Famous South Dakotans: Maria Pearson, repatriation expert

"A woman born in Springfield became the primary catalyst for the creation of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.

WHO: Maria Pearson

BORN: July 12, 1932. She died May 23, 2003, in Ames, Iowa.

BACKGROUND: Darlene Elvira Drapeaux was given the Indian name Hai-Mecha Eunka (Running Moccasins). She married John Pearson, a civil engineer with the Iowa Department of Transportation. They had six children. In the early 1970s, John told her a bulldozer crew preparing the site for a bridge had unearthed several burial sites. The remains of the white settlers were reburied; the bones of a Native American woman and baby were sent to the University of Iowa archaeology lab for research. Pearson went outside to pray and heard her grandmother’s voice telling her to be strong and fight for her people. The next day, Pearson put on a fringed buckskin dress and went to Des Moines to visit then-Iowa Gov. Robert Ray."

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