The Impressive Journey To The Lakota Sioux - Part 3

As the winner of the Tatonka Photo Contest 2016, we invited Christoph H. to participate in a charity journey to the Lakota Sioux in South Dakota. On day nine, the journey continues into the Badlands.

Have you missed the previous reports on his journey? Please read here part 1 (day 1 to 3) and part 2 (day 4 to 8).

Day 9: Dust, Art and impressive cloud formations

Our ninth day starts very early, but nobody in our group really minds. There are exciting things waiting for us today: The annual Buffalo Round is taking place today and we don’t want to be late. Several thousand visitors watch as cowboys drive wild bison through Custer State Park. The herd is at least 1000 animals strong and raises a huge cloud of dust while stomping across the ridge. It’s an amazing experience.

TATONKA Photo Contest - buffalo round up in South Dakota

Our next goal is Rapid City, where the majority of our travel group visits the Prairie Edge. I, however, organize myself a decent cup of coffee and start roaming the streets. Accidentally, I discover a public art project called ‘Art Alley’, where the local art scene turned the walls of a back alley into a living homage to free speech.

After our short stop, we continue to Arrow Camp in Wall where we erect our tents in next to no time – the Badlands are waiting for us. As we arrive, the sun is about to set and we take in the cloud formations and the indescribable landscape. We return to the camp in darkness, where we spend the night in our tents.

Day 10: ‘Bury my Heart At Wounded Knee’

In the setting sun of the day before, the dimensions of the bizarre clay and rock formations of Badlands National Park could only be guessed. After we put our tents back into the minivans, we return to take a closer look. Our first stop is Big Foot Pass, the steep ridge that the entourage around chief Big Foot had to take on December 24th, 1890 to escape the troops of the United States army.

TATONKA Photo Contest - Big Foot Pass

Then, it’s time for us to explore this surreal landscape on our own. We choose a hike along the Castle Trail. After our return, we pay a visit to Wounded Knee, the historical place where the end of the Indian Wars was sealed in such a tragic way.

Our final destination for today is the already familiar campground at the Pine Ridge Reservation. We spend the night in tepees with the smoke hole open – before we drift off to sleep, we admire the beautiful night sky from our sleeping bags.

Day 11: Archery and traditional sweating

Today, we pay Richard Giago a visit at home. With great attention to detail, he introduces us to his passion, bow making. From historical traditions to all the tricks during the making process, he leaves nothing out. Afterwards, he shows us his self-made bows and arrows. His attention to detail is absolutely stunning. He even gives us a class in traditional archery.

TATONKA Photo Contest - a class in traditional archery.TATONKA Photo Contest - a class in traditional archery.

We make a short stop at the local cemetery to learn more about the history of chief Red Cloud before we arrive at our next destination. Tama invited us to a traditional sweat lodge ceremony.

We arrive at the sweat lodge at dusk. Tama I’atala is already there, together with the master of ceremony Roger White Eyes and his wife. Matt and Christina, both working at Lakota Immersion Childcare, will join us later.

The sweat lodge is already sealed with blankets. Only the entrance is open and the stones for the ceremony already lie in the fireplace. Roger explains all traditions and interpretations related to this ceremony and after a prayer, first the women, then the men enter the sweat lodge. Matt and Tama shovel the glowing stones one after another into the pit of the sweat lodge. Roger sprinkles them with herbs and speaks his prayers while doing so. The heat of the stones, together with the relaxing scent of the herbs, creates a comforting sensation.

The sweat lodge is now completely sealed and followed by a ceremony split up in four parts. Prayers, chants and countless infusions find their conclusion with the handover of the Chanupa. This is by far my favorite cultural experience of the entire trip.

Day 12: Almost goodbye

In the morning, Richard visits us at our camp and we finish our bead embroideries. He also shows us how he processes porcupine quills. After lunch, we visit Matt and the children of the Lakota Immersion Childcare a second time. We have another insight into their everyday life and get the opportunity to talk to the staff about the program. We spend our last evening in a cozy atmosphere with our hosts at our campsite.

TATONKA Photo Contest -  last evening in a cozy atmosphere with our hosts at our campsite.

Day 13: The circle is complete

We break down our tepees and tents for the last time, store our luggage in the minivans and say our goodbyes to our hosts. Our long journey home starts, but not before we pay Larry Belitz another short visit where he shows us traditional jewelry of Crazy Horse. And because he is Larry, he provides us with a wealth of detailed information and stories.

After several hours of solid driving, we are back in Denver, at the same motel our trip started two weeks ago. During a tasty dinner, we pass our journey in review and enjoy each other’s company one last time.

With the check-in of my Yukon 60 trekking backpack, the circle is now complete. I bid farewell to my fellow travel mates which have really grown to me by now. My Yukon 60 was a very flexible and faithful travel companion – when I look at it while writing this travel report, I sense that we both are almost ready for the next adventure.


All the best,



Travel period: 09/22-10/06-2016