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Native Sun News Today: Young artist connects with Lakota culture

Jacob Helvick, whose Lakota name is Wanbli Cheya, released an album under the name juQ. Photo by James Giago Davies

Saving Lakota culture through song
Wanbli Cheya and the Good Red Road
By James Giago Davies
Native Sun News Today Correspondent

RAPID CITY –– History is full of stirring tales of lost heroes returned home to their people in a desperate hour. These heroes have been transformed by some crucible of fire, given sacred strength and gifts and wisdom to combat great evil.

Actually, graphic novels and comic books are also full of such heroes, and somewhere between the ordinary historic reality and the fantastic tales, actual people accomplish amazing things by just applying their human abilities, dedicating themselves to a purpose, a vision, greater than themselves.

Just over two decades ago Jacob Helvick was born to an adopted Lakota mother and raised in Humboldt, Iowa. Raised in that Wasicu world, away from his people and his culture, Jacob ran into some issues. His mother became an alcoholic, he was raised by his grandparents, and he had a rocky relationship with his siblings. That sounds a lot like the dysfunctional Pine Ridge environment his mother and twin sister were adopted out of about a half century back, but what was different is this wasn’t Pine Ridge, so a support system emerged to rescue Jacob from a descending spiral of self-destruction.

“Identity is really such a sketchy place,” Jacob says. “Imagine your mind being a perfect smooth piece of dough. It’s all good. When this experience happens, when that experience happens, you shift away from that. You deviate from what you were, what you are, with each hit.”

When Jacob talks about his life, his vision, like many Lakota, his face and hands are very expressive, and there is a sincerity, a gentleness, a spiritually vital sense of self that radiates from him. He would be the last Lakota boy in the room you would think had any internal issues.

“I did develop PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) from all the things I had gone through,” Jacobs says. “I literally ended up in the mental health unit of hospitals. What happened was the process of unlearning, of snapping out of (childhood trauma), of seeing the darkness I had learned there.”

Read the rest of the story on the Native Sun News Today website: Saving Lakota culture through song

(Contact James Giago Davies at

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