Dennis Yellow Thunder, Oglala Sioux:
Dennis was one of the Native guests of Honor at the Powwow & conference event, set in Ornans (Eastern France) in 2008 by the Swiss Association 4WINDS (http://www.4winds.info/#!__english).
Dennis was already quite connected with Europe, where he had been invited many times as a speaker as well as to perform his traditional dances. When we arrived, his French companion Emy did some of the translations to the group. I was glad that she shared that task, particularly at the Wounded Knee encounter, where the high level of emotions made it hard for me to concentrate and hold the camera smoothly.
Dennis has a strong family history that is part of Native American HISTORY: A Great-Great Grandson of Chief American Horse, he recovered with great pain from the violent murder of his uncle Raymond Yellow Thunder, in Gordon, Nebraska, when he was 13 years old. This shocking event ignited the Wounded Knee revolt led by AIM ( = American Indian Movement) in 1973.
Dennis is now working as Natural Resources Technician at the Oglala Sioux Tribe Natural Resources Regulatory Agency , while his daughter, Elisha Yellow Thunder, is a student in geology at the Oglala Lakota College. Like him she is also actively fighting against the proposed Uranium mining near the southwestern borders of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. She is currently featured in a documentary called: CRYING EARTH RISE by Suree Towfighnia.
Dennis Yellow Thunder, Oglala Sioux:
Meeting Suzy & Perry Mesteth, Oglala Sioux:
We had misunderstood the day and time of encounter with Dennis Yellow Thunder, and found ourselves alone and lost at the Gas station of Pine Ridge. What could have become a disastrous adventure in the first days of the trip lent to a very enlightening encounter with an Oglala Sioux couple, Suzy and Perry.
Some of us still regret strongly that after all they showed us, we did not stay more time, to share the evening and eat that traditional Timpsilla soup !!
But patience, we will come again Suzy & Perry !
Memories of the French visitors by Lloydell "Suzy" Mesteth:
"I met these wonderful people by chance…We seen them at the 4-way corner of our little town of Pine Ridge. We pulled in to talk to them to see if they needed help. Immediately Sylvie came up to us because she was the only one who could speak English. We talked a bit and found out they were looking for Dennis Yellow Thunder. We invited them to come to our house to wait.
When they got to our house we sat and visited about everything we could think of. We enlightened everyone one on what we knew of our culture and our experiences of growing up and living on the reservation and also share memories of family members who impacted our lives.
I shared my thoughts about my nephew Toby Ray Eagle Bull who was in a tragic accident and lost his life. I wanted everyone to know how wonderful of a person he was and how he was such a great athlete and how he loved skateboarding and how he always wanted a skate park here in our town. We as a family have accomplished that in his memory.
We now have the Wounded Knee Four Directions-Toby Eagle Bull memorial skate park and it is the largest skate park in South Dakota. We have a competition every August during our Oglala Nation Days. This is such a blessed event and I would love for Sylvie and anyone else that wants to, to come and be a part of this day. It is always the first Friday of August.
After we got acquainted with everyone, and FINALLY got in touch with Dennis the night turned out to be a fantastic time, and it was hard to see everyone leave. I am truly honored to be a part of this film and I am grateful for the kindness everyone showed us. I would love to continue my friendship that I have with everyone and I am proud to say that you are all my family from another land."
Suzy writes about the Toby Eagle Bull memorial skate park :
"My nephew Toby Ray Eagle Bull was an avid skateboarder. He loved this sport and back then skateboarding was kinda frowned upon. He and my son Kyle Mesteth went all over town to skate. They sometimes got in trouble by the choices of places that they skated. He always had a dream of having a skatepark here in Pine Ridge. When he came to his tragic death, the family was torn and hurt.
In the year 2009 I met up with a childhood friend Walt Pourier. We talked about Tobys "Dream" and it was like we were sent to each other because Walt designs skateboards and works with skateboarders (famous and professional). We put our ideas and dreams together and that is how we succeeded in making Tobys dream come true. We have an annual skateboarding event the first friday of August (during our annual Oglala Nation Days) in his memory and my family along with Wounded Knee skateboarding four directions-Jim Murphy(pro skater) and Walt Pourier-Stronghold Society get together and honor and remember Toby. We have many talented skateboarders here on our reservation and it is always a successful event.
During the construction of the skatepark, Jeff Ament of Pearl Jam band was one of the major contributers. It would be honorable if Sylvie and her friends can join us someday to celebrate, honor and remember Toby."
please read more about why the Toby Eagle Bull memorial skate park here:
in Skate Park Insider (Spring 2013) : A Skate Park for Native American Youth in Pine Ridge
in Native American Times (18 october 2011) : 'Skating saves lives’ theme for Pine Ridge skate-park
in Native Village Youth and Education news (December, 2011) : Pine Ridge skatepark a promise for the future
Non-profit association, based in the small village of SAVY, the group SAVY WESTERN travels not only in their Northeast French region of Picardie, but also throughout France, Belgium, and Germany.
Festivals, re-enactments, village fairs, Lakota songs and dances, Indian village reconstitution, military camps of 1860-1865, constitute the main activities of this small Association.
Alain Letellier, founder of SAVY WESTERN , also called "the chief", has been leading this group since its creation over 15 years ago, learning Indian songs, and making all kinds of Indian outfits and objects.
"4 years later, the ceremony, offered by Dennis in Wounded Knee remains full of emotions. We could see previously, during our visit of the Badlands with him, how the Native people were still subject to discrimination from the Police Authorities.
Sharing an intertribal dance was a most memorable moment for me.
On the day of our departure from the US, Steve, an artisan who befriended Pascal at the Ethete powwow, came to greet us, and proposed me to go hunting and fishing if I ever came back. So that would be a great joy If I could afford it, but for now it is still just another dream.."
Pascal Cahitte memories:
"I have always loved Indians, despite the television movies presenting them as mean and savage people. I like their respect for nature and the animals.
A few years ago I joined the association Savy Western and I do with them what I love the most: to raise my tipi and to dress in my self-made Indian outfits.
Some people say that we steal their culture ! Me, I don't pretend to be Indian, I respect them and I explain to everyone I meet, that many of them still exist but are in reservations.
It was always my dream to go to America, and thanks to Serge, who organized the trip, it became a reality and it was magical for me to discover part of the United States in campers. Now I dream to be able to live with them to get to know them better and exchange on a daily basis."
Serge Hourdry's thoughts:
"Why did I go there ?
Certainly to bridge the gap between all that I had read and the reality inside and outside the reservations.
I knew that after many attempts to understand their past, with or without us, I still had to experience the present in order to hopefully understand their future in our world.
I just feel that these Nations have survived to show us the road to follow tomorrow, but shall we understand them..."
- Pow Wows
Pow Wow "Danse avec la Loue" (France)
Ce Pow-Wow a lieu tous les deux ans à la fin du mois de juin à Ornans (franche-comté). C'est le seul et unique Pow-Wow amérindien en Europe. Dennis Yellow Thunder y est régulièrement invité tant pour y danser que pour y donner des conférences sur la situation de sa tribu et de la réserve indienne de Pine Ridge.
une vidéo du POWWOW de 2010 ( durée 3'25" en français et en anglais) : GRAND DÉFILÉ D'OUVERTURE
Pow Wow "Rassemblement des Nations indiennes" ("Gathering of Nations" à Albuquerque, Nouveau Mexique, USA)
Le plus grand Pow-Wow d'Amérique du Nord.