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Red Cloud Students Welcome Back the Thunder Beings at Black Elk Peak

May 03, 2022

Red Cloud Indian School

Spring has arrived here on the Red Cloud Indian School campuses as we welcome the warmer weather and longer days of the season. The months of March and April always brings new opportunities and activities and we are so grateful for the awakening of love, light, and spirituality that abounds.

As Red Cloud develops and grows as a vibrant Church and offers students an education of the mind and spirit, we also honor traditions promoting both Lakota and Catholic values. A Lakota seasonal tradition takes place each year as students honor the Spring Equinox by participating in Red Cloud’s Welcoming Back the Thunders Ceremony. On March 20, students from Red Cloud elementary and high schools made the annual hike up to Black Elk Peak to offer prayers, acknowledge the shifting of the seasons, and celebrate the return of the rain and thunders.

At 7,242 feet, Black Elk Peak is the highest natural point in South Dakota’s Black Hills and considered a sacred site by the Lakota people. Also noteworthy is that it is the highest summit in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains. The seven mile hike up and back down the mountain takes even the most experienced hikers several hours.

In the Lakota seasonal cycle, Springtime and the return of the thunders marks an extraordinary celebration of life and new beginnings — migrating animals and birds reappear, buffalo emerge from their winter camps, hibernating creatures wake, and the plants and flowers begin to bloom. It is not just a date on a calendar marking the end of winter and the beginning of Spring. It is a time marked by the movement of the sun, as well as the moon and constellations, and begins a time of preparation for the upcoming summer ceremonial season and community gatherings and celebrations.

The Spring Equinox is a powerful time to plant seeds of hope as the earth is coming alive again. Red Cloud students’ hike to the top of Black Elk Peak is a time not only for personal reflection, but to receive inspiration to create new beginnings for their families and community. Also, as a reminder to practice and partake in the Lakȟóta virtue of Wačháŋtognaka, or living generously and with compassion.

Submitted by Linda Shafer – Grants Officer – Red Cloud Indian School