KEYWORDS: Gathering of Eagles Custer SD South Dakota peace retreat prayer vigil American Indian spirituality Canyon Calm vision of Lakota leader Black Elk Black Hills religions and spiritual beliefs sacred fire terrorism in America talking-stick circles purification lodges music storytelling traditional singing dancing
At perhaps no other time in recent history has the Gathering of Eagles
carried such significance.
The annual get-together, held near Custer, strives to bring understanding
among people, particularly in the area of spirituality.
“The focus is on the unity of all of us,” Mary Ellen Uptain, one of the
organizers of the event, said.
This year’s Gathering of Eagles begins Thursday, June 27, and runs through
Sunday, June 30, at Canyon Calm, 24 miles southwest of Custer. It is free and
open to the public.
The Gathering of Eagles is based on the vision of Lakota leader Black Elk,
who had a dream of peace and unity among all people.
The first two Gathering
of Eagles events were held in Saskatchewan, Canada, in 1989-90. In 1991, it
moved to New Mexico, and the fourth gathering in 1992 was held in the Black
There have been eight gatherings in the Black Hills since 1992, some hosting
as many as 500 people.
Although the event leans heavily on American Indian spirituality — elders
from various tribes nationwide attend — the gathering is designed to open the
doors to all types of religions and spiritual beliefs.
The gathering includes a sacred fire that will be lit on the first day of the
event and burned throughout. There will be speakers, talking-stick circles,
purification lodges, music and storytelling, traditional singing and dancing,
and youth activities.
With conflicts in the Middle East and terrorism in America, the gathering is
particularly poignant and needed this year, Uptain said. People must learn to
get past prejudices, she said. “We’re all human beings.”
People are invited to come for a short time or for the entire weekend, Uptain
said. There is room for RV parking, tents and teepees. Uptain said the
gathering is a family event and children are welcome. No alcohol, drugs or
weapons are allowed.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Lynn Taylor Rick is a Staff Writer for the Rapid City Journal.