Native Sun News: Protest seeks better services for FAS children
The following story was written and reported by Randall Howell. All content © Native Sun News.

KYLE, SOUTH DAKOTA –– They’re numbers may have been small, but their voices were strong.

“Don’t Steal Children,” said a sign carried by Leonora Young Bull Bear.

Young Bull Bear said she has lost two grandchildren – both with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) – to the state’s Department of Social Services.

During her protest across the street from Little Wound School in Kyle on Thursday, Oct. 21, Young Bull Bear, Kyle, said her children belonged at home with her and their family members, “not in some boarding school in Aberdeen or who knows where.”

As a spotted eagle circled high overhead, Young Bull Bear was joined by Josephine Kills Enemy, a protester who also said her challenged children were taken from her and that now she has “visitation every other weekend” instead of raising them at home.

“I’m trying to get my great grandson, Jessie, back,” said Kills Enemy, also from Kyle. Jessie Black Tail Deer, 16 months old, has yet to meet his father, Bryan Kills Enemy, said the demonstrator. “He (the father) wants to meet him.”

During a gusting October wind, the demonstrators made it clear that they were displeased with the “lack of support” from Little Wound High School – a school “that’s supposed to provide transportation, supervision and instruction for my boys,” said Young Bull Bear, who has been raising her FAS boys for nearly 10 years now.

The boys, Aleondreaux Shae Peters, 16, and Micha Lamar Peters, 15, are her sister’s daughter’s children – teens who “will not learn beyond their current level,” she said. “They were happy at home,” said Young Bull Bear. “They just needed the support that Little Wound was supposed to provide for them. Instead, they (LOWO) took them away. I’m not even sure where they are … I think one’s in Aberdeen.”

One of the Peters boys is visually handicapped; the other is both visually and hearing handicapped, said Young Bull Bear, who was driving them to and from school daily, despite the district’s published special-needs policy of providing transportation.

In most cases, last week’s protestors said they already had tried to get redress from the Little Wound School Board, the school’s instructors, the Oglala Sioux Tribe, the state Department of Social Services and the South Dakota State School for the Visually Handicapped – all to no avail.

Young Bull Bear said she was scheduled for an October custody hearing on the teen boys, but instead the teens were “picked up and taken … They just showed up and took them.” That’s why, she said, she made a protest sign that said: “Don’t Steal Children.”

Meanwhile, Kills Enemy also said she had tried the court system.

“They told him (the father) that he was with his other grandmother because Bryan had reportedly locked his infant son in a closet,” said Kills Enemy.

“That’s not true … but they said it anyway and the court’s sure not helping us. They’re trying to place him somewhere else.”

Clearly angry about the way the way their families, particularly their children, have been treated, many of the protesters said they would soon be joining a “bigger demonstration” in Pine Ridge, where women “with similar complaints” will be coming together.

All were upset that they “were forced” to demonstrate across the street from the school.

“They told us that it was school property and it would be illegal to demonstrate there, so we had to come over here,” said Young Bull Bear. “No one from the school even acknowledged the demonstration, “she said.

Native Sun News tried repeatedly to reach Little Wound School Board President Janice Richards leaving several messages, but at press time she had not responded to the allegations in this article.

“There’s people in every district who are unhappy with the way things are going for handicapped students,” said Young Bull Bear. “You are going to see this thing grow.”

One woman protesters told Native Sun News that she no longer trusts anything said to her by the state.

“I don’t trust them. They are not for these students,” said elder Madeline Mesteth of Kyle. “I don’t like this taking kids without telling their parents or family. They place them in other schools where they make fun of them. Mesteth said that “that’s when they decide they don’t want to go back to school again.”

One of the women, Roxie High Bear, 21, told a story about how her brother, Ryan High Bear, who now lives in Evergreen, had “lost his arm from a flesh-eating bacteria.”

She said her right-handed brother needed special help from the school system, but “all he got was teasing, bullying and no help to learn to write with his left hand – something he needed to do because the right arm was gone.” As the protest placards flapped in the afternoon wind gusts, the crisp sound of south-migrating sandhill cranes could be heard in the distance.

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