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My Second Mom
~Maureen D. Brucker
March 18, 2016 marked the beginning of the journey
to the other side for Beatrice Grace Weasel Bear, nee
Long Visitor Holy Dance. She was a founding elder of
the Wild Horse Sanctuary Sun Dance as well as the
White River Sun Dance held on her property along the
White River. She was so many things to so many people.
Her obituary included below barely scratches the surface.
However, to me, she was my second mom. She accepted me with all my parts, good and not so good. I was exactly the way I needed to be. There was no need to change eye or hair color. No need to dumb me down so I would be considered more eligible. No, for mom, I was just fine the way I was.
I met mom half way through my 54th year at a friend’s house on Cheyenne Mountain above the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colorado. She had been traveling up from Arizona with her youngest son, Aloysius, and a carload of other Native American Church elders.
The car was old and definitely on its last legs. There was need for repair before the journey to the reservation could be completed. Thus, Willard steered the overly large, older black American made vehicle down the windy road that led to Myron Old Bear’s house. Willard knew the car would get fixed, and there would be both good food and shelter awaiting his small band of travelers.
While I met the whole crowd that night, little did I know that slowly but surely, my life was about to be changed forever by a 5-foot-tall dynamo named Beatrice.
She quietly watched me that weekend interacting with the others. I was sponsoring a thanksgiving sweat after a successful move for my job. There were some complications with another who also needed prayers, but I apparently handled things appropriately as by the time we were all leaving, she was expressing the hope that I might travel to South Dakota for sun dance ‘some year’. Several months later, a dancer invited me to attend the sun dance in Hot Springs to support her as she danced.
The first couple of years were in what I would call the ‘watching’ stage. I watched and learned about the ceremony while buying groceries for the kitchen. I was certainly not the only one, but reached a point where I was in charge of the general buying. With a large contingent of California dancers who were vegan, there were basically two to three main dishes plus at least one salad for each lunch and dinner. During most of the years, the kitchen was managed by a core group of women under a Canadian Anishinaabe midwife named Carol. She came the first time to heal after losing a baby during birth. She stayed for the joy of the work. The only times she does not come are when she has a schedule conflict.
As I watched, so too was I watched. Slowly, as I shopped for the camp and scoured the town for blueberry pie for the intercessor, I was gathered into the inner circle. One night, late, as I was about to turn in, a new group came down to the cook shed. They had just arrived and were cold and hungry. I was casually asked if I would get them some food and coffee, which I did. Found myself being introduced to some very important community elders from Rosebud who came over to help with the next day’s ceremonies. For better or for worse, to me, they were people in need. I made sure they were well taken care of. At the end, Aloysius came out of the darkness and introduced me to the guests. The most prominent was Leonard Crow Dog. But to me, that night, they were still cold and hungry people needing to be tended. I learned a long time ago to meet people where they were at rather than with their trappings.
Off and on, that sun dance, elders were brought to me for soup or simply coffee. This was how I was introduced to the family of this particular sun dance. Ever present in the background was Beatrice watching how I handled things.
And, also ever present during the day, continued what I laughingly called – sun dancing in the supermarket. The buying of the food for the people, loading my Ford SUV and returning to camp. I often returned after the dancing had finished for the night. At least twice a year, as we unloaded the vehicle, I noticed ‘Mom’ approvingly watching in the background.
Life went on in that slow rhythm of sun dance until the year a tornado ripped through the camp. I was in the small dome tent I was sharing with my niece attending her first sun dance. Mariah was trying to hold down the cook area with many others. At the end of the onslaught I realized my tent was trash, the sleeping bags were soaked, but we had a decent sized vehicle to sleep in, and we also had my buffalo robe tucked nice and dry in the trunk. As all shopping was done for the day, my concern was for those up top. I arrived to chaos. The main women’s tipi was ripped down the back right where Beatrice had been sleeping. Her bedding and clothes were soaked. Took me a half minute to realize that the robe I carried would be needed to keep her warm. After all, she was dancing, and Mariah and I were not. The offer was made, and she looked at me like I had offered a castle. As it turned out, one of the male dancers who helped me take the robe back to the tipi gave me the phone of his wife who lived in town so the cold night in the Explorer was avoided.
After that, the buffalo robe travelled yearly so mom would be warm and protected.
Other things changed as well. I was a welcome guest into their house. Mom and Aloysius were frequent visitors once I got my house in Greeley. I was an important outlet when they got on each other’s nerves. Took a frantic call one summer from Al about the two of them getting into it. The call resulted in Mom getting almost a summer’s worth of respite while Al got to meet others in the Greeley community. Was a tight squeeze as I was still in the apartment, but it worked.
Some of the finest memories were the really simple ones. The days spent riding in Mom’s Ford F150 4x4 crew cab truck driving the highways and back roads of the reservation as she lovingly delivered tuberculosis medication to residents. As a graduate of the program, she was a perfect one to talk to the patients and encourage their compliance. With a smile on her face, individual pill bottles at the ready, and even several bottles of water in case she found the patient on the road. She made her daily rounds tracking down those in need. The approach was always with the upmost respect and by and large, the patients returned the attitude.
The trips came to an abrupt end on a January first. You see, in its infinite wisdom, with TB on the rise on the reservations in South Dakota, the state decided that this medication that is generally effective when personally administered by previous participants in the program would, thenceforth be available through the nurses at Indian Health. Suddenly patients, if they chose to continue the program, were to daily travel to Pine Ridge or their assigned reservation’s office of Indian Health to get their daily medicines. A quiet but real form of Indian genocide.
Nothing compared to what I learned about cooking from Mom. Preparing for a tipi meeting feast began with her bringing out pots for a chicken soup that was served to all who crowded into the kitchen waiting for the fire in the tipi outside the old house to warm the area. As the core body of participants were fed and on their way, the kitchen was scrubbed to mom’s spotless perfection.
There was nothing casual about next stage. Mom returned to the table with her fitted case of professional knives and cleavers. Everything was then sharpened on whetstones while the coolers of meat were hauled in. As I took my seat at the table, I noticed not only hunks of meat to be cut up, but also washed innards which someone referred to as taniga. As I was never a fan of menudo, I was prepared to take the ribbing and cut my losses. What I did not expect was the eerily beautiful purple color and the mushroom-like shapes along the exterior. It seems that the Lakota use much more of the cow’s stomach than what is typically termed menudo.
The coolers were endless. The contents were cut into chunks for a variety of soups for the dinner that would follow the ceremony. At one point, early on, whole deer quarters were brought in to continue thawing as it was decided that more meat would be needed to feed the attendees and for wateca – the food sent home with the participants.
Having driven up from Greeley that day, I was getting pretty exhausted as midnight rolled around. However, Mom asked me to drive up with her to do the midnight water call. After staying for a while to join in the prayers, we returned to her house for more meat cutting.
As the hours passed, we cot and pealed potatoes for salad as well as chopping hard boiled eggs. Just as big vats of soup were produced, so were huge pots of potato salad. A vehicle came in from Chadron bearing boxes of fried chicken, bread and coleslaw. Pitchers of lemonade were assembled. Cases of water and pop were stacked and loaded into cars and trucks. With Mom organizing everything, the vehicular procession began its ascent of the hill to the ‘old house’ where the meal would be served.
The array of food was amazing --- soups chicken, potato salad, coleslaw, fry bread, wojanpi, and one whole vehicle filled with sheet cakes with amazing decorations. The feast was a sight to behold and one worthy of the master orchestrator who had been doing these feasts most of her life.
Before I lead you to the formal obituary for my Mom, there are some cultural references that need to be remembered.
She was a direct descendent of one of the three women who survived the Wounded Knee Massacre.
Her family participated in bringing the Native American Church to the Navajo people.
Her parents had a transformative relationship with Father Steinmark, SJ, that eventually resulted, in later years, in his accepting a position as a dancer at the sun dance held at the Wild Horse Sanctuary in Hot Springs, SD.
All of her children, grandchildren, great grandchildren have been raised up to be fluent Lakota speakers.
Beatrice Grace Weasel Bear
SLIM BUTTES –– Beatrice Grace Weasel Bear, 88, made her journey to the Spirit World on March 18, 2016 at the Pine Ridge I.H.S. Hospital in Pine Ridge.
Beatrice Grace was born on May 12, 1927 in Slim Buttes to Rex Sr. and Antonia (Sierra) Long Visitor Holy Dance. Beatrice began her work with the Oglala Sioux Tribe in 1975 as a Community Health Representative and worked under the leadership of Margie Mills-Morgan and Geraldine High Elk-Janis. After serving as a CHR Representative for many years, Beatrice retired in 1995.
After one month of retirement, Beatrice then took on delivering medicine to our Oglala relatives throughout the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. She worked with the State of South Dakota and the Field Health I.H.S. Nursing. She worked with every age; she took medicine to a 2-year-old young boy to elderly men and women. She loved her work, she was acknowledged for her service many times by the Oglala Sioux Tribe.
In 2004, she began her a journey with other women, power houses in a group called the International Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers. These 13 women were from all over the world. She traveled to pray at their homelands, among those places were, Mazatec-Mexico (Grandmother, Julieta Casimiro), Tamang, Nepal (Grandmother Aama Bombo), Tibetan (Grandmother Tsering Dolma Gyaltong), Brazilian Rainforst (Grandmother, Maria Alice Campos Freire), Northern Cheyenne Reservation, (Grandmother Margaret Behan-Red Spider Woman), Hopi-Havasupai (Grandmother Mona Polacca), Black Hills. (Grandmother Rita Long Visitor Holy Dance-Tipi Ska Win), Japan (Grandmother, Clara Shinbou Iura), Mayan-Nicaragua, New Mexico (Grandmother Flordemayo), Yu’pik, Alaska (Grandmother Rita Pitka Blumenstein), Takelma Siletz (Grandmother Agnes Pilgrim), Omyene-Gabon, Africa (Grandmother Bernadette Rebienot), and Black Hills, S.D. (Grandmother, Beatrice Weasel Bear-Wahpe Tu Win).
Beatrice as a Grandmother put forth on the Grandmother Agenda in 2004, two very important items, return the Black Hills to the Great Sioux Nation and rescind Papal Bulls at Vatican, Rome.
Beatrice is survived by her children, Antonia Loretta (Tom) Cook, Fontanelle Pancho, Roger (Robin) Bruce, Anita (Earl) Russell, and Aloysisus John Weasel Bear; 30 grandchildren, 60 great grandchildren, 8 great-great grandchildren, elder sister, Rita Long Visitor Holy Dance; brothers, Charles “Chuck” Bennett, Cecil and Stanley Little Hawk; sisters, Viola and Bessie Little Hawk, Virginia Bear; nephews, Tuffy Sierra, John Bill, Robert Sierra; nieces, Glenda, Wendy, Karlene Sierra, & Inez Mesteth, Arlene Bear, JoAnn, Susan, Felcita, Sharon, & Karen Sierra; and the Arlene Weasel Bear & Family.
Beatrice was preceded in death by her spouse, John Tex Weasel Bear; parents, Rex Long Visitor Holy Dance Sr. and Antonia Sierra; brothers, Pete Pretty Face, Stanley Long Visitor Holy Dance, and Rex Long Visitor Holy Dance Jr.; sister, Josephine Pretty Face; one granddaughter, three grandsons, and three great granddaughters.
Two-night wake services were held March 22 at the Brother Rene Hall in Oglala and March 23 at Beatrice Weasel Bear Residence in Slim Buttes. Funeral services were held March 24 at the Beatrice Weasel Bear residence with Rev. Kirk Fool Bull and Rev. Roger Bruce presiding. Burial services were held at the Sacred Heart Catholic Cemetery in Slim Buttes.
Arrangements entrusted with Sioux Funeral Home of Pine Ridge.