Hiking to Great Cultural Connections

As part of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Rosebud’s ongoing commitment to include cultural awareness and a stronger understanding of traditional Lakota values in their programming, their Hiking Club recently took part in the annual Welcome Back the Thunders ceremony in the sacred Black Hills of South Dakota – the Heart of Mother Earth. Welcome Back the Thunders is an ancient celestial ceremony which takes place each year during the Spring Equinox.

The Hiking Club meets and hikes regularly, but for this particular event a select group of eight elementary school aged Club members, who are also part of the OJP mentoring program at the Club, were invited to take part in the seven mile hike up to Hinhan Kaga Paha, the tallest mountain in South Dakota. “Hinhan Kaga” is the traditional Lakota name for the mountain peak, and “Making of Owls” is the English translation.

Taylor Schad, the Club’s AmeriCorps VISTA member, and Dion Reynolds, Club Board Member, worked with the surrounding community to plan the trip. The neighboring Boys & Girls Clubs of the Black Hills in Hill City, SD provided their gym for the group’s sleepover the night before the hike. The group woke the next morning to snow on the mountain top!

After an opening ceremony of drumming, songs, and prayers which included over 600 members of the community, the group hiked to the peak. For some Club members, it was their first time seeing sacred lands of The People outside of their local area.

Club member Mindi remarked afterwards, "I liked the drumming and the ceremony. The Black Hills are really pretty and I want to go back."

After returning to the base of the mountain everyone shared a meal. Club members enjoyed the time spent with Elders, expanding their understanding of their culture and learning firsthand the Lakota names for things they encountered.