Historical Overview of
The American Legion
Chauncey Eagle Horn Post 125
Rosebud, South Dakota
By Eugene S. Iron Shell, Jr.
This post traces its lineage to World War I. In 1917 the United States entered the war against Germany and many Native Americans enlisted in the United States Army and Navy. It is interesting to note that at this point in history the Lakota people were not yet considered “U.S. citizens.”
Among the many Lakota men who stepped forward to serve was Chauncey Eagle Horn. He was born in 1874 and his home of record when he enlisted was in Okreek. When he volunteered he was 42 years old but chose to serve as an infantryman.
Chauncey was assigned to Company “M”, 167th Infantry Regiment, 42nd Infantry Division. This division was nicknamed the “Rainbow” Division because their shoulder insignia was a Rainbow.
Chauncey was killed in action on July 29, 1918 in the Battle of Chateau Thierry in France. He was the first man to be killed in action from any Tribe of the Great Sioux Nation and was eventually buried in Okreek at Calvary Episcopal Cemetery.
The American Legion was chartered by the United States Congress on September 16, 1919 and its members were comprised of the millions of returning WWI veterans. Interestingly a caucus of Veterans actually met in France during the War to discuss forming a national Veterans organization.
A group of Sicangu Lakota WWI veterans got together and wanted to start an American Legion post on the Rosebud Reservation. On December 2, 1919 Post 125 was granted their charter by the Department of South Dakota American Legion. Stephen Spotted Tail (Grandson of Chief Spotted Tail) was the first commander. Other founding members were Charles and Isaac Iron Shell (Grandsons of Chief Iron Shell), Jake LaPointe, Herbert Omaha Boy, and others. They named the new post after their friend and fallen comrade, Chauncey Eagle Horn. It is interesting to note that Herbert Omaha Boy had also fought with Company M 167th Infantry in France and witnessed Chauncey’s death.
The Post has been in continuous existence since their inception in December 1919 and is one of the oldest posts in the United States. In 2019 they will be recognized by the Department of South Dakota as a “centennial post.”
Over the years many men and women have served Post 125. Many of our leaders of the modern era have served in the Post. Some of them were Robert Burnette, Cato Valandra, and many others. Some joined as their fathers did like Sylvan Spotted Tail (son of Stephen Spotted Tail) and Eugene Iron Shell, Sr. (son of Charles).
One of the most outstanding members to serve was Frank LaPointe, Sr. A veteran of the United States Navy, he served during the Viet Nam War and for many years was the post adjutant. His position as adjutant was of great importance as this person is the one who handles the complex administrative functions and virtually holds the post together. Frank served with distinction in this billet up until his untimely death in 1992. Mr. Lapointe also served as a St. Francis Indian School board member and tribal councilman for Rosebud Community. In many ways the Post has not been the same since he left and is still greatly missed.
During the 1980’s and 1990’s many of the active members of the post passed away. The post struggled to maintain its membership. This was a common challenge faced by many small town legion posts as the WWII generation passed in as many as 1,500 deaths per day across the United States. Men like Melvin Peneaux, C.P. Bordeaux, Marchmont Lapointe, Leonard Standing Cloud, Calvin Valandra, Herb Decory, and Ralph Clairmont made lasting contributions to Post 125 that have not been forgotten.
Jim LaPointe led the Post into the new millennium. Chris Bordeaux was the Post adjutant. Eugene Iron Shell, Sr. was the vice commander and also served as the Todd County Commander. Other active members during this period were Louie Schmidt, Harvey Jordan, Sylvan Spotted Tail, Dwayne White Thunder, Robert Reynolds, Leroy Decory, Charles Mack, Webster Two Hawk, Sam Wounded Head. There are currently three life members of the post. They are Lt. Col Arlene Lomax, USMC, Retired, Ronald Valandra, and Hubert Dillon.
After the passing of Jim LaPointe in 2008, Eugene Iron Shell, Sr was appointed the commander and remains to this day. Chris Bordeaux is still the post adjutant. The current active members of the post (Eugene Sr, Chris Bordeaux, Robert Reynolds Charles Mack) should be commended for holding the post together. The other area legion posts have virtually ceased to exist but somehow the spirit of Chauncey Eagle Horn Post 125 lives on.
The responsibility and duty of carrying on the Post legacy is about to be presented to the new generation of Veterans. Those who have served in the eras of Operation Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom will soon be appointed as leaders to carry out the work of the American Legion in the communities on the Rosebud Reservation.