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“Friends, friends,
I have fought the sun.
He tried to burn me up,
But he could not do it.
Even battling the sun,
I held my own.” - Rabbit Boy

Frank John King and Kelly King and Family

We knew Steven C. Emery as the fighter for human rights.

We knew him for his unwavering voice and stance on tribal sovereignty.

We knew him as the song maker and the vision seeker.

He had this rough edge to him. His fearless presence could be felt in his echoing determination to prove that there was more to our people and more to achieve within our Native Nations. It was his fundamental point of view that made us think of these possibilities within ourselves.

I spent time with Steve. I listened to how proud he was of his ancestors and his descendants.

His stories of the American Indian Movement, it’s leadership, pushing back against the historical aggression that rolled with the sky into the 1970s burned into his memory. When he spoke of those days, I could see in his eyes that he was back there, singing the AIM song, singing those ceremony songs as those Native voices stood against many.

What an incredible story. From a GED to a Harvard Law Degree. He stood by medicine men and by tribal leaders who needed his advice.

Steve knew that his opinion mattered not just to the cause but to those who watched and listened to him defend it.

He understood that leaders need to inspire others to pick up the knife and fight on.

He knew that this enemy doesn’t give up. They push until we give up. To give up wasn’t an option for Steve. There was no time to be meek and politically diplomatic to the point of passive complacency. If there was a violation of our legal right to govern as a Native Nation, it wouldn’t be resolved with a weak defense. It wasn’t in his nature to just unjustly comply in the courts; he knew that if he didn’t defend these rights as fiercely as our ancestors did, it would affect his people, but more importantly, his wife and children. So meticulous was his perspective that his legal actions reflected the future sustainability of his immediate loved ones.

I think upon these conversations that we had and those many memories he shared. He was very humble about what he did. He was proud of how he fought the enemy. He understood that his actions would speak louder than his pride. A warrior need not brag about the battlefield because there is another fight coming on the horizon.

My brother left us on this battlefield. He fought to the very end. But he must be remembered for his kind words of inspiration and his humble demeanor, which moves us to take action ourselves today.

Some may say he was harsh, and some will say he was kind. I will say he was all of that and everything in between. His dynamic personality left no room for mistakes. There was too much at risk to simply run from confrontation or comply with disrespect. It is our turn to keep fighting, to keep moving forward, to pick up his knife and run toward the enemy with the same resolve and the same commitment to all those that need to be defended.

He doesn’t want us to quit. To stand by and do nothing is death. To fight on is sovereignty.

As we lay our friend, our warrior to rest, we should respect his hope and prayer to fight on. Sing those sacred songs. Stand up and raise your voice even if the silence is unbearable. There is no time to rest, especially in the times we live in now. No action is a mistake in defense of our people.

We all owe it to those around us and those who passed on.

Steve, your presence will be missed. Your love for your family was pure and admirable.

Belva Hollow Horn-Emery we send our deepest condolences and love.

Frank John King and Kelly King and Family
National Native Media & Consulting