Robby Romero honored by Sacred Hoop School

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WASHINGTON – Community members in Oglala, S.D., gathered Aug. 22 to honor musician and United Nations Ambassador for the Environment Robby Romero. Romero was honored for his role in raising awareness for the school through his music, which led to construction funds for Sacred Hoop School (Cangleska Wakan Owayawa) in Oglala.
The school’s dedication and honoring program began with the arrival of the Wounded Knee Takini Descendants Riders, a group of young Lakota men and children who are descendants of the 1890 Wounded Knee Massacre victims.
Their spiritual ride from the Sun Dance grounds to Sacred Hoop School is a testament that Native peoples’ ways of life are alive and will be carried on to future generations.
Participants in the evening’s program included Richard Broken Nose, Oglala Lakota spiritual leader; Leonard Little Finger, school founder and director; Chief Oliver Red Cloud, representing the eight reservations of Lakota, Dakota and Nakota; John Yellow Bird Steele, Oglala Sioux tribal president; Kevin Killer, National Indian Education Association board member; and Kathleen Price and volunteers from Mission of Love, a nonprofit organization located in Youngstown, Ohio, who also were honored for their participation in the building of the school.
Also present for the evening’s activities was Stacey Thunder, co-host of the PBS television series “Native Report,” which will begin its fourth season in January.
Sacred Hoop School, dedicated to the continuation of the Lakota language, is the first private Lakota language immersion school to open in the northern Plains. The school was established by Leonard Little Finger, a great-great-grandson of Sitanka (Chief Big Foot). Sitanka, leader of the Miniconjou Band of Lakota, was massacred with his people at the Wounded Knee Creek Massacre of 1890.
Sacred Hoop School is part of Lakota Circle Village, a newly constructed facility in Oglala that is owned and operated by Lakota Circle Village, a nonprofit organization. The school and the facility are located on land that Little Finger inherited from his grandfather, John Little Finger, who was a survivor of the Wounded Knee Massacre.
In 2006, Romero was approached by Little Finger and German musician Peter Maffay to represent the project and to join them in raising awareness and funds for the school. An album released by Sony/BMG titled “Encounters II: An Alliance for Children,” featuring 14 hit recording artists from their respective countries around the world, a duet with Peter Maffay of Romero’s hit single, “Heartbeat,” and a prayer for the children of the world narrated by Little Finger. Romero was part of a 15-city European tour that featured all of the musicians on the album.
“Heartbeat” became the album’s hit single and was heavily promoted in the print media as well as on radio and television throughout Europe. The “Encounters” project successfully raised more than $1.4 million that benefited children’s programs around the world, including the Sacred Hoop School.
“I have always supported the people and programs on the Pine Ridge reservation,” Romero said. “It was a special honor for me to represent the Sacred Circle School in Europe and to promote the protection of Native languages globally. I give thanks to Leonard for presenting to me the opportunity.”
“Native languages were attacked, made illegal and furthered the genocidal program of the United States,” he continued. “We need to protect and revitalize our indigenous languages so this never happens again, and so our children will always know who they are.”
“Throughout his career, Romero has been involved in numerous fundraising efforts for Native causes,” said Little Finger. “We are especially grateful for his enthusiastic support for our school and its importance to our people.”
Romero grew up in the entertainment business and was playing music professionally by the time he was 13. Red Thunder, formed by Romero in 1989, continues to be one of the most popular musical groups known in Indian country and around the world. In 1989, Romero also founded Native Children’s Survival, a nonprofit organization devoted to the healing of Mother Earth and all her children. In 1990, he was honored by the United Nations as U.N. Ambassador of Youth for the Environment.
Today, Romero and Thunder – Red Lake Band of Ojibwe general counsel and host of “Native Report” – are co-owners of Eagle Thunder Entertainment. The company, with headquarters in Taos, N.M., is an independent indigenous entertainment company with four divisions: film production, a music label, music publishing and artist management.
Eagle Thunder Entertainment has reached millions of listeners and viewers through critically acclaimed and award-winning music releases, music videos, “rockumentary” films, and public service announcements that have premiered at prestigious events, including the American Indian Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival and the United Nations. Its PSAs have aired on leading television and cable networks such as CNN, MTV, VH1, Sundance Channel and SABC Africa.
For more information about Eagle Thunder Entertainment, visit www.eaglethunder.com.