A “Welcome Home” sign rests outside a tipi erected in Sioux City, Iowa, to honor nine Rosebud Lakota children whose remains were returned to their homelands in South Dakota. Photo by Kevin Abourezk
Lakota youth return home after more than a century away at Indian boarding school
Monday, July 19, 2021
• PHOTOS: Lakota children spend final morning away from homelands
SIOUX CITY, Iowa – Nine Rosebud Lakota children began their last morning away from their homelands Friday at the base of a bluff overlooking the Missouri River.
Shortly after 1 a.m. Friday morning, a caravan carrying the nine Lakota children who died more than 140 years ago arrived here with a police escort in front of them for a brief welcome ceremony and meal.
As they stepped out of their vans – rubbing their eyes following their long drive from the Meskwaki Settlement in Iowa – they were greeted by Native people from many different tribes living in Sioux City. They stood before a tipi with a fire burning in the center and several long tables set up to serve food to the people in the caravan.
“We heard about the things that you were doing, and we wanted to do the best we can to welcome you,” said Manape LaMere, a Yankton Dakota community organizer. “We wanted to make sure you felt welcome and well.”
Manape LaMere, a community organizer in Sioux City, Iowa, speaks during an honoring ceremony held in Sioux City, Iowa, on Thursday for nine Rosebud Lakota children whose remains were taken back to their homelands in South Dakota. Photo by Kevin Abourezk
Wearing blue jeans and a colorful loin cloth, LaMere talked about the significance of the place – War Eagle Park is named for a revered Dakota chief who died in 1851 and whose body remains buried at the top of the bluff. He said Sioux City is home to Native people from more than 120 different tribes.
“This whole area is all full of relatives,” he said. “They all came out to share a meal.”
But he apologized for being able to greet the caravan with just a handful of community members, saying many had gone home after learning the caravan would be arriving well after its expected 8:30 p.m. arrival.
And he offered the Rosebud Lakota entourage food – including hominy soup cooked by Rosebud chef Anthony Warrior.
Members of the Sicangu Youth Council take part in a ceremony held on July 16, 2021, to honor nine Rosebud Lakota children whose remains were returned to their homelands in South Dakota. Photo by Kevin Abourezk
He said many Rosebud Lakota members of the community were gone to attend sundance ceremonies on the reservations, but he assured those in the caravan that their people were praying for their safe travels.
“It’s an honor to facilitate this and welcome you to the gateway to the Oceti Sakowin,” he said.
The caravan of people and vehicles began their journey at the start of this week, landing in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, where they attended a ceremony on Wednesday at the site of the former Carlisle Indian Industrial School
in which the U.S. Army returned the remains of the nine Rosebud children to the caravan to be returned to their homelands in South Dakota.
The endeavor’s origins began six years ago when members of the Sicangu Youth Council
visited Carlisle – the most infamous institution of the Indian boarding school era – and became incensed by lack of care shown to the children whose headstones displayed familiar names and some of whose graves had been built over by a road.
Some of the Rosebud youth even got out of their van and put candy on the road as a show of respect to their ancestors. Later, many of the youth determined themselves to fight to get their tribe’s ancestral remains returned to their homelands.
Later, they learned the names of the nine Rosebud children buried at Carlisle
: Lucy Take the Tail (Pretty Eagle), Rose Long Face (Little Hawk), Ernest Knocks Off (White Thunder), Dennis Strikes First (Blue Tomahawk), Maud Little Girl (Swift Bear), Friend Hollow Horn Bear, Warren Painter (Bear Paints Dirt), Alvan (Kills Seven Horses) and Dora Her Pipe (Brave Bull).
Indianz.Com Video by Kevin Abourezk: Welcoming home the children in Sioux City, Iowa
Six years later, the Rosebud youth stepped out of their vans to be welcomed by a contingent of Dakota, Lakota, Winnebago and First Nations people in Sioux City.
Christopher Eagle Bear, a member of the Sicangu Youth Council, thanked those gathered Friday morning for their hospitality and generosity, and for the tipi they erected.
“We see a tipi. We see fire. We see the stars,” he said. “We are home now, but yet the fire of this nation still has some places to go.”
The caravan planned to depart Sioux City later Friday morning and pass through the Santee Sioux Reservation and then the Yankton Sioux Reservation before finally arriving on the Rosebud Reservation on Friday evening.
Michelle Free-LaMere (right) and a young Native woman visit with each other during an honoring ceremony held in Sioux City, Iowa, on Thursday for nine Rosebud Lakota children whose remains were taken back to their homelands in South Dakota. Photo by Kevin Abourezk
The 23-year-old man described being part of the journey to Carlisle six years ago, saying fireflies followed their caravan home back then and six years followed them back to their homelands.
“They’ve been following us home,” he said. “We’re on a journey of healing, of being freed. Just like this fire, the fire is burning in all of us to do something better for the next generations to come.”
Asia Black Bull, 21, said the Sicangu Youth Council’s success at gaining the return of their ancestors’ remains represented a triumph for all of Indian Country.
“As indigenous people, we’ve all been standing up,” she said. “We’ve all been rising. We’re a failed system of what the U.S. tried to do, to annihilate us. We’re still here.”
A boarding school survivor hugs a member of the Sicangu Youth Council as a caravan of Rosebud youth and their chaperones prepared to leave Sioux City, Iowa, on Friday, July 16, 2021, on their way home to the Rosebud Sioux Reservation. Photo by Kevin Abourezk
Vikki Eagle Bear, who helped chaperone the youth this week, said their efforts were met with indifference from their people when they first began pushing for the return of their relatives six years ago.
“When they first started this call to action, there were hardly any adults that believed in them, that believed that this could happen,” she said. “So to see this outpouring of support from a lot of people, we appreciate it. We do.”
Later Friday morning, nearly 300 people attended a departure ceremony held at the Tyson Event Center in Sioux City. Representatives from the Omaha Nation and Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska held banners and provided food to those gathered, and a motorcycle club called the Legion Riders arrived to lead the caravan out of Sioux City and on to the Santee Sioux Reservation.
A member of the Sicangu Youth Council (left) shakes hands with a boarding school survivor during a ceremony held on July 16, 2021, to honor nine Rosebud Lakota children whose remains were returned to their homelands in South Dakota. Photo by Kevin Abourezk
Speaking outside the Tyson Event Center, Manape LaMere said he was humbled to see another movement began and overseen by Native youth. He compared the Sicangu Youth Council’s efforts to those of the Native youth who started the efforts to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock.
“It’s a constant lesson in how we can elevate their voice,” he said.
And he lamented the treatment of Native children – including his own father and other relatives – at the hands of priests and nuns in boarding schools. He said he struggled in the Catholic school he attended as a child. And he said he could relate to the story of one of the nine Rosebud children – Ernest Knocks Off (White Thunder).
“I could relate to him what they wrote about him. Uncooperative,” LaMere said. “I didn’t do too well in those school systems.”
Four stuffed bears are shown inside a tipi erected in Sioux City, Iowa, to represent four of nine Rosebud Lakota children whose remains were returned to their homelands in South Dakota. Photo by Kevin Abourezk
He then motioned toward children gathered outside the Tyson Event Center for the departure ceremony.
“If you look at the Indian kids here, they may suffer from the inability to fit into the system,” he said. “I think we can trace a lot of this stuff back to Carlisle. Killing the Indian in order to save the man.”
“I hope to heal from it. I hope to learn from it.”
LaMere then sang a Lakota prayer song for the Rosebud caravan.
Christopher Eagle Bear encouraged those who attended the ceremony to continue believing in themselves and fighting for their right to live as indigenous people.
And he offered strong words of encouragement for the youth gathered there.
Indianz.Com Video by Kevin Abourezk: Departure ceremony for children in Sioux City, Iowa
“Maybe it’s the children’s voices that have to be heard the most,” he said. “Maybe that’s why whenever children do something it has the biggest impact that sometimes adults can’t make.”
“Every child that’s going to hear this, I encourage you. Speak out. Speak up. If you have visions, if you have dreams, say them. Convince your tribal government to move forward with your projects.”
“Each and every one of you is a sign that we’re still moving forward.”
A few minutes later – after many of those gathered shook the hands of the Rosebud youth and their chaperones – the Legion Riders led the caravan out of the Tyson Event Center parking lot.
As the truck pulling the trailer carrying the nine Rosebud children drove away, the sound of war whoops and trilling filled the morning air, and several Native people held up their fists.
A biker with the Legion Riders signals the start of a caravan of motorcycles and other vehicles that departed from Sioux City, Iowa on July 16, 2021, en route to the Rosebud Sioux Reservation. Photo by Kevin Abourezk
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