Saturday, February 24, 2018

Northern Cheyenne sundance priest Geo Fredo Little Bird lights tobacco the morning of June 25 during a prayer for world peace at the Little Bighorn Battlefield near Crow Agency.

Prayer ceremony for world peace held at Little Bighorn Battlefield

A small group driven by the theme of world peace arrived the morning of Sunday, June 25 to the Little Bighorn Battlefield on Last Stand Hill to pray. Their assembly – emphasizing unity, healing and prayer – occurred more than 140 years after the famous defeat of Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer’s 7th Cavalry in that area by Northern Cheyenne, Lakota and Arapaho forces.
The obelisk-like U.S. Army Memorial could be seen behind the group, a reminder of the estimated 220 soldiers, scouts and civilians buried nearby.
The theme of world peace carried special meaning to participant Steven Graham, who arrived to the event in a wheelchair. A former graduate of Hardin High School, Steven is rated 100 percent disabled, he said, as a result of injuries received during the Vietnam War.
“It was a sunny day,” Steven said of the event. “No dust from a battle. No screaming horses dying.”
His son Shane, currently caring for his father, has witnessed tribal ceremonies and was drawn to the Cheyenne by “the way they pray and their culture.” The group’s prayer leader, Geo Fredo Little Bird, is his father-in-law and personally invited him and Steven to attend.
“I believe in prayer – we all believe in prayer – and we believe we have the same creator, our Father in Heaven,” Shane said.
Little Bird of Lame Deer, a Northern Cheyenne sundance priest, knelt on the hill during the ceremony and passed rolled tobacco to those in attendance – including three U.S. Army personnel. The tobacco, he said, is used to encourage peace and good health.
They were unable to use a red pipe at the time of the ceremony, Little Bird said, due to flecks of blood appearing on the Sacred Arrows – one of the tribe’s sacred medicine bundles that serves as a symbol of spiritual power. The blood appeared, he said, due to an incident involving “a Cheyenne [killing] a Cheyenne.”
“Our prophet Sweet Medicine brought this covenant to us,” he said. “At about 5 [p.m.] today, when the blood is wiped off the arrows, we are allowed to use our pipes again.”
In performing the ceremony, Little Bird said, he is continuing the work of fellow sundance priest, the late Austin Two Moons Sr. According to him, Two Moons died about three decades ago.
“This has been going on since the late ‘70s and then it faded out after his passing,” Little Bird said. “We’re reviving it and hoping to have it every year afterwards.”
Members of the Two Moons family were in attendance for the ceremony, prompting Little Bird to say, “When [Austin] prayed here, that’s what he wanted. He wanted that legacy to be carried on through his grandchildren.”
According to Little Bird, these ceremonies have been with the Cheyenne Tribe “since we came into existence” and he has participated in them since the age of nine.