High school presented with special flag from tribal council

posted on February 13, 2012

“For your dedication in preserving the Lakota language and culture.”

Thus read the message sewn on a special edition Oglala Sioux Tribal flag that was given to the members of the Red Cloud High School drum group. On March 31, drum groups from Red Cloud and six other reservation schools were present for a special meeting of the Oglala Sioux Tribal Council. The meeting, which was held to encourage the young people to keep singing, began with the reading of a tribal resolution honoring the school drum circles. This was followed by a speech by tribal member Wade Broken Nose in which he spoke about the significance of this occasion, which was the first time the youth drum groups had ever been acknowledged and honored in such a fashion.

Sierra Yellow Boy, a Red Cloud senior, was one of the students who attended the honoring. She is a “wichaglata”, the word for female singers who stand behind the drummers and sing the songs an octave higher. Yellow Boy says that Lakota singing is important to her because it makes her feel like she is helping to keep a part of her culture alive.

She declared, “The message that I got from this event is the honor you bring to your tribe by participating in cultural events. Keeping the culture or language alive can make a great impact on people.”

At the climax of the ceremony, all of the students representing all of the drum groups came together around a single large drum and sang the Lakota Flag Song (also known as the Sioux National Anthem) together. For many in attendance, it was the first time they had ever heard this song sung by so many young singers at one time. Roger White Eyes, who teaches Lakota singing in the high school, and who is the sponsor of the drum group, described this event as very powerful and emotional.

He said, “It was great to see the Tribal Council honoring our youth for participating in their culture, and it was a good learning experience for the students who got to go.” White Eyes is especially proud of the students since his Lakota singing class is an elective, and so everyone involved is there by their own choice.

The Lakota singing class meets daily in White Eyes’ classroom, and its activities include providing the music for high school Masses, as well as singing at community powwows and other events by invitation.