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Chief's blood, a Blessing and a Curse
~ J. Duane Four Bear
My name is Jesse Duane Four Bear,
and I was born along the Missouri
River in what is now Mobridge, South
Dakota in November of 1979.
Growing up on the Cheyenne River
Indian Reservation in South Dakota
has had it's ups and its downs! From my earliest memory, I can recall having a fascination for the history of the so-called "Dakota War or Sioux Uprising of 1862". Little did I know, my lineal history was instrumental and played a huge role (more than I could ever have imagined!), in bringing a peaceful resolution to something that had been forgotten about in American history.
Growing up, I was always told by my mother's mom to move away from the reservation and start a family. I think she saw that I was related to almost every family on the reservation and that it would be better if I had started a family away from it. This is what I decided to do in my later years. I took the big step of venturing away from the reservation and pursuing my own endeavors when I had turned 29 years old. I fell in love, had a relationship, and from it was blessed with 2 daughters. Having children cemented my legacy, for better or for worse. I continued to and still remain a center piece in my daughters' lives.
In the spring of 1834, my father's great, great grandfather was born and was given the name of his father, Four Bear, but was also blessed with the name of Joseph. From the earliest moments in his life, he was inspired and beleaguered by the earliest Lewis and Clark expeditions. As a boy, he was somehow inspired to be good, always. This coming from the Jesuit priests whom accompanied the expedition at that time. Before he was born, his father was named Chief Four Bear, and he received the name from his father who had taken the name in the mid-late 1700's from an Arikara. The name Four Bear was taken! And because the Arikara chief had nothing else for my forbearers to take, they took his name! This caused the wife of the Arikara chief to curse him and the name for every son that would be born into it would meet a devastating end. And for every first born son, an untimely death would await. Before he took the name from the Arikara he had the name of "High Rock, or Tall Rock".
As the years passed by, after 1834 when Joseph was born, he took it upon himself to always do good. However, as history would point out for me there were to be a high number of suicides, and early, untimely deaths of all who was in my family tree. I believe that I am the lone, direct descendant of Joseph Four Bear (paternally). Joseph would go on to father a son who had met an early demise, and his name was Chester. Chester had passed away at an early age in the late 1880's or early 1890's but not before leaving behind 2 children: Armstrong Four Bear and Florence Four Bear. Florence died an untimely death as well, but not before leaving behind some children. Armstrong, on the other hand grew up and was drafted by the United States Army even before he was considered an American citizen. He fortunately made it through the first World War and did so in astonishing fashion. Armstrong would later go on to father 3 children and it is I who come from his first born son, Joseph Paul Four Bear Sr.
Armstrong's grandfather, Joseph Four Bear, grew into the role that was beckoned of him. He was regarded as a man of high esteem, and who looked after a lot of people, thereby gaining the name of Chief Joseph Four Bear.
Joseph Four Bear, was instrumental in securing the safe release of some white hostages, (women and children) who were taken as hostage by some starving Dakota during the uprising of 1862. It is through this act that has been long forgotten, that the earliest pioneers of Indian-White relations were mostly forgotten about in history and in the history books. The Fool Soldiers came together in the year 1860 by a man who had a dream of ten stags that appeared in front of him. In this vision, it was determined that 10 or 11 Lakota souls would uphold all that was good during that time, no matter what. It is this act America has yet to fully grasp and understand because the descendants of those white women and children are still alive today!
I have written letters to the newly appointed, and first time American Indian Cabinet member who heads the Bureau of Indian Affairs today. I told her about the acts of our forefathers, but it seems to have fallen on deaf ears. There, in Mobridge, South Dakota, next to the hospital that I was born in, sits an old stone carved out to the "Fool Soldiers Band, who had secured the rescue of white women and children from Lake Shetek ". They did so in astonishing fashion. This act, I feel, will be recognized in the near future, officially, as I will give it my life's work to continue and live on with love and affection in the rest of my days.