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The respected Oglala Lakota leader Birgil Louie Kills Straight, has died at 78.

Born on September 20, 1940 and died on February 10, 2019, Birgil Louie Kills Straight was an honored elder, U.S. Army Veteran, a policy changer to the world with his work in the Coalition of Indian Controlled Schools and one of one of the original 15 Sitanka Wokiksuye (Bigfoot Memorial Ride) horseriders.

Birgil Louie Kills Straight was a U.S. Army veteran. (Courtesy Photo)

Birgil Louie Kills Straight was a U.S. Army veteran. (Courtesy Photo)

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Chairman Mike Faith and former Chairman Ron His Horse is Thunder spoke with Indian Country Today about the contributions of Kills Straight. They commended him on his work with Indian Country and bringing the efforts of riders together for common good of the Lakota people.

They sent a formal letter to Indian Country Today which stated:

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is saddened by the passing of an Oceti Sakowin elder and statesman, Birgil Louie Kills Straight, and sends its most sincere condolences to his wife, Ethel Little Whiteman-Kills Straight, and to his maternal (White Thunder) and paternal (Kills Straight) extended family.

Standing Rock will forever be grateful to Birgil for the messages he carried throughout the world about the history and culture of the Oceti Sakowin for example of our subjugation by the European Nations and the United States using Roman Catholic ideas, such as the Doctrine of Discovery, and how these ideas needed to be repudiated by the church so all Indigenous People could take their rightful place in this world as truly sovereign nations in control of their own destinies. He was not alone in this fight, but he took every opportunity to ensure that world citizens would be educated about our people, our beliefs, and our continued struggle to be to be free.

We at Standing Rock are especially thankful and proud of Birgil's role, along with Alex Whiteplume, Geno White Hawk, Percy Whiteplume and the other fifteen (15) riders for having initiated the Sitanka Wokiksuye (Bigfoot Memorial Ride) in 1986; and ultimately bringing the Oceti Sakowin out of mourning in 1990. It was through the daily teaching and practice of the values of how our ancestors lived their lives, such as generosity, fortitude, courage, and spirituality that the Sitanka Wokiksuye brought about the social and spiritual change in the Oceti Sakowin, and throughout Indian Country.

Standing Rock has been greatly changed by the Sitanka Wokiksuye. It began at a chance meeting in 1988 between Birgil and one of Sitting Bull's descendants, where Birgil suggested the beginning of the Sitanka Wokiksuye should be on Standing Rock on the date and place where Sitting Bull was killed. Birgil came to Standing Rock with Gary Silk and met a group of young people to inform them of the purpose and rationale for starting at Sitting Bull's camp on the Grand River. Ever since that time, riders from Standing Rock leave Standing Rock on December 15th, the day of Sitting Bull's death, and ride south to join the Oglala riders at Bridger, S.D. on December 23rd; ultimately increasing the time of the ride to two weeks and 300 miles. The participation by riders from Standing Rock in the Sitanka Wokiksuye has brought about a rebirth in the teachings of our ancestors and a renewal of our connection with the Sunkakan Oyate. Today, we celebrate our Chiefs' legacies through a week-long horseback ride to each one of their final resting place(s). Recently, we have witnessed the revival of horse racing and horse clinics, which is bringing us back closer to our culture and heritage; for this, we must thank Birgil

On the final days for the Sitanka Wokiksuye in 1990, with the wiping of the tears ceremony, all the riders were instructed to ride to other places (reservations) and find our relatives and rekindle the bond between our people. Many at Standing Rock took the instructions to heart and have since rode to all the reservations in North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, and into Canada. Our nation and Indian country our stronger, and for this we must thank Birgil and the original 18 riders.

To his wife, Ethel, and his family, we to feel your loss; know that your husband has created a profound change in all our lives and we will forever be grateful.

Birgil Standing Rock letter
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The Sioux Funeral Home website has posted an obituary. They list wake services starting Saturday at 2:00 pm at the Little Wound High School in Kyle South Dakota, a meeting of horse riders at 1:30 the same day, and funeral services 10:00 AM, Monday.

The obituary reads as follows:

Obituary for Birgil Louie Kills Straight

Birgil Louie Kills Straight “Tokala Tokeya Ku” was born on September 20, 1940 at home in Kyle, SD to William Kills Straight and Lucy White Lance. Birgil made his journey to the Spirit World on February 10, 2019 at his home in Kyle, SD.

Birgil is survived by his wife of 53 years, Ethel Little Whiteman-Kills Straight; children, Ann Apple, Marie Apple, Carol Apple, Marvin Apple, George Apple, Angie White Lance, and Richard Apple; hunka children, Tiffany Brave, Monique Kills Warrior, Helene Stilson-Red Owl, Cecelia Haas, Alton Mesteth, Laban “Misun” Red Owl, Mark W. Apple, Ryan Running Shield, Tanner Albers, Charlie Archambault, Terry Little Whiteman, Chuck Jacobs, Chad Brunsch, Paris Brown, Hawkeye Montileaux, Scott Roy, and Dave Archambault II, and numerous nieces, nephews, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.

Birgil was preceded in death by his mother, Lucy White Lance-Kills Straight; father, William Kills Straight; brother, Eugene Kills Straight; and sisters, Hazel, Doris, & Winnadel Kills Straight.

Pallbearers will be Dave Archambault II, Steve Newcomb, Mike Peters, Stan Blue Horse, Jr., Robert “Buck” Spencer, Tom DeCoteau, Jr., Lance Christensen, and Mark Hetzel.

Honorary pallbearers will be all his relatives, friends, and Sundance family.

“We shall be forever grateful for his services in the United States Army, and dedication to Native Nations.” White Lance Tiospaye


Wake Services: Two night wake services starting at 2:00 PM, Saturday, February 16, 2019 at the Little Wound School High School Gym in Kyle, SD

Funeral Services: 10:00 AM, Monday, February 18, 2019 at the Little Wound School Gym in Kyle, SD

Horseback Riders: Riders will meet on top of the hill by the Lakota Express building outside of Kyle, SD at 1:30 PM, Saturday, February 16, 2019 to lead the funeral procession into Kyle.

Traditional Lakota Services: Mr. Mikey Peters, Mr. George Apple, & Mr. Marlin Underbaggage

Burial Services: Lakota Freedom Veterans Cemetery, Kyle, SD

In lieu of flowers or gifts, the family requests a memorial scholarship be created at Lakota Federal Credit Union in Kyle, SD to assist high school graduates with college, questions can be directed to

Arrangements entrusted with Sioux Funeral Home of Pine Ridge, SD

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