Native Sun News: Wambli Ska group keeps Indian children safe

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

Wambli Ska Drum & Dance Society Dancers. Photo by Richie Richards

Keeping Native children safe
By Richie Richards
Native Sun News Staff Writer

RAPID CITY –– The Wambli Ska Drum & Dance Society of Rapid City is keeping kids off the streets and families actively participating in traditional practices while walking the red road to healthy living.

Seven years ago, while preparing for sun dance, Daron White Eagle had a dream of bringing family and children back to culture and prayer. It was this vision, that Daron along with wife Nora, made the Wambli Ska Drum & Dance Society (WSDDS) group a reality.

The group currently meets for a meal and practice every Monday night at the Mother Butler Center in Rapid City- beginning with a free meal and a pow wow following thereafter.

From their humble beginnings at the Woyatan Lutheran Church in Rapid City, including six boys with regalia consisting of bells on their ankles and a borrowed drum, the WSDDS began their sacred mission to unite a community with traditional practices.

In the past seven years, WSDDS has grown to be one of the largest dance groups in the country. They have over 70 children and teens signed up and the group is continually expanding. Ages range from 6 months to 17 years in age. All generations participate in the WSDDS Powwow each week; as it is the older generation who teach and mentor the young.

This sharing of knowledge and cultural wealth is a true characteristic of tribalism and ceremonial balance. Parents and grandparents guide the Wambli Ska dancers and assist them in dance instruction and regalia making.

Among the qualities the founders of the dance group stress to participants is sharing. This mutual exchange of materials and knowledge is effective in the continuing success of Wambli Ska.

When one child out grows a regalia item, it is passed down to another. The child’s family individualizes the handed down piece and it becomes their own. This ability to adapt is a cultural skill-set needed for all phases of life.

During the Monday, Jan. 19 powwow gathering at Mother Butler, Native Sun News had the opportunity to visit several WSDDS dancers and attendees. All were in good spirits and happy to be dancing.

Tiny Tot dancers, holding on to parents’ index fingers, were led around the dance floor in some cases, while others watched and emulated the older dancers and mimicked their moves. Witnessing this strength of a completed circle is an honor to all attending.

Ted Ten Fingers (Oglala Lakota), a resident of Rapid City, has been bringing his grandson Demetrius Arpan to the weekly events for over a year.

Ten Fingers lives a healthy lifestyle and says, “I’ve been sober for over 35 years and married for 42. My wife and I help each other stay sober and going to events like this helps. Wambli Ska brings in the cultural aspect; regalia and all the things that go into making the regalia. We teach and learn. I’m learning how to bead and make some moccasins for my grandson.”

The Wambli Ska Society Drum is the host drum of the evening with 4-6 local drums showing up each week. From the original drum group, others have gone on to form their own drum group. This is keeping the sacred drum beating for many more generations.

The WSDDS Committee Members consist of President – Daron White Eagle, Vice President – Shana Pourier, Secretary – Brittney Carter, and Treasurer Nora White Eagle.

The Committee works diligently to get the group exposure, attain volunteers and donations of regalia materials, provide meals each week, travel to regional powwows, and get their own Wambli Ska royalty to as many gatherings as possible. Each week on Thursday evenings, the WSDDS group meets for their Arts & Crafts Night to work on regalia pieces and learn the meaning and symbolism of certain aspects of their dance outfit.

The younger ones, according to Daron, “Need to earn their eagle feathers and sacred materials. They must learn the ceremonies, care for their bustles, and respect for the dance and songs before they are given eagle feathers.”

He goes on to say, “I like to see their faces once they finish their regalia and get a chance to dance with it for the first time. They are confident and dance proud. That is what I want.”

The WSDDS princesses include: Sunshine Hayes – Miss Wambli Ska, Jordana Thunderhawk – Jr. Miss Wambli Ska, Makayla Braveheart – Miss Lakota Omniciye, Monique Warbonnet – Miss Santee, and Mali Shell – Miss LaPointe. They will be part of the royalty during the grand entry of the Sinte Gleska University 45th Annual Founders’ Day Powwow Jan. 30-Feb. 1 in Mission, South Dakota.

Co-Founder Nora White Eagle says, “Our main goal is to keep our children off the street and out of trouble at least one day out of the week. We have a Wambli Ska New Year’s Wacipi to teach our children how to bring in a new year with prayer, family and culture- instead of drinking and/or drugging. We need our children healthy to carry on our traditions.”

Children are given choices in life and often times they are without freedom to choose their life paths. The Wambli Ska Drum & Dance Society provides a healthy option and a chance for families to walk the red road together and Native children are not alone to navigate the streets.

If you would like more information or have regalia pieces available, please contact Daron White Eagle at

(Contact Richie Richards at

Copyright permission Native Sun News

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