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Marchers carry a banner during the 18th Annual Memorial March to Honor Our Lost Children held Wednesday, November 25, 2020, in Sioux City, Iowa. The march commemorates Native children who have been removed their homes or have been murdered by their foster parents. Photo by Kevin Abourezk

‘It takes our own people to help our own people’
Native community honors children lost to state welfare system[/h]
Friday, November 27, 2020
Indianz.Com

PHOTOS: 18th Annual Memorial March to Honor Our Lost Children

SIOUX CITY, Iowa – As they have for the past 17 years, Native men and women stood atop a windswept hill overlooking the Missouri River here on Wednesday morning and prayed for the Native children lost to the child welfare system.

The 18th Annual Memorial March to Honor Our Lost Children was held Wednesday in Sioux City. It began at War Eagle Park before a 31-foot statue of Santee Sioux Chief War Eagle.

Terry Medina, a Winnebago Tribal Court probation officer, began the event by invoking the name of the march’s founder, the late Frank LaMere, a Winnebago community organizer who died in June 2019 after a brief battle with cancer.

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Terry Medina. a Winnebago Tribal Court probation officer, speaks during the 18th Annual Memorial March to Honor Our Lost Children held Wednesday, November 25, 2020, in Sioux City, Iowa. The march commemorates Native children who have been removed their homes or have been murdered by their foster parents. Photo by Kevin Abourezk

LaMere began the march to commemorate Native children lost to the child welfare system or murdered by foster parents and to convince state officials in Iowa and Nebraska to address the ever growing ranks of Native children taken from Native parents. Medina said he couldn’t recall the names of the many Native children who have died in Iowa foster homes.

“Frank knew all those names, and I don’t know all those names,” he said.

He compared LaMere, who was also pivotal in the successful effort to shut down the beer stores in Whiteclay, Nebraska, to a buffalo, an animal that turns its head to face strong winds and blizzards.

“The buffaloes, they face the adversity,” Medina said. “They face the elements.”

“That’s how Frank was. Leading the way for the relatives. In times of need, he was there.”

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A young woman takes part in the 18th Annual Memorial March to Honor Our Lost Children held Wednesday, November 25, 2020, in Sioux City, Iowa. The march commemorates Native children who have been removed their homes or have been murdered by their foster parents. Photo by Kevin Abourezk

Nearly 30 people walked from War Eagle Park down the hill to Jackson Recovery Centers, a treatment center, where they gathered for words from local leaders.

Along the march, a woman carrying an eagle staff led four riders on horses and one horse without a rider. Organizers said the rider-less horse was meant to represent the Native children lost to the child welfare system.

Matt Ohman, executive director of the Siouxland Human Investment Partnership, spoke about the need for more Native foster parents.

“We badly need them in our community,” he said.

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Participants of the 18th Annual Memorial March to Honor Our Lost Children gather outside the Urban Native Center on Wednesday, November 25, 2020, in Sioux City, Iowa. The march commemorates Native children who have been removed their homes or have been murdered by their foster parents. Photo by Kevin Abourezk

From there, marchers walked several miles to the Urban Native Center, a community center that serves Native people where marchers gathered for refreshments and words from local leaders.

Nate Bigfire, chairman of Winnebago Chapter of Fatherhood Is Sacred, talked about the need for any Native person who is considering helping other Native people to first get sober and heal themselves.

“We have to have clean hands to help our people,” he said. “It takes our own people to help our own people, to understand our own way of life.”

He said it’s important for Native men to get sober and take care of their families.

“Now our men are finally standing up to help our families, to help our people,” he said.

He said having strong parents is essential to raising strong children, and he talked about the dysfunctional ways that children will search for love outside their homes if they don’t receive it in their homes.

“The power of love, if we give it to our children, we can heal our children,” he said. “We can doctor our people. That’s how powerful it is.”

Manape LaMere, one of the organizers of Wednesday’s march and the son of Frank LaMere, talked about the need for Native people in Sioux City to begin taking responsibility for War Eagle Park.

He said the park is a sacred place, where at least seven of Chief War Eagle’s family, including the chief himself, are buries. He shared a story about visiting the park recently and encountering two teenagers who were drinking alcohol and others who were smoking marijuana.

He challenged those gathered this week to care for the park.

“Would you allow someone to come do that to your grandma and grandpa’s grave?” he said.

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Manape LaMere, the son of the late Winnebago activist Frank LaMere, during the 18th Annual Memorial March to Honor Our Lost Children held Wednesday, November 25, 2020, in Sioux City, Iowa. The march commemorates Native children who have been removed their homes or have been murdered by their foster parents. Photo by Kevin Abourezk

He said he has begun talking to Sioux City officials about the possibility of allowing the local Native community to begin overseeing the 50-acre park and ensuring its maintenance.

And he shared a vision of his to use the park as a tipi encampment similar to the one recently established by Native activists in Rapid City, South Dakota.

“When have we Indian people ever sat in a tipi, slept in one overnight, looked at the stars?” he said.

He stressed the need for Native people to begin placing greater faith in their spiritual practices and beliefs. He said he would like to one day use the park as a place to provide shelter and food to local homeless Native people.

“We don’t need big evidence-based models and all this stuff,” he said. “It could be as simple as a bowl of corn soup. Do you believe in it or not?”

“Do you believe in the power of the tipi? Do you believe in the medicine of the horses that are here today?”

eaglestaff
A woman carries an eagle staff during the 18th Annual Memorial March to Honor Our Lost Children held Wednesday, November 25, 2020, in Sioux City, Iowa. The march commemorates Native children who have been removed their homes or have been murdered by their foster parents. Photo by Kevin Abourezk