9 Rosebud Sioux children buried in emotional ceremonies
In the peaceful green and golden plains of western South Dakota, the Rosebud Sioux have properly buried their children who were taken from them over 140 years ago.
“Children will rest in peace and find solace in the plains,” said Russell Eagle Bear. “Today they took a trip to be here – to go to the comfort of Mother Earth.”
The remains of six Rosebud Sioux children who died at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in the late 19th century were buried in the Rosebud Sioux Tribe Veterans Cemetery on Saturday evening. Three other children were buried in family cemetery plots. Saturday was the last stop for children after a emotional the two previous days which included prayer ceremonies and commemorations.
The nine children were brought to the old boarding school in Carlisle, Pa., in 1880. Some died of illness within months of their arrival, others died years later after unsuccessful attempts to escape the horrors of school supposed to “kill the Indian, save the man”.
The children’s names are Ernest Knocks Off White Thunder, Warren Painter Bear Paints Dirt, Maud Little Girl Swift Bear, Dora Her Pipe Brave Bull, Friend Hollow Horn Bear, Rose Long Face Little Hawk, Lucy Take The Tail Pretty Hawk, Alvan One That Kills Seven Horses and Dennis strike the first Blue Tomahawk.
On Friday evening, the children arrived in Mission, South Dakota, on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation.
The small coffins were placed on nine tables with pictures of the children, homemade moccasins, ribbon shirts and skirts, tobacco and sage. American flags and Rosebud Sioux were placed atop each table.
Two of the children, Warren Painter Bear Paints Dirt and Lucy Takes The Tail Pretty Eagle, did not have photos.
A ceremony, which included a sage cleansing, was held to unwrap the children’s remains, wrapped in traditional buffalo skin. Grandmothers gave leftovers spirited food including Virginia cherries and water, which were then put in sachets and placed on tables. Prayer for the children took place later in the evening.
The entire gymnasium inside the Sinte Gleska University Multicultural Center smelled of sage at the end of the night when a heavy rainstorm, filled with crackling lightning, swept through town.
“The rain last night was a cleanup,” Duane Hollow Horn Bear, a Rosebud Sioux elder and whose friend Hollow Horn Bear was near him, told the small crowd gathered in the gym on Saturday morning. “It was so good to go out in that rain and see the kids playing in the clouds.”
Throughout the morning, family members of the remembered children recounted what the children faced at boarding school and their possible deaths.
Ione Quigley, the tribal historic preservationist and parent of Alvan Kills Seven Horses, began to cry as she described part of a book her ancestor Luther Standing Bear had written about Alvan’s death.
“Alvan was a very good boy,” she said, pausing to sniffle and wipe the tears from his face. “We were happy for Alvan when he passed because he was in a better place.”
An older woman and young girl walked over to hug Quigley as she continued, her voice energetic: “When children say a child is in a better place, something horrible must have made them think of. this way. That he’s in a better place dying.
Quigley also acknowledged that there were even more children in Carlisle who had not been brought back, saying some graves were unmarked while others only had the word “Sioux” written on them.
Tears flowed throughout the day, with at one point when the community came to shake hands with the youth council charged with bringing the children back, multiple fabrics crumpled in the palms of their hands could be seen.
In the afternoon, Honor Guard Rosebud Sioux, made up of all the women who served in various branches of the US military, escorted the remains to a gray van where they made the last trip of 10 miles to the Veterans Cemetery.
Family members lowered the remains into the ground and placed star-shaped quilts and flowers on the buffalo hides before the dirt from the original coffins began to pour in.
When the wind picked up, the singers sang the song of the Battle of Little Bighorn and the children rested in their graves, finally at home.