400-mile journey: Follow the Fort Robinson Spiritual Run on the Buffalo’s Fire

Fort-Robinson-Run-2007The Fort Robinson Outbreak Spiritual Run kicks of Friday when runners from the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in Montana depart for Nebraska. Here’s the schedule for the 400 mile run. I’ll be joining a 20-member support team and some 80 Northern Cheyenne youths who will retrace steps of their relatives who were jailed at Fort Robinson in Nebraska. Our group leaves Lame Deer, Mont. on Friday afternoon. By noon the same day, we will gather for prayers at the sacred Bear Butte in South Dakota. Keep reading the Buffalo’s Fire for updates on the youths’ five-day spiritual journey as they honor their past and run toward the future.

Here’s some historical background about the run from News From Indian Country:

The history for the Breakout Run dates back to 1877, when Cheyenne leaders Dull Knife, Little Wolf, Standing Elk and Wild Hog brought their people into Fort Robinson for what they hoped would be safe haven from the impending harsh winter. Dull Knife and Little Wolf thought their signatures on the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 would allow them to live with the Lakota on that nation’s nearby reservation.

But they soon found themselves – and their people – being escorted to “Indian Territory,” now Oklahoma, to live with the Southern Cheyenne. Assured that they could return to Nebraska if Oklahoma didn’t suit them, the Cheyenne were held in captivity and under armed guard once they arrived at Fort Reno – hundreds of miles from their natural homeland.

In September of 1878, Dull Knife, Little Wolf and about 300 of their people staged an escape from Fort Reno and led over 15,000 soldiers and white settlers on a chase rivaled only by Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce. The group split up in Nebraska.

Some followed Little Wolf to the home of their ancestors between the Tongue and Powder Rivers in Montana. The rest returned with Dull Knife to Fort Robinson, where they hoped to gain assistance and support from the Lakota leader, Red Cloud. Instead, they found themselves in captivity once more and advised by the Fort’s com-mander that instructions from the War Depart-ment directed him to send the Cheyenne back to Oklahoma. Dull Knife and his people preferred to die rather than return to a land where food was scarce, summers were unbear-able and where so many of their children had died during a measles epidemic.

On January 9, 1879, the Cheyenne overpowered their guards and “broke out” of Fort Robinson, running to the safety of the nearby bluffs. The soldiers gave chase, killing any stragglers who fell behind – including women and children. By the following morning, 65 of Dull Knife’s people were returned to the Fort.

The cavalry hunted down 32 of the remaining 38 Cheyenne who had escaped, catching up to them at the Last Hole – a deep buffalo wallow near Hat Creek Bluffs. There they emptied their rifles, reloaded, and emptied them again and again – until no Cheyenne remained.

Dull Knife and members of his family managed to elude the soldiers and eventually made their way back to the safety of Montana, where Little Wolf and his people had already returned. The bodies of the dead were given to the Smithsonian Institute for research, where they remained in drawers and closets until 1993. They now rest in the ancestral burial ground where Whiteman and his runners finished their 400-mile journey.


The Fort Robinson run is being organized by Phillip Whiteman Jr. and Lynette Two Bulls of Yellow Bird Inc.

Keep us all in your prayers. We’ll do the same.

Jodi Rave


  1. I just wanted to say you all will be in my prayers throughout your entire journey. Although I am not there physically, I will be with you all in spirit. I look forward to hearing all the great stories when you get back. I am so thankful I will be able to track the run on this blog!
    Thanks Jodi:)

  2. Good day to you all,
    I think it is very great that you all run 400 miles! That takes dedication and determination but most of all it takes heart. Hang in there, you’re an inspiration to alot of people.

  3. Hey Jodi!
    Cheers to all of you making this run in such cold weather. I read the story and was very saddened on what happened to those brave souls that believed in living in peace. I know as native people, we have a lot to look up too, and we have respect our elders that have passed on.
    Thanks for sharing! I look forward to your writings on this event!

    • Hey Kella!
      We are almost to Bear Butte for a group prayer. It’s now about 1 degree. I respect the youths on this run. This is a choice they’ve all made on their own. They will start running tomorrow morning. See you in about a week.

  4. I am a endurance runner from here on the WSIR and it makes my heart soar like an eagle everytime I hear of young runners doing great things in running. I wish all of you well on your journey and be safe.

    To all the Young Cheyenne Runners…eat, rest, take in plenty of liquid, then RUN LIKE HELL!

  5. I continue to pray for you all… I am very sad that I could not continue on with you all after Rapid City. This run is so inspiring… and beautiful!

  6. JRave,

    Warm Springs Indian Reservation (of Oregon), you know a little south of Yakama Nation, a little west of the Umatilla/Cayuse Nation and about three days journey west of you and the Young Northern Cheyenne NDN Runners…three days journey on a 2000 Ford Mustang, that is. hhahahahahahaha.

    Every night I run vicariously with the Young Cheyennes on their route, stride for stride. And every night I sing a song in my heart for them. A song to give them strength and endurance.

    (An old NDN trick in case of wet running conditions is to use bread sacks over the socks as liners. The shoes may get wet, but the feet will stay dry.)

    Again…have a safe run.

  7. I am very proud of my boys and all my family members who participate in this Spiritual Run. Even though most of us at home can’t be there physically we’re with them spiritually where we track their whereabouts, pray for them and then gather together in Ashland or Lame Deer when they run in. Last night many of us were waiting with family and friends …we were happy and joking around with each other laughing as we teased each other. All in a good mood! It was a awesome sight and feeling to see our kids and adults run into Ashland! Everyone hooping, hollering, whistling and then tears of pride and happiness to see our children home! Today will be the same, but with more emotional feelings when they arrive in Busby. Most of the rez will be there to support them! We are so proud of them! Thank you to all the people who took care of our kids while they were on this run!

  8. Jodi,

    I was looking for info about the run and I found your blog! I’m from the Northern Cheyenne Reservation, but I’m currently living in Missoula while my husband finishes up school at the U. The Missoulian just isn’t the same without you, so I’m ecstatic to find this!

    Great job to all the runners and helpers the participated! These children are learning life lessons that they can’t receive from a book. It makes my heart happy!

    • Hi Chelsee:
      Keep checking back on the blog. I plan to ad more things on it about the run. It was really something incredible that I will try to put into words. Thanks for reading and I’m glad you found the blog site.

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