Rescuers combat foam, ice and debris at Great Sioux Falls to try and locate the body of 6-year-old boy's would-be rescuers: his sister, 16-year-old Madison Leigh Wallace, and 28-year-old American Indian Lyle Eagletail.

Native Man Drowns Trying to Pluck 6-Year-Old Boy From Big Sioux River in South Dakota


Native and non-Native alike are mourning Lyle Eagle Tail, who passed on as a hero while trying to save a 6-year-old boy from the raging waters of the Big Sioux River on the evening of Thursday March 14.

The 28-year-old was passing by when 6-year-old Garrett Martin Wallace fell into the river, police told CNN. First the boy’s sister, 16-year-old Madison Leigh Wallace, jumped in to try and save him and was pulled under. 

Garrett survived, but Madison’s body was found on Saturday morning, and Eagle Tail's was pulled from the river at about 2 p.m. on Saturday, CNN affiliate KSFY News reported.

Photo: Native Citizen News Network/Facebook

Eagle Tail also jumped into the river to try and grab Garrett. He was pulled under despite others’ attempts to hold onto him, including his friend, 21-year-old Napoleon Ducheneaux.

"We had him ... but he just slipped," Ducheneaux told CNN affiliate KSFY. "I heard him say, 'Hold onto me, I'll hold onto you.' That was the last I heard his voice."

Mounds of foam as much as 10 feet deep, characteristic of the falls this time of year, were hampering rescue and recovery efforts, along with river debris and a sheet of ice that had to be broken up, authorities told the Associated Press.

Ducheneaux told AP that Eagle Tail had been holding onto each sibling with one hand, but that his hands then began to slide before he “slipped and disappeared.” The boy got out or was pulled from the river—AP said it was not clear whether he had been in the water itself, or just obscured by foam—and was not injured.

Also with Eagle Tail was Arthur Eaglefeather, who recounted the tragedy to local broadcaster Kelo-TV.

"We were just hanging out, throwing rocks in the river. Then we started hearing people screaming. I came running," Eaglefeather said, according to the station. They tried to grab onto Garrett, he said. When it didn’t work, his friend went in.

The search for Eagle Tail’s body was suspended late Friday because river conditions were too dangerous, AP said.

Condolences were pouring in for Eagle Tail, who people said died a hero and warrior.

“As uncle to Lyle Francis Eagle Tail Thunder Hawk, he should be recognized as a true warrior for giving up his own life for another,” wrote Harold Wayne Eagle Tail of El Cajon, California, on the Facebook page of the Native Citizen News Network. “It shows true humanity and love for another, in this we would like for him to be recognized as a true hero warrior and special prayers for his dad and mom and brothers and sisters.”

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Shelley Ringold's picture
Shelley Ringold
Submitted by Shelley Ringold on
I can not express enough, the sadness I feel for this man, his family, his friends and his tribe. He was a hero, while other stood and watched. May his flight to the heavens be paved with all the glory a hero deserves.

warrior1216's picture
Submitted by warrior1216 on
WANISHI! A fine example of what it is to be Native. What it is to be human!

Bruce Morness's picture
Bruce Morness
Submitted by Bruce Morness on
I'm touched by the courage of this young man. I wish his family and friends my deep condolences on their loss of this special soul. When I see a I'm touched by the courage of this young man. My deep condolences go to his family and friends for the loss of this special soul. When I see a bald eagle fly I will remember Lyle Francis Eagletail.

sam gesch's picture
sam gesch
Submitted by sam gesch on
Thank you for posting this story. I live in Luverne, MN near Sioux Falls and have been following this story. This young man was indeed a warrior. In my humble opinion, his family should be given an eagle feather to honor him, his memory, and his bravery. I hope that non-natives hear this story and remember this man.

Soul Ciar Him Dag's picture
Soul Ciar Him Dag
Submitted by Soul Ciar Him Dag on
Prayers and Smoke to Great Spirit to help the families at this time

Submitted by LINDA CHAPPELL on

Rachel needs your help to uncover a Medium Troll!'s picture
Rachel needs yo...
Submitted by Rachel needs yo... on
so sorry to hear about this...just goes to show that us native people will do anything to help one another..r.i.p lyle

Carmelita Escarcega's picture
Carmelita Escarcega
Submitted by Carmelita Escarcega on
Thank you Eagle Feather for giving your life to save another and for walking in the hear-after with little-mans sister, so she did not pass alone...

Honey Blossom's picture
Honey Blossom
Submitted by Honey Blossom on
You will always be a warrior to all of us, and a hero to many. May you be strong in with the grandfathers as you were here with us.

Raven Tenney's picture
Raven Tenney
Submitted by Raven Tenney on
My heart goes out to you, sending prayers for the ache in your hearts for the loss of your great warrior.

Becky McCrary's picture
Becky McCrary
Submitted by Becky McCrary on
This is so sad but yes, Lyle Francis Eagle Tail Thunder Hawk is a true hero & warrior. My heart hurts for his family & I pray that the Great Spirit will comfort them in their time of grief. May he rest in peace.

Mike Famous's picture
Mike Famous
Submitted by Mike Famous on
If I could meet his parents, I'd tell them they raised more than a man. I'd tell them they raised more than a hero. I'd tell them that their son was raised with a blessing and spirit that defines him as worthy of the heavens. In truth, I'll never know this Eagle Tail, nor his parents. I'm just some faceless stranger from afar reading his tragic if heroic story and sad for his loss. My tears reach out to his kin. But know this my distant brethren: Eagle Tail lives beyond the internet and beyond the day's news. He isn't another story. He becomes the very transcendent moment that each of us ought to know and embrace. Farewell, my good man. You have served humanity like few others.

Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on
this is no surprise to me this is what you do when you are human we know he is blessed TOKSA

Jim Dumas's picture
Jim Dumas
Submitted by Jim Dumas on
If the youth of today need someone to look up to...this is the man. I'm Non-Native, but know the Great Father will hold a special place for him. Rest Easy. May his family no peace, in that he made them proud.

Johnette Long's picture
Johnette Long
Submitted by Johnette Long on
All tales originate somewhere between truth and fiction. All myths had a begining, a twist of fate that cause retelling. All sacred places have an occurence, an action. Another Hero is born. ♥

Victoria Woody's picture
Victoria Woody
Submitted by Victoria Woody on
So sorry to hear of your loss! My condolences to the family, parents, siblings, relatives and friends! No amount of words will ease the pain at this time, but remember we are with you in spirit, thoughts and with our prayers! May God be with you and bless you!!

Kim vega's picture
Kim vega
Submitted by Kim vega on
Im so sorry for your lost,yes he died as a hero,prayers heading your way,god bless you all...