Native Sun News: Oglala Sioux woman helps her community

The following story was written and reported by Kirk Dickerson, Native Sun News Staff. All content © Native Sun News.

Bernice Spotted Eagle sits at a table in her kitchen doing beadwork at her home in Wounded Knee. Photo KRISTINA BARKER/RAPID CITY JOURNAL

WOUNDED KNEE, SOUTH DAKOTA –– “Donation distribution hasn’t always been an easy road,” said Bernice Spotted Eagle, longstanding volunteer donation specialist for the Wounded Knee community.

“In 1998, by chance, I was at a meeting with Christian Relief Services in attendance,” she said. “They were looking for groups or individuals who would distribute clothing and food to the nine districts of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. A woman by the name of Muriel Ashmore, who has passed on since that time, was a pioneer in food donations. She was concerned about how she could help people in Wounded Knee. She used the Wounded Knee name to attract donations for that community.”

Donation programs began to increase, even Christmas delivery of donations were made.

“Nothing hindered her,” Spotted Eagle, Oglala Lakota, said of Ashmore. “In fact, she became stronger.”

The tide turned for the best as Ashmore acquired three organizations willing to donate funds for the Wounded Knee community.

“We really began growing at that point,” Spotted Eagle said. “We started projects for the community and started gaining more knowledge. We would go to Sun Dances and sweats, and started meeting people who would donate. In Rapid City, members of the reservation could get assistance for funerals called ‘Wake Packs’ to help with funeral expenses.”

“My daughters and I would cook big meals and invite the public on many occasions,” she said. Many community programs ceased over time “so that is when I stepped in and became a coordinator. I converted my home to house the donations for quite some time now.”

However, donations were reduced due to a 501(c)(3) ruling which required that any nonprofit organization under a 501(c)(3) plan had to pay a certain percentage to Arapahoe County in Denver, Colo.

“Since a majority of funding was coming from that area, it reduced our private donations,” said Spotted Eagle. “Carl (Broken Leg) and I decided to use our own vehicle and gas to deliver the donations to reach the elders in the more rural parts of the reservation.”

Carl Broken Leg, who is also Oglala Lakota, is Spotted Eagle’s longtime companion. Brand new blankets were also a part of the “goodies” that were delivered. To acquire donors though, an on-site storage shed and more freezers are needed.

“Right now, we have an organization out of Parker, Colorado, still sending donations, but a building would be better,” Spotted Eagle said with a smile.

For further information, contact either Spotted Eagle or Broken Leg at (605) 867-1650.

(Contact Kirk Dickerson at

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