Rosebud residents demand answers to a number of unresolved deaths
MISSION, S.D. - Rosebud Sioux Tribal members gathered in the small community of Antelope to protest recent acts of violence in reservation communities in a walk sponsored by the White Buffalo Calf Woman's Society Inc. which operates a shelter for victims of domestic abuse.
More than 150 people of all ages walked from the eastside of Mission through the Antelope community. Walkers stopped at key points including an elderly housing complex and the homes where some brutal acts of violence have taken place in the past few weeks. Others who joined the walk were the relatives of victims whose demise was linked to violence.
A caravan of vehicles joined the walkers to pay tribute to absent tribal youth. A drum group followed the walkers and sang a memorial song in memory of the young people who perished in acts of violence.
Frustrated with lack of information from law enforcement agencies including the Rosebud Tribal Police and the FBI, relatives of victims are looking for answers. Residents citing lack of information from authorities are uneasy.
Tahnie Rose Haukaas, 15, St. Francis, was believed to have drowned. Her body was found in the Antelope Dam July 16. Relatives believe she was murdered. Her death is under investigation.
Larry Blue Thunder, the uncle of a 25-year-old man found bludgeoned to death in the back yard of a house on the north side of the Antelope community, is still waiting for answers about what happened to his nephew.
Richard Herman, also known as Opal, was found in a pool of blood Aug. 4, beaten to death, in the yard of a vacant home adjacent to his uncle's house and only four houses from his own home.
A cross was erected at the site which is just a couple of blocks from an apartment complex for senior citizens. It stands as a reminder to local residents of the violence claiming its young people.
Little information was given to relatives concerning Herman's death.
"When I asked about what happened to him, they said nothing. They wouldn't even let me identify him," said Blue Thunder. And, when he attempted to cross a yellow ribbon surrounding the crime scene, he said authorities handcuffed him and made him sit in his yard while they collected evidence.
Blue Thunder said he is still waiting to hear how his nephew was killed and if there are any leads for the arrest of the person or persons responsible.
Relatives of others murdered in the past couple of years say they also are waiting for more information to surface.
Mary Watts, holding pictures of her two teen-age nephews who died within the past couple of years, waited while the crowd joining the walk gathered. Watts said she is seeking answers which will allow her to reconcile her loss.
She said one nephew was only 15 when he was shot in the head and died on the south side of the Antelope community. He was supposed to be in the company of friends when he was shot. While there were suspicions about who pulled the trigger, Watts said she was told by police and prosecutors there wasn't sufficient evidence to bring suspects to trial.
Her second nephew was walking home after visiting a friend when it is believed he was attacked by a group of older teen-agers. Watts said he was found in Winner, beaten to death.
"They didn't arrest anybody.
"I came tonight because alcohol and violence is number one on the reservation. My heart goes out to all the people who have lost someone," Watts said.
She blames alcohol abuse for the increase in violent events.
"We're not going to tolerate the violence any more," said Shelter Director Tillie Black Bear.
"Our Lakota people are wanting some peace in our homes and our community.
"This just isn't a walk about violence. It is also a walk about our families and our communities. It is a walk about unifying and strengthening our families," she said.
"Our community needs support with all the violence that is going on right now," RST Councilman Glen A. Yellow Eagle said.
"I just went out to where we lost Tahnie yesterday evening. It was real hard because she didn't need to leave nor did the other young man," Heather Burnette said. "Because of violence they are gone and all we have are memories of them. I'm hoping that through this we can show the people who did this that it shouldn't happen because we have people hurting."
Nancy White Horse, who works at the shelter, read a family declaration against domestic violence.
"We believe we must put this into practice in our own home. For, if just one more family makes the sacred vow, we are that much closer to reducing and eventually eliminating violence in our society," White Horse said.
Recognizing the problem for idle teens with few avenues for recreation, Sinte Gleska University President Lionel Bordeaux told walkers the community will have to work together to provide a safe haven and invest in its youth.
"We have to get our young people some type of an arcade or some place where they can go. We spend a lot of money doing other things, but very little on the youth when it comes down to it. I've been working with the USDA (the Department of Agriculture) to see if we can get a Boys Club or Girls Club here."
Bordeaux suggested placing a facility at an old bowling alley, filled with area youths nearly 20 years ago, but which stands neglected and empty with weeds growing up around it.
"It is going to take everybody, all of us working together, and just do it because we do have the resources here. There is no reason why we shouldn't. Maybe this will be the step in the motivation that will move us in the right direction," Bordeaux said.
A woman who spoke to walkers at the elderly housing area said, "I hope if we all get together and really help each other out there won't be any more violence. It seems like every time that kind of violence happens it is alcohol-related. Most of our car accidents are alcohol-related."
She noted her concern about vandalism just outside the complex and her fears that violence is striking too close to home.
Others who walked came hoping to help the community bond in a closer tie and perhaps give encouragement to start a neighborhood watch group to help the community decrease violent incidents.
Meanwhile, others looking for justice want greater penalties for those committing crimes that result in the injury or death of young tribal members.
Sisseton Wahpeton Sioux tribal members, along with members of the American Indian Movement, staged a protest in Sisseton because a drunk driver whose vehicle struck and killed Justin Red Day wasn't charged in the youth's death. Instead, the driver served only a one-year sentence for drinking and driving.
Protesters said it is an example of what continues to happen across the state.
Other members of the American Indian Movement remained at Lake Andes on the Yankton Sioux reservation to protest an act of brutality by a police officer against a little boy accused of spray painting benches in the city's park during the Fourth of July weekend.
The city didn't reprimand the officer even though eyewitnesses reported that the officer held the child by the neck with his legs dangling in the