Staff Reflection: Nobody Hikes Matȟó Pahá Alone

A beautiful view from the hike of Matȟó Pahá — Bear Butte.

Note: The following is a reflection written by LaRayne, our Native American Studies teacher at St. Joseph’s Indian School. 

At this time of year, I would normally be hiking what is known as “Bear Butte” to most, and Matȟó Pahá to the Lakota, with 10-12 seventh grade girls and two chaperones, one a generation above and one below mine. This year, I was going to be the ÚnčiGrandma — guide of the group, but our seventh grade cultural trip was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This past weekend, I decided to hike the culturally relevant butte anyway as a prayer that in the fall I will be able to return with my younger generations to share a spiritual part of our cultural journey.

Over the years, I have been taught by many elders about what Matȟó Pahá is. Interestingly enough, the more I learn, the more there is to know. Our ancestors sought visions and took part in the sacred inípisweat lodge — ceremony at the butte. Many meetings of our allied tribes took place there and so many powerful, respected leaders of our people have walked the path.

Today, people of all nations hike the butte. I am sure the reasons for the hike are as varied as the colors of the medicine wheel for people, but some of them are simply the same. I usually hike with the goals of sharing a bit of knowledge, saying prayers for the people, and taking in the beautiful views at the top. But mostly, for me the thrill of the climb comes from seeing and feeling the positive energy of the girls. When they sense the importance of being a part of the spiritual elements of Matȟó Pahá, the cultural connection to this sacred place is made for life.

My favorite part of hiking Bear Butte is thinking about my students, family, and friends telling me they shared a strong experience with someone else. That is when you know your teachings will live on like the culture of the Lakota.

So when I hike, pray, and feel the South Dakota wind, moisture, and sun on my cheeks, I know that someone special, a generation above or below me, is going to experience that same feeling.

Author: St. Joseph's Indian School

At St. Joseph's Indian School, our privately-funded programs for Lakota (Sioux) children in need have evolved over 90 years of family partnership, experience and education. Because of generous friends who share tax-deductible donations, Native American youth receive a safe, stable home life; individual counseling and guidance; carefully planned curriculum based on Lakota culture and individual student needs and tools to help build confidence, boost self-esteem and improve cultural awareness. All of this helps children to live a bright, productive, possibility-filled future.

14 thoughts on “Staff Reflection: Nobody Hikes Matȟó Pahá Alone”

  1. It is a great gift from God to grow to know who we are, where we came from, why we are here, and where we are going. Not many people knows these things. Your tradition and people have a grasp on them. Thanks be to God. I also walk the Way. Jesus said, “I AM the Way.” Your walk and my Walk are the Same and we are slowly learning to realize that, to become that Walk. I Care. JohnF

  2. Thank you for sharing this reflection. With the visual (picture as above) and the thoughts you give from your heart, I can close my eyes and be there with you (all) in spirit. An excellent seedling for meditation now throughout my day.

  3. Hi Boys and Girls,
    I do what I can for you when I can from New Jersey. I have a great respect for you and your traditions and I will always try to give my support to you over the years as I have done in the past.
    I am really very proud of you. Life is not easy and in my own way, I want to make up for our country not recognizing you as the true leaders that you are. Keep the Faith,
    With loving kindness,
    Jane von Oehsen

  4. I am really thankful for you. I appreciate the fact that you still went on the hike and reflected and prayed about your students. I am sorry your 7th grade cultural trip was canceled due to Covid, but the fact that you still went on the hike shows your passion and character to be special. Thanks again for sharing! God bless you

    1. I Wayne Lees was not alone on my hike four is when I was five years old I first learned of sitting bull and since then every time I think of cowboys and Indians I think of sitting bull leading the survivors back to the reservations so this may offend some people I hope not you children of the spirit I am 58 years old right now and though I am really in Aztec Indian I have an affection for the Apaches since I was in the Navy navajos and Cherokees I see sitting bull on every big boulder looking over the landscape And fields of horses

      1. I Wayne Lees also wanted to add that for the last 14 years I’ve met two other people that share my interest in the (Souix) Lakota children of South Dakota
        In Alabama

  5. Thanks for your kind words of inspiration. It’s a blessing to know you are there for the children, and to know someone has been there for you!

  6. In the summer of 1964 a couple of friends and I slept on the top of Bear Butte. We enjoyed the sun set and sun rise. I have pictures someplace. I’ll have to find them to refresh my memory.
    Keep up the good work.
    God Bless

  7. 48 yrs ago, I had the privilege of working with the Lakota Sioux based out of Rapid City. I could view Bear Butte from the Mission Compound where I stayed. So enjoyed my time there and loved the dear Indian people.

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