My Lakota Childhood on the Cheyenne River Rez


young Wendell

I was born Wendell Howard Deer With Horns on January 16 1955,
at Old Cheyenne Agency on the Cheyenne River Sioux Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

My parents,who were not married at my birth, are Mattie Deer With Horns and Howard Dewitt.
I didn't know my real Dad until I was 18. His nickname on the rez was Scout.
He was killed a couple of years after I met him.
His family was originally from the Lower Brule rez, and changed their last name from
Eagle Star to Dewitt in the late 1800's.

Major Dewitt had a reputation of being kind to the Lakota and several of the people took his last name.
Other Indian people were forced to take European surnames, but that's another story.
Today, you will find a mixture of "Indian" sounding as well as European last names
on reservations across the United States.

Old Cheyenne Agency is underwater now, as it was flooded in 1955 by the Army Corps of Engineers
for a series of dams on the Missouri River.
This was done to create reservoirs for hydroelectric power.

My birth certificate got damaged and now my official date of birth is January 17, 1956.
A mistake was made when a new one was issued.

After the flooding of Old Cheyenne Agency, our family moved to a little town called LaPlant.
We didn't have electricity or many modern conveniences.
We lived in a two-room log cabin and had to use kerosene lamps for lighting, and a wood stove.
I was very happy here.
After a few years we moved to Eagle Butte,
where I spent the rest of my childhood.

After the flood, many strange things happened according to the old people.
They said it was the ghosts wandering
and I always listened to these ghost stories they told us.
As kids, we were told many stories.
Ghost stories were my favorite, but we were also told stories about the Little People,
true stories of people who lived on the reservation, and many legends.

My favorite story teller of all was my great-grandmother, Nancy Yellow Bird Necklace.
She was a wonderful lady with a kind and generous nature.
She lived to be over 100 years old, and was a survivor of the Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890.
I still remember the stories she would tell of this
and how she had to escape by quietly sneaking back through the creeks and valleys
to return to what was left of her people.
She was one of the fortunate ones.

I was raised traditional and my reservation is east of the Black Hills and Bear Butte.
Both of these are sacred to the Lakota people and Bear Butte is sacred to the Cheyenne People as well.
Our relatives, including grand-parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins played a big role in our life.
We were all we had and shared with each other.
My cousins and I would enjoy fishing, running through old barns
and picking fruits to bring home to my Mom.

School was a sad time for me in the beginning.
We were not allowed to speak Lakota, and the culture was pushed aside.
Today, this is all changed I'm happy to say.
The kids are encouraged to learn the Lakota ways and are being taught the language.
After a while, I enjoyed school and was a B student.
I played sports such as track and field.
My step-father, Stanley Jewett (also Lakota) stressed the importance of education.
During the summer, we had volunteers from the YMCA come to the rez
and I met some real nice people from all over the country and even the world.
We also attended powwows in the summer, and I enjoyed the drumming and dancing.
We would see people from different reservations and it was a great reunion.

I am the fifth of seven children born to my mother.
There are only three of us left now.
I can imagine how heartbreaking it was for my Mom to bury four of her children who died untimely deaths.
Alcohol was a factor in all the deaths.
My mother was a survivor and she gave this gift to her children.
She passed on November 30th 2000.

Although we were poor even by Indian standards, we were happy--that is what I will always remember.

Bear Butte

"We did not think of the great open plains,the beautiful rolling hills, and winding streams with
tangled growth as wild.
Earth was beautiful and we were surrounded with the blessings of the
Great Mystery."

~Luther Standing Bear~


Seeking refuge, high I climb, where we began.
Dancing visions, all around, Listen to the wind... this is where I begin.
Ancestors rock me, cradle me in those hills. Watching the sunset from high the butte,
Fires ablaze, seeking refuge,
Finding strength and will through this plastic haze, Calling their names, they are with me still,
The Old Ones This land, my ally, Rock me in your valleys,
Deep into Maka Ina, Hold me close in your bosom,
Within, there is no time.
Rock me, Cradled in those hills,
This place that is found Never leaves me... sacred ground.
Ancestors talking, Dancing all around
Cradled in the hills That rock me still.
Standing tall... The Eagle, The Bear, Mother and The race won there.
Take me high into your glory.
Tell of the ancient stories.
Peals of laughter, thunder, rain.
Let me trace your creviced pain.
I cry out at such ....
By: Dagoshnan LarameeŠ~~ Ojibwa Nation

This page is dedicated to the memory of
Mattie Deer With Horns Jewett, Howard Dewitt,
Norbert Deer With Horns, Geneva Cloud Eagle, her husband and children
and Barbara and Maggie Jewett.

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