New Warrior Camps
A Tradition Continued
by Bamm Brewer
After the warriors rode out of camp, the young boys stood in silence watching and over in the distant tree line they could hear their names being called by the women of the camp. They had to return to the camp and stay there with the women until the warriors came home, they were too small. Each time the warriors rode out of camp the young boys watched and wanted to go with them but the trail was dangerous and it was a way that the women took care of the boys when they were small. When the time came and the boys grew bigger the warriors would come after them. When they were big enough they could help with things on the trail that was needed. When the time came the warriors came after the boys and the women knew they were going to be taught the lessons of not only the trail but the lessons of life. The young boys were big enough now to hold horses, watch fire and help catch horses, sharpen knives and arrows. There were many ways a young boy could help the hunting party. When they returned to camp the women and elders cheered for the young boys and they were honored. The camp knew the boys had been taught lessons that would help the people. They had now been through a manhood life teaching or “Rite of passage.” They were boys when they left and now they were young men.
In today’s modern world it is a lot different for the Lakota youth. It is a bit tougher to find these warriors who can come after the boys, because of the struggles of Alcohol, Drugs, of this modern world; however, the New Warrior Camp is making a comeback. The days of the warriors coming still can happen in this modern world. The same can be said for the young girls of the camp. They too had some responsibilities once they grew big enough.
The New Warrior camps are about helping the kids here on the reservation. Some kids really struggle with boredom and the struggles that come with having alcoholic parents. Some of the kids may have experimented with their first taste of alcohol or may have smoked marijuana. We try to show a better way to live and how to strongly stand up and not be bullied. The Lakota Nation has seen a spurt of suicide and that is not a way of the people to give up on life. We teach perseverance and to face life’s problems knowing we can and will overcome. The teaching can be a focus to the root of our culture with the language, horse, buffalo, spirituality, history and we try to help with the new world problems facing our youth. We are mainly giving our youth something to do that’ll have a positive impact upon them and also be a motivation spark. All this in a drug and alcohol free environment with horses and buffalo in the tipi encampment is a really beautiful scene. We are very much lucky to have this scene here at the ranch and proudly open our doors to our youth here on the reservation. It has been through ONE Spirit that this has all been possible for us. The camp is a little more than a family operation as it was in the beginning. Now each year we open the doors to different youth from across the great Lakota nation.
In 1999 I became the first tribal member to successfully harvest a buffalo with an arrow in the Allen Game Range. It was an experience that provided a window into the past of my people. It showed the spirituality of the hunt and was an emotional experience. I saw the blood trail and followed this huge bull on its final steps. Some tears flowed from my eyes as I stood at the doorway to the spirit world silently as he breathed his last breath. The drops of blood appeared here and there in the white snow as I followed his final trail and thoughts came to my mind of yesterday. It was a discovery of an instinct inside of one’s self; it was a scene of no suffering but a rebirth and a blessing to the people. The people must have food to survive and this was our food. The story of the hunt sparked a flame inside of me to share this experience with my boys who were real small at the time. Since then our family has started our own herd of buffalo to give back. We became one of only two families to turn our land into a buffalo pasture to help the Oglala Sioux Tribe’s effort to restore buffalo to the people. After starting out with about 25 head with the OST Share Crop Program in a matter of 5-7 years we had grown to over 60 head. The over-all surplus allowed us to have free access to harvest a certain number of buffalo per winter from our very own herd. It was through this that the New Warrior Buffalo Camps/Hunts were actually started. We would share the experience and now provide that window into the past of the ancient Buffalo people.
On 7-7-07 a Wild Land fire called the “Stampede Fire” scorched 23,000 acres and burned our pasture out to an 80% loss. It was a time of no grass and we had no choice but give back the tribal share and to sell down. The impact of our buffalo herd gone had a big reflection on many events such as the Crazy Horse Ride, as we usually harvested a bull to feed the people on the ride. Sometimes when someone passed away we would process a young bull to help with meat for the wake and funeral. Many Sun Dances purchased buffalo from us to help feed the supporters. It was a sad time and seeing our pasture with no buffalo was really different.
Return of the Buffalo
All dreams can come true and we have recently restarted our herd with a new Share Crop agreement and currently we have 18 buffalo with the Oglala Sioux Tribal Parks and Recreation. The first Buffalo arrived last fall and it was a blessing to the land. It was a special moment to hear my son Elliot say, ”It’s good to see Buffalo out here again, now Tatum could grow up the way we did”. It was true, my boys had grown up living amongst the buffalo and it was like they had become our brothers. The way they grew up amongst the buffalo was very rare in these modern days and now with this new start we will actually see my grandson grow up around Buffalo, too. This is a small but really good start as when we got these buffaloes last fall it was a dry time and grass was low. This spring is a renewal year and the grasses are back and it’s a good recovery from a tough drought. The tribe has restocked us with 10 cows and two bulls. Those cows had 6 calves. This fall we will receive up to 10 more cows and we will be back to our core herd size with room to grow. It is a great day for the New Warrior Camp. We are on our way back but far from the number of being ready to help the people with meat, adventures and that important window into the past. The future is looking good with a new start of our buffalo herd. Each summer the New Warrior camp has been without the traditional buffalo hunt. It gave us the feeling of yesterday, that tough feeling of “there is no more buffalo”. Too often we have the feeling of this in Lakota country today. It is with the return of the buffalo, I believe that we can and will overcome the “The Last Buffalo” situation.
After many years of actually discovering this life of the ancient past it became a mission in life for me to teach the ways of the people best as I could to our youth. Last year it was a ceremony where a Society was given and named in my honor. It was because of all the things I had done with the youth across the home land. This is a rare honor in the modern world to be given a society and through the New Warrior camp the purpose lives on. The ceremony was beautiful and a spirit came and gave the name Tatanka Wakan Okolakikciye or Holy Buffalo Society. And so a society was born and the New Warrior Camp is a reflection of this society in action, and with this the New Warriors are born. As a tradition of helping the Lakota youth with understanding the culture of yesterday through the horse, buffalo, and all creation we move into the time for this year’s camp. The camp is making a big come back with the help of ONE Spirit. It feels great to no longer be at a standstill and we are making progress with the ONE Spirit Organization and the Buffalo herd come back.
Thanks for those who can help our youth to participate in the 2013 New Warrior Camp.
To Be Continued…