A cross at the empty grave of Tere Charging Thunder, erected after her burial, reads "Terri Charging Thunder." The Lakota woman's body was removed from a cemetery on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation in South Dakota and placed in an unmarked grave in another cemetery against her biological family's wishes. Photo by Native Sun News Today

Native Sun News Today: Lakota woman removed from grave by adoptive mother

Lakota woman placed in unmarked grave

By Alaina Adakai
Native Sun News Today Correspondent

Correction: Tere Charging Thunder's adoptive mother is a citizen of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. The title of this post and a reference to Faith Houston have been changed to reflect her identity.

EAGLE BUTTE - Tere Charging Thunder lived a hard life. When she was two years old, she was adopted out of Rapid City by a woman named Faith Houston. Tere’s mother was Celeste Littleton of Bear Creek, South Dakota. Her father was Earl Charging Thunder of Oglala.

In November 2013, Tere passed away in Seattle, Washington. A social worker contacted Tere’s biological sister, Carol Charging Thunder, to inform her of Tere’s passing.

“We never met in person but we talked a lot on the telephone. We laughed a lot about things in our lives. We always told each other we loved each other before we ended our conversations,” said Carol.

Carol traveled to Seattle and brought back Tere’s body to the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe reservation. It was Tere’s wishes to be buried with her family and ancestors in Bear Creek.

Tere was buried between her grandparents, Zoe and Paul Littleton. The Littletons never stopped searching for Tere.

In 1988 Tere was finally able to contact her biological family on the Cheyenne River Sioux reservation. Sadly, Zoe Littleton passed away earlier that year before Tere could meet her.

According to Carol, Tere often recalled her upbringing and the abuse she suffered at the hands of her adoptive mother, Faith Houston.

When Tere was a teenager she ran away from her adoptive home in California and joined the Indians at the take-over on Alcatraz Island.

After returning to home, Tere was involuntarily committed into a psychiatric hospital by Houston. She was finally released by the deinstitutionalization policies set in place by then-California Governor Richard Nixon.

When she turned 18 years old, Houston gave Tere her birth certificate and “kicked her out of her home and told her to find her Indian family,” said Carol.

Alone and with nowhere to go, Tere became homeless. She lived out of tents to survive.

After many years, Tere eventually found her way back to the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation, where she spent a month visiting her relatives. During this time Tere became an enrolled member of the tribe.

After years of living alone off the reservation, Tere was finally surrounded by family. Tere was home.

Tere left the reservation and lived throughout the western United States. She kept in contact with relatives from Cheyenne River. Tere did not have a relationship with her adoptive mother, and did not have contact with Houston for many years.

When she knew that she was nearing the end of her life, Tere called Carol and said that she would leave instructions for her burial.

Tere passed away on November 4, 2013. Carol traveled to Seattle where Tere lived and passed away. She made funeral arrangements for Tere, following her instructions.

Carol signed Tere’s death certificate as the Informant (the person who knew the deceased the best, and can accurately answer all the questions questions on a death certificate).

Mother Margaret Watson of the St. James Episcopal Church in Eagle Butte, South Dakota, remembers presiding over Tere’s funeral and burial in 2013.

“Tere did not want to be buried alone. She lived all her life alone. It was her wishes to be buried with her ancestors. So we buried her in Bear Creek with her tiospaye,” said Mother Margaret.

In attendance during the funeral service was Tere’s adoptive mother.

“Faith saw Tere’s obituary in the newspapers in Rapid City. That was how she found out that Tere had died,” said Carol.

According to Carol, Houston was verbally abusive to Tere’s Lakota family.

“Faith was so rude to our family at the funeral. She was so mouthy and so disrespectful to our elderly aunt,” said Carol.

Houston attended the funeral service at the St. James Episcopal Church in Eagle Butte. She did not attend the interment ceremony at the Bear Creek Cemetery.

Last summer Houston contacted Mother Margaret and stated that she wished to disinter Tere and have her reburied at the Eagle Butte cemetery.


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Lakota woman placed in unmarked grave
Alaina Adakai can be contacted at aadakai01@gmail.com

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