CRAZY HORSE, S.D. - Don Montileaux, artist, told a large mixed-race crowd
that American Indians don't need a holiday to celebrate who they are, "we
celebrate every day. This day gives the non-Indians a chance to learn about
In South Dakota the past 15 years have been devoted to Native American Day
instead of the usual Columbus Day holiday. What started as a means of
reconciliation by then Gov. George S. Mickleson has now continued at Crazy
Horse Memorial, site of the mountain carving bearing the Lakota warrior's
name and a few other locations around the state.
Mickleson, killed in a plane crash in 1993, declared a year of
reconciliation in 1989 and then on the 100th anniversary of the Wounded
Knee Massacre in 1990 he declared the century of reconciliation. Many
people argue that his vision and dream has yet to be fulfilled.
In South Dakota, the first state to declare a change from Columbus Day to
Native American Day, very few celebrations occur. Tribes seldom put on a
major display of the culture other than the Black Hills Pow Wow that takes
place the weekend before the holiday.
At Crazy Horse Memorial the day has been celebrated for the past 15 years.
This year's theme was Reconciliation through the Arts. Youth held a special
place in the celebration and educators were honored. In keeping with theme,
an art teacher was honored. Teri Jo Gibbons, Lakota, coordinator for the
Shannon County Schools on the Pine Ridge Reservation was honored for being
an outstanding influence on students and was given a check from the Crazy
Horse Memorial Foundation scholarship fund that will be used to purchase
more art equipment and supplies for the schools.
Gibbons takes 8th grade and senior high school students to Crazy Horse
Memorial annually to display the students' art work in a show open to the
"One of the most important things in education is art. It helps students
understand the importance of their culture and also builds there
self-esteem," Gibbons said.
And in keeping with people who influence youth, a teacher of the year honor
was given to Marjorie High Horse, Lakota, teacher at Our Lady of Lourdes
school, part of the Red Cloud School system on the Pine Ridge Reservation.
"There are many teachers who are worthy of being here," High Horse said.
"Education is the answer to reconciliation." She was given an award from
the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation to apply to the school library.
Some of the students from the local public schools were given worksheets
that helped them navigate the Indian Museum of North America, located at
Crazy Horse Memorial. The students were given the challenge of choosing two
different tribes, finding information in the museum about those tribes and
then writing an essay about what they had learned.
Students also created dreamcatchers, beaded necklaces, drew on
specially-designed displays, learned about the buffalo and participated in
storytelling. Most of the students were non-Indian.
World renowned Hoop Dancer Jasmine Pickner, Lakota, is a role model and
motivational force for young people. Pickner doesn't let a chance go by to
advise youth about goals and life.
"I'm surprised I made it through school. I told the teachers they were
wrong on the history of our people. Challenge the teachers," she said.
Pickner is in demand around the world and said many young people, whether
in this country or elsewhere, want to know "who we are. Some think we still
live in tipis and wear the regalia we use at pow wows. We go to school and
dress just like anyone.
"But we live in two worlds, the spirit world and the man-made world."
She told the students to have goals and to put energy into the goals so
they come true. Her goal, she said, was to be a world class Hoop Dancer so
she worked hard to achieve that goal. Her brother, who passed away, also
wanted to be a world class Hoop Dancer - she used him as inspiration.