It was the vision of Oglala Lakota spiritual leader Wilmer Stampede Mesteth, who passed on this past January, that Indian relay might be the catalyst to fulfill his ancestors prophesies that one day the white man may come to know, and appreciate the Indian culture and spiritual ways; their connection to the earth, to all things animate and inanimate and the circular nature and connectedness of the universe. In the mean time he had a more immediate hope that Indian Relay may provide a reconnection for young people to their history, their culture and to the important spiritual ideals of his ancestors. Important cultural aspects that were facing serious competition in today’s fast paced world.
Enter two palefaces, who happened to develop a friendship with the spiritual leader that spanned many years before the Indian Horse Relay dream began. The common bond horses and an interest in the history of “the people”. A bond that that transcended cultural, economic, political and personal differences. From the friendship came the vision that Indian relay would survive and grow and re-unite the people and bring together the cultural gaps of Indian nations that had warred against each other for centuries and perhaps even connect “the people” to a white culture who, thru its government, had proved untrustworthy almost without exception.
Now that vision is in its third season. What started as a meeting in a hotel in Billings, Montana in late winter of 2013 in which 13 teams attended, and 8 joined the original association, has become an association of over 50 Indian relay teams, 15 Indian relay events and a super bowl type Championships at the end of the season. For 2015 The Professional Indian Horse Racing Association will consist of between 14 and 16 sanctioned events attracting over 279,000 spectators at which member teams compete for points all culminating in a season ending championships with over 30,000 spectators, over $65,000 in prize money.
The Indian relay universe has been restricted to mostly the reservations of the Northern plains supplemented by Indian relay events at some fairs and rodeos. Up until very recently only a few whites have ever experienced it. However, when they do they fall in love. The athleticism, the speed, the action, the teamwork, the excitement, the danger are fast paced adrenaline rushing non stop action. The oneness of the horse and riders is magical. The teamwork and skills required are astounding. All age groups and genders are mesmerized and immediately become avid followers of Indian relay, personally connecting to it and craving for more.
PIHRA, the Indian relay association, has been a grass routes almost 100% volunteer effort to date. But its accomplishments have been notable. Indian relay is now attracting a select group of like minded sponsors that see the opportunity and share the vision of the Oglala Spiritual Leader. With corporate and tribal support PIHRA believes it can fulfill the vision to provide economic opportunity and cultural pride not just to Indian relay participants but to all Indian nations. An Indian solution to Indian challenges. That was Wilmer’s dream and that is the goal of the association. That dream that is alive, well and growing.
Wilmer believed his ancestors continued to look after “the people” in the spirit life. He believed those forces helped shape the world and have helped to shape the current resurgence of Indian relay. We are sad that Wilmer is physically no longer here to guide us but are comforted to know that he has joined his ancestors and continues to guide us spiritually. This program and this championships are devoted to Wilmer Stampede Mesteth in honor of his kind heart, good soul and deep wisdom.