Kalle Benallie
Indian Country Today

Nytalia Ashes was like a sunflower. Her mother Nyssa Ashes said even as a baby she was outspoken, happy and an old soul.

“She could literally hold a conversation with anyone because that’s how she was. It didn’t matter if she didn’t know you, and if you had just met her, she loved talking to people and making sure you knew who she was and she knew who you were,” Nyssa said.

The 4-year-old from the Yankton Sioux Tribe in South Dakota was killed when a tree branch fell onto her tent during a storm on the morning of Sept. 17. A line of strong storms hit the area spawning at least two tornadoes, the Associated Press reported.

Nytalia and her family were at the Mahkato Wacipi event at the Land of Memories Park in Mankato, Minnesota.

“We set up camp and later that night a bad storm had moved in fast. A tree had broke and fell onto our tent. It took my daughter’s life. She was supposed to dance for her first at the pow wow as a jingle dress dancer,” her mother Nyssa Ashes said on the Paypal pool organized for her daughter.

Nytalia just recently celebrated her birthday in early September. 

Nytalia Ashes. (Photo courtesy of Nyssa Ashes)

Nyssa said that Nytalia was so excited on the entire drive from Sioux Falls, South Dakota to the powwow that she stayed awake rather than usually going to sleep.

Minnesota Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, White Earth Nation, said in a tweet, “My deepest condolences to the family and loved ones of [Nytalia] Ashes. In what should be a joyous celebration of community, my heart breaks knowing her little jingle dress won’t be there.”

Nyssa said the Mahkato Mdewakanton Association dedicated the entire weekend event to Nytalia. In addition, a wiping of tears ceremony, blanket dance and jingle dress special was done in her honor.

Nyssa added the association said they will dedicate the event to Nytalia for the next four years and made her the princess of Mankato. As well as the steel arbor at the powwow grounds will be named in honor of her.

“They’ve been doing a lot to show support and love towards us. We’re definitely almost shocked at the way they reacted,” Nyssa said.

She said the family will have a memorial for Nytalia next year at the powwow and do a giveaway for those who helped them and give back to the jingle dress dancers who did the special for her. 

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