Welcome to the 137th Annual Rosebud Fair, Wacipi and Rodeo

Congratulations to Byron Wright (Treasurer Elect), Julie Peneaux (Secretary Elect) and Mike Boltz Sr. (St. Francis Council Rep. Elect) who were the unofficial winners of Rosebud’s Election on August 22, 2013.

I am always happy to see new faces in my tribal government. Yet, I know most of you are not happy with the way tribal government functions. It is a system which is never win/win, someone always loses or gets left out. I remain hopeful that a true Lakota leader will emerge from the Seventh Generation to re-write our entire Tribal Constitution in a way which will benefit us all.

A revised document reflecting true Lakota virtues could be proposed to the tribal council at any time. If all twenty communities worked together through the Community President’s Association to bring a resolution containing a revised Constitution to the tribal council it would have to be acted upon. A new Constitution could be put to a ballot through Article IX of the current RST Constitution, which reads in part: “It shall be the duty of the Secretary of Interior to call an election on any proposed amendment, upon receipt of a written resolution signed by at least three-fourths (3/4) of the membership of the Council.”

On a more celebratory note, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe is sponsoring the 137th Annual Fair, Rodeo and Wacipi this week. Many people look forward to this time of year as it is a time for us all to enjoy ourselves. There are many activities scheduled to happen.

I especially want to welcome all of our tribal members who live off the rez along with other visitors to the Rosebud Reservation for this annual celebration. Many of our relatives travel long distances to return home for this celebration. It will be good to see them again.

Every August I write about the origins of Rosebud Fair. Yet, there are historians who disagree with the timelines I present surrounding the reason for our celebration. Still, as I have come to understand the history of my own people, the Sicangu Lakota maintain that our very first tribal celebration was held in late summer of 1876. This occurred when the Sicangu Lakota Oyate learned of the June 25 annihilation of General George A. Custer and the 7th Cavalry. A welcome home victory celebration to honor many Lakota warriors who had fought in the Battle of the Little Big Horn took place here on the Rosebud. Our Lakota Akicita carried home the personal flag of the fallen General Custer along with several troop guidon flags.

Francis White Bird, Sicangu tribal member and Decorated Vietnam Veteran, had replicas of the captured flags made several years ago. A ceremony was also held at Fort Meade in Sturgis to dedicate the flags. The flags are carried in the grand entry at the Rosebud Wacipi held every August. When the replicas were first brought to Rosebud, White Bird gave a history of how they came into the possession of the Lakota people and talked about the origin of the celebration. The Lakota descendants present that day were proud to be part of a waktegli waci or victory dance.

In the book, The Sioux of the Rosebud, Anderson and Hamilton describe the Fourth of July festivities in 1897 where “The celebration lasted for six days…On July 1 the Indians went to the fairgrounds… one mile north of the Rosebud Agency and set up their great circle of tipis…on July 6 the Indian police held a drill followed by a…reenactment of the Battle of the Little Big Horn. This event should not have required much coaching, since almost every Indian present over twenty-one years old had been at the original battle in 1876.”

When I was a small child I remember a large building which once served as a display area for the tribal fair. Garden produce, canned goods, handmade clothing, drawings, beadwork, quillwork, plus other arts and crafts items were judged at the fair. The displays were organized according to the districts of the Rosebud Reservation.

My late Grandmother often reminisced about how the celebration was when she was a child. The people of Rosebud knew it was fair time when a steady procession of horse-drawn wagons would arrive from all directions. Several people from the different reservation districts would come to the agency a few weeks in advance to prepare the camping area by building shades and outhouses. They would also build the arbor for the Wacipi and prepare the rodeo arena. All of this was volunteer work.

Families would travel with essentials and food to last the whole time they were camped. Our people were so self-sufficient and depended only upon themselves. They did not expect anyone to provide for their basic needs while at the fair. Wagons were loaded with clothing, bedding, tipis, poles, canvas tents, firewood, and tools; along with cooking and eating utensils.

The families camped according to the district they came from. It was a very organized circle, with everyone respecting each other and their camping area. There was no running water as we know it today and families had to haul their own water in wooden barrels. Many of us cannot comprehend packing enough food to last throughout the entire fair. Back when my late Grandmother was a child she used to tell me about how her mother would pack dried meat, biscuits, boiled potatoes, and home canned fruit for the family to eat while traveling and camping.

On the first day of the fair, there would be a morning charge. Many young men and women would mount their horses for a long charge through camp. It would be great to see someone bring back this tradition to remember our ancestors who fought at the Little Big Horn.

In closing, I do want to say that I have attended Rosebud Fair for many years without having to overdose on alcohol. When you stop buying booze you will have more money to spend on treats for your family, children and grandchildren.

I encourage you all to have a sober, safe Rosebud Fair.

2 thoughts on “Welcome to the 137th Annual Rosebud Fair, Wacipi and Rodeo

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