For six years now, people on South Dakota’s Indian reservation have organized a trail ride and other events to commemorate Thin Milk, a Brule warrior who, according to oral tradition, took part in the ghost dances held at the nearby Strong Hold.
The story is recounted here in today’s Rapid City Journal, which tells us that Thin Milk was shot while raiding a nearby ranch, surprised by the sudden return of the rancher’s hired help. The ranch hands chased the band of Brules, but Thin Milk’s horse fell under fire. His friends turned around in a barrage of bullets to rescue their friend. They then rushed into a canyon but had to leave the seriously wounded friend behind with a campfire, then fled to elude the hired hands. Upon their return the next day, the man had died. They buried him in a shallow grave and left.
Decades years later, John Swallow Sr., found Thin Milk’s skull of while herding cattle. Swallow and two relatives Victor Swallow and the Rev. Robert Two Bulls, decided to hold a memorial for Thin Milk.
“It’s a way to honor his life. He wasn’t a chief, but he died in a pretty bad way,” says Swallow’s grandson, Dan.
This weekend’s privately organized ride involved dozens of riders traveling through some of the most impressive scenery of the Badlands before reaching Thin Milk’s gravesite, where organizers will lead a prayer ceremony, says Dan Swallow. Spectators could watch the equestrians ride into the canyon from the rim of the canyon wall.
A feast was to follow the ceremony.
Riders are allowed to eat first, Swallow says. “Then, it’s a free-for-all.”