge Reservations. Currently, the Pine Ridge community suffers from one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation – nearly 80% – and the Center will not only provide jobs while being rebuilt, but also create a sustainable source of employment for Pine Ridge natives as it hosts visitors who desire to enjoy the area’s recreational opportunities and Lakota culture.
Hosting visitors may be in the distant future, but you can join The Tipi Raisers right now in their journey. In fact, they invite anyone to join them anywhere on their route and provide riding lessons, food, and equipment, whether you ride just a mile or join them for the whole adventure.
If you are interested in riding with them, or want to know more about The Tipi Raisers organization, please visit their website.