Unity Ride for a friend with kidney disease

Bringing awareness about kidney disease and the need for donors

A 200 kilometre relay ride was staged from Canupawakpa to Sioux Valley and on to Birdtail Sioux reserve last weekend. The ride was to bring awareness about the debilitating illness of kidney disease and specifically for a community member who is on dialysis and needs a new kidney.

This extraordinary horse expedition was organized by Helena Mazawasicuna on behalf of her friend Karen Sutherland Benn, who has been suffering, first with diabetes and is now on kidney dialysis.

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“It was an amazing ride,” said Mazawasicuna. “We accomplished awareness – this is a ‘we’ thing for healing, for prayers.”

Approximately 35 people joined the awareness ride, including some who walked. Two teams of horses also pulled wagons carrying passengers.

Riders for Dakota Nation Unity Riders were: Tony Tacan, Vince Tacan, Ann Marie Tacan, Keith Tacan, Jon Bell, Nicole Bell, Ashleigh Bonaise, Crystal LeMasurier, Morgan Redman, James Keewantincappo, Wilson Kennedy, Gabriel Sutherland, Kirk Sutherland, and ride organizer Helena Mazawasicuna and husband Travis Mazawasicuna.

Walkers were: Patrick Benn, Helena Mazawasicuna, May Benn, Leona Benn, Sherlanda Benn.

The Unity Riders have travelled far and wide over the years riding for Murdered and Missing Women, riding for awareness of addiction to prescription drugs among other important issues.

A number of years ago the Dakota Nation’s Unity Riders rode to the UN in New York to bring awareness of their concern for sacred water. That ride actually brought Helena and Travis together. She was a resident of the State of New York and a rider, and Travis was on that ride led by Chief Gus High Eagle.

Last Saturday and Sunday, horses named Rock, Blaze, Gray, Ace, Cruz, Hildago, Tucker, Willy, Cochise, Jangles, Oreo, Hank and two others carried riders the distance. “They deserve all the credit,” saysMazawasicuna of the horse. She explained that horses are a sacred animal to the Dakota and she said the journey is “a form of prayer, when we ride and walk.”

The ride began at Canupawakpa and stopped for the night at Sioux Valley. On Sunday, Birdtail Sioux welcomed them with a meal when they arrived.

Sutherland Benn took the trip also, even walking a little way, before her husband took over her portion of the walk. He was set to be her donor and then was found to have cancer so cannot donate for a period of five years, but Karen, 42, needs a kidney now.

Mazawasicuna hopes that when people are made aware of the need, there will be help for her friend and for others.  “We hope that people come forward as live donors, and not just for kidneys.”


Diabetes affects blood vessels. The kidneys are little powerhouses full of blood vessels, so they are particularly susceptible to harm. Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney disease in Canada. Up to 50 per cent of people with diabetes will have signs of kidney damage in their lifetime.

Individuals normally have two kidneys, although a person can live a healthy life with only one. Living donation occurs when a person freely decides to donate one of their kidneys to someone in need of a transplant. Kidney donation is the most frequent type of living organ donation and is the most successful of all transplant procedures.

For more information visit The Kidney Foundation: https://kidney.ca/


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