Šúŋkawakȟáŋ Oyáte
Horse Camp Experience

August 3-7, 2021

The Šúŋkawakȟáŋ Oyáte Horse Camp was created in memory of a beloved youth worker.

This first summer Camp is more than a camp. It is a pilot program specifically designed to provide new career opportunities by introducing professional level feature film and television series stunt horsemanship.

Under the tutelage of professionals, the Šúŋkawakȟáŋ Oyáte Horse Camp will connect film industry job training and jobs to Reservation youth, who can be seen joyfully riding wild horses around Lower Brule. The camp seeks to leverage each rider’s natural strengths with film industry needs, connecting them to culturally relevant employment in the industry.

Campers will gain film industry insights and skills that can lead to job connections, while keeping their connections to their home communities. They will learn film set horse etiquette and participate in drills required to perform basic period horse stunt work from camp contributor, third-generation world champion trick rider, horse trainer, and action stunt director, Tad Griffith (John Wick 3, Miracle Workers, Seabiscuit, 300, Lone Ranger, The Mask of Zorro). A traditional approach toward horsemanship will be led by renowned horse trainer Tom Waŋbli Luža (Swift Eagle) Ziegler (Dances With Wolves).

“Šúŋkawakȟáŋ Oyáte” means “Horse Nation”

In the Lakota language, “Šúŋkawakȟáŋ Oyáte” means “Horse Nation,” referencing the blessings that horses have brought to Native Americans across centuries. The Camp’s title reflects the shared goals of a strong and diverse group of founding educators with one vision: “It’s time to reconnect people to horses’ blessings.”

Through structured learning within protected spaces, the Šúŋkawakȟáŋ Oyáte Program provides learners with a culturally empowering, well-rounded educational experience within a supportive community. Campers will learn Lakota-style horse training, ceremonial songs and traditions. 

“Šúŋkawakȟáŋ Oyáte” camp schedule (subject to change)


Sunup — 9:00 am: Opening Ceremony to light the ceremonial fire, Setup, Breakfast

9:00 am — 9:50 am: Registration / Safety Discussion

10:00 am — 12:00 pm: Grouping, Assessment (Showing off) allowing ample free time for bathroom breaks, water and snacks.

12:00 pm — 12:45 pm: Lunch provided to staff and campers.

12:45 pm — 1:00 pm:  Assembly for Ceremony starting learning and connections.

1:00 pm — 1:25 pm: Convening Ceremony (circle up, song, prayer, orienting)

1:30 pm — 2:20 pm: Basic Knowledge and Skills Instruction in Groups (taught by Tom and ikče wičáša crew)

2:30 pm —  3:00 pm: Releasing Ceremony (circle up, song, prayer, looking forward)


Sunup — 9:00 am: Breakfast preparations, campgrounds preparation

9:00 am — 9:30 am: Welcoming Ceremony (circle up, song, prayer, orienting)

9:30 am — 10:15 am: First round of Basic Knowledge and Skills Instruction in Groups

10:30 am — 11:15 am: Second round of Basic Knowledge and Skills Instruction in Groups

11:30 am — 12:15 pm:  Third round of Basic Knowledge and Skills Instruction in Groups

12:15 pm — 1:00 pm: Lunch provided to staff and campers

1:00 pm — 1:15 pm: Reassembly at Rodeo Grounds or Relocation to Community Center, either way, for Ceremony and skill building activity

1:15 pm —  1:30 pm: Ceremony (circle up, singing and praying for the blessings of the Šúŋkawakȟáŋ Oyáte to be brought back to the Ikče Wičáša)

1:30 pm — 2:15 pm: Skill building (either outdoor hoof cleaning, outdoor survival in the wild, outdoor totem symbol search, or indoor totem pendant construction.)

2:30 pm — 3:00 pm: Releasing Ceremony (circle up, song, prayer, looking forward)

About Dorothy Čánte Wašté Wiŋ (Good Hearted Woman) Kiyukan

Ziegler, of the Kul Wičáša tribe, is a 4th generation member of the horse-whispering Wašú Wasté clan. Starting in the 1990s, he delivered cultural education alongside his wife, Kiyukan, of the Dakota Yankton Thunder Clan. Kiyukan is memorialized by this unique program.

For decades, the Ziegler family has taught riding lessons, cultural training and teacher coaching. As a nationally acclaimed educator, career counselor, and indigenous rights advocate, Kiyukan built advancement opportunities and cultural connections for youth through the paddock and beyond the paddock. This Camp, appropriately, takes Ziegler and Kiyukan’s life’s work to the next level.

Kiyukan passed away from cancer on January 7, 2021. While leading her 14-day memorial ride from Kansas to South Dakota, Ziegler spoke Kiyukan’s words, “Life is but a journey,” to a prayerful circle of riders. In that circle stood bareback rider Geno St. Cloud. Seeking addiction recovery, the Ponca descendant and father of two had spent six weeks as Ziegler’s assistant. Upon St. Cloud’s return from the memorial ride, tribal council members noticed a positive change.


The Native American Horse Nations have had well-established horse cultures, dating back to long before the arrival of the Spanish. If memory of history class is disputing that statement, please remember that globally, Western academia has long reflected a Eurocentric and colonial paradigm. In recent decades, numerous emerging discoveries of archeological and sociological evidence now give ample reason to rethink assumptions about Indigenous Peoples of the Americas and their legacy of equine expertise.*

Although Western academia has supported archeological evidence that the horse originated in the Americas, academia has also long held the position that the horse became extinct in these continents during the Last Glacial Maximum, about 20,000 years ago. However, now multiple peer-reviewed sources indicate a continual presence of horses, aligning with comparable historic reports passed down through the generations in multiple indigenous communities. We now know that the Native American has truly always had the horse.

Until now, anything contrary to the facts learned in the typical American public school classroom would be generally disregarded, purposefully excluded, or reconfigured to fit the accepted national paradigm. Especially for Americans familiar with the conflict-laden history surrounding the lands of the Midwest, scientific evidence granting cultural expertise to a disadvantaged subsegment of society is not likely to be given much weight in public policy. It’s time for a rebirth. It’s time to welcome the value and usefulness of America’s natural horse whisperers, the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas.

*The Relationship Between the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas and the Horse: Deconstructing a Eurocentric Myth by Collin, Yvette Running Horse, Ph.D., University of Alaska Fairbanks, 2017, 245; 10266897 Abstract (Summary)

“Šúŋkawakȟáŋ Oyáte” HORSE CAMP FORMS

Interested in attending the Šúŋkawakȟáŋ Oyáte Horse Camp, August 3-7, 2021? Please download and complete the registration and liability waiver forms below.

Would you like to serve as a volunteer during the Šúŋkawakȟáŋ Oyáte Horse Camp? Please download and complete the camp volunteer form below.

If you have questions, please contact:

Stacy Heatherly
Camp Coordinator
(402) 968-4280