In 1862, in what is now Minnesota, the largest mass hanging in US history took place on December 26. The event was the result of federal policy and a newly formed state requiring the removal of the Dakota people from their lands. The event culminated in the mass hanging, after which the Dakota people where scattered across a region stretching from Saskatchewan to Nebraska.
On my first day we were confined to the community center where we had spent the night. The sub-zero temperatures and high winds were considered too challenging for the horses and the riders
On the morning of the second day the wind was vicious, howling across the Dakota plains and hammering into our bodies. Frigid and cold it hit like a ton of bricks and then disintegrated into thousands of tiny needles as it nibbled away at any exposed skin. The windchill put the temperature at just around -30F shortly after sunrise.
The riders had to make up for lost time of the day before. Instead of riding together, a relay was set-up, where two riders would gallop for a few miles, and then hand-off the Staff, which has to travel every inch of the 330 mile journey during the honor ride.
Galloping in twos at full speed the riders and their horses cut elegant and powerful figures in the early morning light. By mid-day, they had made-up the distance lost the previous day.
As the riders slowly came together towards the afternoon, you could feel the energy of the morning crescendo, with each additional member seemingly filling-in a piece of the orchestra that was culminating in the high point of the prayer. The horses and riders now moving lock-stop alternated between riding single file and galloping in a group through the plains of Minnesota. Bracing icy winds and brutal temperature, the energy was palatable, the staff unquestionably traveling at the head of the procession.
There where many moments that gave me the chills on this trip. But none compares to the moment when all the riders joined together to ride in unison again, lead by the head staff rider.