ROSEBUD – Tribal citizens organized an event to acknowledge the suffering some survivors of boarding schools lived through on the Rosebud Reservation.
Wokiksuye naha Wayuonihan was held in the tribal council chambers for contemporary boarding school survivors. The event also remembered students who never came home after leaving for boarding school. President Rodney Bordeaux issued an Executive Proclamation designating September 30 “as a day of healing for all those members of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe that survived the Boarding School era and for those tribal members that never returned home.”
The proclamation also read “In 1900 there were approximately 20,000 children attending the schools and by 1926 the number of children increased to 60,889. The state of South Dakota had a total of 23 boarding schools through the state. The Bureau of Indian Affairs, St. Francis Mission and Bishop Hare home for boys were three of those schools that were built on the Rosebud Reservation.”
“We acknowledge that our relatives who attended these schools have their own personal accounts and experiences during their time of attendance. We also acknowledge the lives of our relatives that were lost during their time attending school.”
“We want to honor these individuals for their resiliency and strength to persevere during this time to ensure our nation continues to exist. We want our future generations to understand the hardships for our relatives but to also see the power we carry as people to overcome adversary and remain true to our Lakota ways. Today we begin our healing journey here in Sicangu country by acknowledging our history in connection to the boarding schools and honor our relatives.”
The event was coordinated by Toy Lunderman and Sunrise Black Bull. They chose September 30 because it was the day in 1879 that the first group of Sicangu children left Spotted Tail Agency to board a train for the week-long trip to Carlisle. Sadly, there were many children who got sick and died while at the school. They were buried in a cemetery on school grounds.
The following Sicangu children are buried in Carlisle, Pennsylvania:
Dora (Her Pipe) Brave Bull, a 16-year-old female student who arrived at the school on 10/06/1879 and passed away on 04/24/1881.
Ernest Knocks Off-White Thunder, an 18-year-old male, who arrived at the school on 10/06/1879 and passed away on 12/14/1880.
Lucy Pretty Eagle (Takes the Tail), a 10-year-old female, who arrived at the school on 11/14/1883 and passed away on 03/09/1884.
Warren Painter-Bear Paints Dirt, a 15-year-old male, who arrived at the school on 11/30/1882 and passed away on 09/30/1884.
Friend Hollow Horn Bear, a 17-year-old male, who arrived at the school on 11/14/1883 and passed away on 05/21/1886.
Young Eagle-Foot Canoe, a 14-year-old male, who arrived on 11/14/1883 and passed away on 06/28/1886.
Dennis Strikes First- Blue Tomahawk, a 12-year-old male, who arrived on 10/06/1879 and passed away on 01/19/1881.
Rose Long Face, an 18-year-old female, who arrived on 10/06/1879 and passed away on 04/29/1881.
Maud Swift Bear, a 15-year-old female, who arrived on 10/06/1879 and passed away on 12/14/1880.
Alavan or Alvan (One That Kills Horse), a male who passed away on 03/22/1881.
The Sicangu Youth Council and the Tribal Historical Preservation Office began working on having the remains of the children buried in the Carlisle cemetery returned to Rosebud in 2016. The Sicangu Youth Council and the Tokala Inajinyo Suicide Prevention Mentoring Program created a display memorial for each child. Each memorial included photos, a Pendleton covered folding chair, an abalone shell and sacred herbs. The memorials were on display in the tribal council chambers on September 30. Officials continue to pressure the Department of Army to allow the remains of these students to be returned to Rosebud. All of the Lakota children buried in the Carlisle cemetery are remembered in ceremony.
The Rosebud Sioux Tribe’s Historical Preservation Office, St. Francis Indian School, RST Diabetes Prevention Program and Inyan Hocoka Tipi Ki Family Resource Center helped make the event a success. Students and staff from SFIS, He Dog School and Todd County School District attended the event. A student drum group sang honor songs. A meal was provided by SFIS.
Peter Gibbs of the RST Historical Preservation Office was honored for all the work he has done to bring the remains of the children buried at Carlisle home to Rosebud.
“We plan to have another event next year in a larger venue,” stated Toy Lunderman. “We also want to create some smaller gatherings through the year just for the survivors for them to enjoy each other, share, cry, smile, laugh and most importantly, heal.”
Vi Waln (Lakota) is an award-winning Journalist. She can be reached through email firstname.lastname@example.org