Across the Generations, the Black Crow Family Remains Rooted at Red Cloud

September 25, 2019


Black Crow Family Photo



Red Cloud and its sister school Our Lady of Lourdes are special places for the Black Crow family, and have been for generations.

Sawee Black Crow, now a mother of four, was a student at Our Lady of Lourdes (OLL) through 8th grade. She loved her time there, and wanted the same experience for her own children. Her daughter Lyric also attended through 8th grade, went on to Red Cloud High School, and graduated just last spring. Her son and younger daughter, Beau Jr. and Marella, are now students at OLL and plan to attend Red Cloud High School as well. And a few years down the road, she and her husband Beau Sr. hope to send their 18-month old daughter to Red Cloud, too.

What makes Red Cloud so special to their family?

As Sawee and Beau Sr. shared recently, there are many things that make Red Cloud special. It’s that the teachers care so much: last year when Beau Jr. developed pneumonia and had to miss more than a week of school, they supported him to catch up and make sure he didn’t miss any important lessons. It’s also the resources Red Cloud provides: Beau Jr. and his sisters have always taken the bus, and it’s been an important support to make sure they can always get to school.

But it’s more than that. For the Black Crow family, Red Cloud’s unique spiritual identity, and it’s commitment to integrating Lakota culture and language into education, has made all the difference.


Beau Singing



Beau Sr. says that, even when he was a child, he knew there was something that set Red Cloud students apart. His friends and relatives who went to OLL seemed to benefit from the caring environment, and they brought all that they learned home to their families and loved ones. That sense of community and spirituality is why he wanted to send his own children to OLL.

“It’s always about prayer, every day and every night. That’s one of the main reasons I wanted the kids to go to school here, is that there’s always prayer,” he explained. “It makes the students think, it just opens their eyes. I see a big difference in OLL and Red Cloud kids; they are more respected, and more respectful. They have the ability to become leaders.”

Until her graduation in May, Lyric’s entire school experience was based at Red Cloud, from kindergarten through her senior year. She was a leader and mentor among her classmates, and excelled in both academics and athletics as a cheerleader. She was awarded the Dr. Marion L. Scott Indian College Fund, and is now studying nursing at Oglala Lakota College. For her, Red Cloud’s way of incorporating a greater sense of spirituality added significantly to her educational experience.

“Spirituality is a part of the school. We always had prayers in the morning, then at some classes we would smudge as well,” she explains. “Spirituality is incorporated into everything, and I liked that. It gets you centered.”

For Lyric, having Lakota culture, and particularly Lakota language, at the center of her education was a powerful experience, as it has been for her younger siblings.

“When I was at OLL, it was about learning little things, like colors and numbers,” she shared. “But when I went to high school, I started to put sentences together, and I could understand more. Now when my grandmother speaks to me in Lakota, I know what she’s saying. And that’s really cool.”


Beau Jr., now in 6th grade, has become a student leader at OLL, often leading the entire school in traditional prayer through songs sung in the Lakota language. He started singing years ago, when he was basically still a toddler. Beau Sr. brought him along to community gatherings and ceremonies, and let him sit on his lap, hit the drum before him, and listen to the singing.

“And then one day,” said Beau Sr., “he started taking it up, singing loud, and getting better and better.”

From then on, Beau Jr. was always singing: Sawee and Beau Sr. even had to remind him now and then that he wasn’t supposed to sing during class. But his teachers and principal took notice, and he was asked him to sing on Friday mornings at OLL’s morning prayer service, and then at school Masses.

Being able to sing in that way has made it easy for him to love school and his experiences there. When he sings, Sawee says, “he’s so excited—and he feels like he’s accomplished something.”

Marella, too, has been excited to participate in celebrating spiritual gatherings on campus. One of OLL’s Lakota language teachers, who the family refers to as Unci (grandmother) Gloria, told Sawee recently that Marella had started helping during Mass, just as she had during a Sundance ceremony over the summer. Even though she was a little shy, looking back, she said she “really liked it.”

For both Sawee and Beau Sr., there’s a joy in their children’s eyes when they come home from a day at school. They are always so excited about what they did, and what they learned. During summer break, they drove past campus and Beau said “I can’t wait to go back to school!” And that spoke volumes about the impact Red Cloud has had in their lives.

“I worry a lot, not just about my own kids, but about all the kids on the reservation, and what they are exposed to,” said Sawee. “Here at OLL and Red Cloud, they have a whole other family that protects them. From a mother’s perspective, that’s how I feel.”



Photos © Red Cloud Indian School



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