Victor Swallow. Photo courtesy Native Sun News Today
Opinion

Victor Swallow: Historic store was a vibrant part of the Oglala Sioux community





The Historic Linehan store was a strong part of the Oglala Community

By Victor D. Swallow
Native Sun News Today Columnist
nativesunnews.today

My generation from about 70 to 90 years old have many stories about events we have witnessed and also stories about people we knew and history of certain places.

Some stories are personal while others we experienced or heard about. The following story is about someone that was a big part of the Oglala community. Others may tell a better and more in-depth story then myself but this is how I recall it.

John Linehan who was Irish had a general merchandise store down by the Oglala Dam that served the Oglala Community. I wanted to get more information from other people about the store so I got in touch with Gene Linehan a twin son of John’s brother George Linehan.

George had three sons; Jimmy and the twins Neil and Gene. Gene is who I spoke with. Gene said his brother Neil is still alive. Gene told me his uncle John worked for the B.I.A. before he acquired the store and both his dad and uncle came from Massachusetts. My mother Lizzie Two Bulls was born in 1907 remembered the general merchandise store always being there.

She was from Red Shirt and did business in Fairburn and Buffalo Gap and in Rapid City. My father was from Black Tail which is South of the Prairie Wind Casino. He had many relatives around Oglala and White River and he also knew of the store. The store stocked just about everything that people would need. Clothing of all kinds, hats, rope, bridles and food. Gene told me that they bought their meat from Black Hills Packing Plant in quarter sections and at the store they cut their own meat.

Dad said they had a 300 head of cattle unit and after talking with Gene he confirmed it. Many people still rode horseback and had teams and wagons. What I know of the store covers about 35 years from what I heard from my parents to my own experiences. My father John Swallow was born in 1910 and he said when they were young men and if they carried a watch it was always a pocket watch. Evidently at some point they started making wrist watches for men. Dad asked John to order a wrist watch for him. John told dad, “Next thing you know you’re going to be squatting to pee.”

Dad thought it was coarse but funny. My earliest memory of the store probably in 1944 and I was five years old. The store was down by the Oglala Dam. There were teams and wagons tied up and some old people sitting outside talking to one another. I remember during that time I was afraid of old wrinkled people and stayed away.

Funny when I told my sister-in- law Suzanne Swallow that as a boy I was scared of old winkled people she replied, “Vic have looked in the mirror lately?” I thought that was funny!

Back to the story, when we approached the store and stopped, I saw the old people outside, everyone else got out of the car and went into the store except me I was scared and stayed in the car by myself. When they came out I was still sitting in the car crying. My mom asked me why I was crying and I told her, “I was scared of that Unci sitting there.”

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The Historic Linehan store was a strong part of the Oglala Community
Victor D. Swallow, Oglala Lakota, was born in 1939. He is a U. S. Navy Veteran and a 50-year member of Bricklayers Union. Optimistic, realist and fair, Victor can be reached at his daughter’s email address at vikkilovestodance@gmail.com

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