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Tim Giago: Lakota and Pueblo Indians on Pine Ridge Reservation

Filed Under: Opinion
More on: new mexico, oglala sioux, pueblo, south dakota, tim giago

Tim Giago. Photo by Talli Nauman

History of the Pueblo Indian drovers and the Great Sioux Nation
Notes from Indian Country
By Tim Giago (Nanwica Kciji)

The Indian community of Kyle is located near the banks of Kyle Dam on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. To the local Lakota people it is known by its true name of Pejuta Haka or Medicine Root.

Kyle is my hometown and when I was growing up there an elder told me that the community was named Pejuta Haka because medicine men and women often came there to gather the roots and berries that they used for medicinal purposes. My great grandmother’s name was Winyan Wakan which translates to Holy Woman or as some would say Medicine Woman and she was raised at Kyle during the time all of the great Lakota chiefs like Crazy Horse, American Horse, Red Cloud and Sitting Bull still lived.

In fact one of the great Lakota leaders or chiefs you never read about was Chief Bull Bear from Pejuta Haka. Bull Bear became embroiled in a feud with Red Cloud and as a result was sort of pushed to the background of history.

My great grandfather, Antoine Abeyta, came to Dakota Territory in the 1860s following the signing of the great Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851 that opened the trails for emigrants traveling to the California gold fields. He hooked on as a cook driving a wagon for a cattle drive from Texas bringing beef to the Great Sioux Nation to fulfill the treaty obligations. Grandpa Antoine was from the Indian pueblo called Isleta which was located south of Albuquerque.

Antoine met and fell in love with a Lakota woman named Lucy Good Shell Woman and they settled along Three-Mile-Creek a few miles north of Kyle. From this union my grandmother Sophia Abeyta was born. She married another Pueblo man who came to Dakota Territory in the late 1880s named Jesus Gallego. All of the Pueblo Indians had been converted to Catholicism by the Spaniards and given Christian names. In Spanish the name Gallego is pronounced Guy-A- Go and when the name Gallego went on the rolls of the Oglala Sioux Tribe it ended up being spelled phonetically as Giago.

My grandfather Jesus had come to Dakota Territory with his brother Raphael as drovers pushing another herd of Texas cattle. Jesus met my grandmother Sophia and got married and Raphael stayed on and also married a Lakota woman. From this union my father Tim was born. When Raphael’s married, his wife’s name went on the tribal rolls as Gallego and some of their children ended up with the name Galligo. We were all one big family of Lakota and Pueblo Indians living on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation thanks to the Texas ranchers who sent their cattle through New Mexico to Dakota Territory.

My grandmother Sophia was working at the Holy Rosary Indian Mission on December 29, 1890 when just 15 or 20 miles down the road when the terrible Massacre at Wounded Knee took place. My father Tim ironically ended up working as a clerk and butcher at the Wounded Knee Trading Post in the 1930s for Clive and Agnes Gildersleeve. Clive and Agnes were taken hostage by members of the American Indian Movement during the takeover of Wounded Knee in 1973.

Interestingly enough my father married a woman named Lupita Tapio who was the granddaughter of Demetrius Tapio from the New Mexico Pueblo of Ohkay Owingeh. Demetrius married my great grandmother named Holy Woman who I talked about at the beginning of this article. One member of that Pueblo said it was probably spelled Tapia before reaching South Dakota.

And so these Pueblo cattlemen married Sioux women and settled on Three-Mile-Creek and since they had Pueblo (Spanish) surnames, the local Lakota began to call Three-Mile-Creek Mexican or Spiola Creek. But as far as I know, they never called it that maliciously. Also in and around Kyle one could find the Hernandez and Garcia families who also married into Lakota families. In fact one Garcia married into the Red Cloud family.

My great grandfathers later started a company of teamsters to haul provisions for the federal government and for the Oglala Sioux Tribe. Back then a teamster was really just that; he drove a wagon of oxen or mules hauling goods and provisions to and from different location in and around the Indian reservations. They often picked up and hauled loads of lumber to Pine Ridge from Kadoka, South Dakota. That’s how many of the tribal buildings and schools got built

I did not intend to reminisce, but I was helping my nephew fill out his enrollment papers for the Oglala Sioux Tribe and I had to give him a rundown of his family tree and it struck me that it really was an interesting, if not a small part of the history of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. And oh yes, some of my Sioux/Pueblo relatives married into the Bull Bear family. And Chief Bull Bear always had a lot of respect for the hardworking Pueblo newcomers because they learned to speak Lakota and eventually became Lakota. And for their children Lakota eventually became their first language.

My Aunt Agnes Tapio Jazek, my mom’s sister, who is 95, furnished me with much of this family history.

Tim Giago, an Oglala Lakota, was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard with the Class of 1991. He can be reached at

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