Education | National

Native Sun News: South Dakota School of Mines honors grads

The following story was written and reported by Karin Eagle, Native Sun News Staff Writer. All content © Native Sun News.

Harriet Brings addresses the three SDSMT Native American graduates. From L-R, Jeramie Dunn, Natasha Begay and Santiago “Tito” Handboy.

RAPID CITY, SOUTH DAKOTA –– Eagle feathers reflecting the highest of honors were handed out to three Native American graduates at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology.

Out of two hundred and fifty graduates three are enrolled members of federally recognized tribes.

Natasha Begay is of the Diné nation, coming to SDSM&T to pursue a degree in Engineering. She fulfilled her goal by graduating with a B.S. in Industrial Engineering. Begay established herself as a stellar student through her grade point averages throughout her tenure at the university as well as her success on the basketball court.

Jeramie Dunn of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe received a B.S. in Mining Engineering. Dunn, along with his wife and children, are moving to Wyoming where Dunn has already found employment which utilizes his new credentials. Dunn has overcome many hurdles which are often deterrents to the success that he has found academically and professionally. Dunn entered college after dropping out of high school and only later successfully completing his GED in Rapid City.

Santiago Handboy of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe also received his B.S in Industrial Engineering. Handboy initially began his college career in the mid 1990’s, and after an extended break, returned to complete his academic goals amidst many honors and recognitions and an exemplary grade point average.

Gerald Yellow Hawk, a noted pastor and leader of the Rapid City community, provided not only the opening prayer, but gave the keynote address and performed the spiritual blessings of the feathers and plumes presented to the graduates. Yellow Hawk, who has recently celebrated fifty-five years of marriage to his wife, Joanna, gave words of encouragement to the graduates as they completed one phase of their life and moved into the next.

“When times get difficult, I always run to Tunkasila, grandfather,” explained Yellow Hawk” He is always there, and that’s gotten me through some very tough times.”

Harriet Brings, another respected and noted elder in the community, who provides cultural guidance for the Multicultural Office at the university, addressed the gathering, explaining the honor that the graduates had earned.

“The graduates truly earned their place to be honored. They have worked hard, and along the way, there were times when they felt like giving up or just throwing in the towel. But, something inside of them kept them from giving up. Perhaps it was our ancestor, for they are pleased with the journey our graduates have chosen for themselves.” said Brings.

The Eagle plumes were blessed by Yellow Hawk and tied to the graduates hair by family members in attendance. The feathers for the Dunn and Handboy were, as traditional, attached to medicine wheels with the four directions colors, black, yellow, red and white. Begay’s full white eagle plume, as traditional for women to wear, was attached to a hand-woven disk, more befitting her Diné culture.

Also addressing the gathering were SDSMT President Robert Wharton, PhD., Dr. Carter Kerk, and Scott Wiley, the Director of Multicultural Affairs, who initially questioned the proper way to honor the Native American students who graduate from the school. This year signifies the third year of this honoring.

Abena Song Bird, Program Assistant II for the Office Of Multicultural Affairs was instrumental in coordinating the event.

A traditional Lakota meal was served immediately following the honoring, consisting of buffalo stew and fry bread.

The Wild Horse Butte Intertribal Color Guard provided the color guard duties, leading the graduates and their family members into and out of the gatherings. The Lakota Boyz Drum group, out of Rapid City, which included Damon Rooks, Jeremiah Moreno and Kevin Pederson, provided the necessary drum songs for the event.

According to Wiley, this event will continue as long as there are Native American graduates. University President Wharton, declared a commitment to increasing the number of students and graduates from any and all Native American tribes and communities.

(Contact Karin Eagle at

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