Chief Looking Horse to visit Spirit Lake Nation

Sue Kraft, Lifestyles Editor
Chief Arvol Looking Horse

The Spirit Lake Nation is preparing to welcome a very special guest.

Chief Arvol Looking Horse, Chief and Spiritual Leader of the Dakota, Lakota and Nakota people, will be the featured speaker at a special two-day event next week.

Every month Cankdeska Cikana Community College and the Wiconi Ohitika (Strong Life) Project host Day of Prayer for the residents of the Spirit Lake Nation.

According to Jackie Bernacchi, Wiconi Ohitika consultant, the day is used to pray against suicide and pray for spiritual health.

This month's Day of Prayer will be Tuesday, Sept. 14 and will include a community presentation by Looking Horse at 9 a.m. at the college. A community luncheon will follow at noon.

Later that day, Chief Looking Horse will visit Minnewaukan School and on Wednesday he will visit Warwick School in the morning and Four Winds that afternoon to speak with the students.

Chief Looking Horse was born on the Cheyenne River Reservation and was raised by his grandparents. At age 12 he was given the enormous responsibility of being named the “19th Generation Keeper of the White Buffalo Calf Pipe.”

Bernacchi said there are several versions of the story, but one she is most familiar with describes a white buffalo calf that was spotted by two Native American men. As the calf approached it transformed into a beautiful woman. One of the men showed respect and honor, while the other had less-than-noble intentions.

When the woman reached the men, the one with evil intentions died suddenly. She told the other that she would accompany him to the village and teach the people many things, including how to pray.

“People pray with the pipe,” Bernacchi said. “As the smoke rises, it rises to the creator.”

Bernacchi said when it was time for the White Buffalo Calf Woman to go, she gave the villagers her pipe.

“She said when you need to talk to the creator, use this pipe,” Bernacchi said.

As the woman left, she turned back into the white buffalo calf.

The pipe has been held sacred ever since.

Bernacchi said Chief Looking Horse is a world traveler, visiting South Africa and praying with Archbishop Desmond Tutu and visiting Iraq to pray for peace, as well as speaking at numerous locales within the United States.

The Chief has said his life evolves around his commitment to work toward religious freedom, cultural survival and revival. He is trying to secure a better future for today's youth.

Bernacchi said they are thrilled to have Chief Looking Horse visit the Spirit Lake Nation.

“I met him in Bismarck, at the Suicide Summit,” Bernacchi said. “I asked if he would come and he said 'yes.'”

She added, “He has a certain grace about him. He's very kind.”

Bernacchi said Chief Looking Horse has had suicide affect his family, so it is an issue he can relate to on a personal level.

Bernacchi said the visit from Chief Looking Horse is a “very big deal” and she is hoping for a huge turnout at the public event Tuesday morning.

“It's for everybody on the reservation and everybody off the reservation,” she said. “Just everyone should come.”