Concert for Sioux Nation battles racism, domestic violence, teen suicide in Custer, S.D.

White Water, Duo Borealis concert was held at Custer Lutheran Fellowship churchLakota concert helps oldest American Indian domestic violence shelter

South Dakota concert described as historic – battles teen suicide, domestic violence and racism – raises money for nation’s oldest Native American battered woman’s shelter

(Custer, South Dakota) – While some South Dakota whites will always be bitter about  the Wounded Knee standoff over three decades ago, a Native American national newspaper reporter says a recent benefit concert was a step toward healing race relations while raising money to fight an alarming increase in domestic violence and teen suicide on the Lakota Rosebud Reservation.

Michigan and South Dakota musicians preformed at the August 12, 2007 concert to help heal racial tension between whites and Native Americans while battling an alarming rise in domestic violence and teen suicide on the Lakota Rosebud Reservation.

South Dakota residents and Black Hills visitors opened their hearts and wallets during the Sunday evening free benefit concert for the country’s first and oldest Native American domestic violence shelter

The concert at the Custer Lutheran Fellowship church featured northern Michigan and Black Hills musicians and raised about $1,000 for the White Buffalo Calf Woman Society (WBCWS) in Mission, S.D. The funds will be used for preventing domestic violence, sexual assault and teen suicide.

Native American reporter Dave Melmer said the concert was the first non-political events to ever bring racial healing between whites and Native Americans in Custer  – where racism by some whites is generations old.

In fact, a Custer County historical marker still stands proclaiming “whites were massacred by Sioux Indians on this spot,” Melmer said.

South Dakota is “notoriously bad when it comes to race relations,” said Melmer, a reporter for Indian Country Today who lives in Custer. “There are white people in South Dakota who have never been on a reservation and are afraid to go.

Custer Lutheran Church Pastor Dave Van Kley said his church and the South Dakota Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of American have reached out to Native Americans for more than a decade including their Lakota ministry with a presence on the Pine Ridge reservations.

Melmer said he commends all involved because the concert was “a courageous effort on their part to do this” and specifically praised the Custer Lutheran fellowship for its efforts over the years to foster a positive relationship with Native Americans.

Van Kley described the relationship with the tribe as “warm and gracious” adding that the Custer High School basketball team has participated in the Lakota Nation Invitational Basketball Tournament.

“The Custer high school has made an effort to be participate with Lakota people in athletic and other events – this has been going on for a long time,” Melmer said.

“The Lakota invitational basketball tournament is more than athletics – it’s a cultural event,” Melmer said. “It’s a celebration of native identity and now there are several whites schools that participate but in the early days the only non-Indian school to participate was Custer.”

Racism is worse in Custer, Melmer says, because the county courthouse was partially burned (February 6, 1973)  in the days just prior the infamous Wounded Knee standoff between the American Indian Movement and federal agents that began on February 27, 1973 and left  two Native Americans dead and two officers wounded. Custer is about 112 miles from Wounded Knee.

‘The concert was a big small step in improving race relations because it could lead to more of these kind of things,” Melmer said.

“The impact was probably was felt by both sides  – the Indian and white communities – and maybe through these efforts there is a chance to bring these communities back together,” Melmer said

“There is hope for the younger generation and I would suggest they get children involved with the next concert,” Melmer said.

Rosebud unemployment is 82 percent, according to the tribe’s website.

Cattle ranching and farming is the main occupation for the 21,000 residents on the sprawling 1,400 square mile Rosebud reservation on the dusty, treeless, rolling prairies of South Dakota.

Rosebud neighbors the Lakota Pine Ridge reservation – where poverty is legendary on the southern edge of the fabled Badlands.

Family string band White water and duet Duo Borealis, both from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, performed at the request of the Turtle Island Project and its founder Rev. Lynn Hubbard, a Munising, MI pastor who is a friend of the Lakota tribe and the Custer church.

The Turtle Island Project promotes respect for the environment and the Native American culture.

The WBCWS, – founded 30 years ago by a group of courageous Native American women including current executive director Tillie Black Bear – serves all battered women and children as it fights family violence, sexual assault and teen suicide.

The Lakota Rosebud tribe has more teen suicide attempts than any other American Indian reservation in the United States, Black Bear said.

Rosebud Sioux Tribe officials  recently declared a teen suicide “State of Emergency” on the reservation.

Figures from the Rosebud reservation alone are shocking: 21 rapes in the past 18 months; over 600 attempted teen suicides and 15 deaths during the past two years – most teenage boys.

Poverty, depression, a lack of jobs, drugs, alcohol and other social problems are among the reasons behind Rosebud teen suicides.

A federal report states violent crime against Native American women is 50 times higher and sexual assault is 3.5 times above other U.S. residents.

The WBCWS “is very much like a life beacon, shining in the middle of this country, showing us that there is still hope and light in this world,” said Dr. Hubbard, pastor of the Eden on the Bay Lutheran Church in Munising, MI.

Rev. Hubbard said he is reminded daily of the great work of the WBCWS because he lives in a “land of light houses, beacons that still shine showing those who sail upon the sea  a way home, guiding those who have lost their way upon the sea and need a safe harbor.”

The WBCWS is a  “light that shines in the darkness,” Dr. Hubbard said.

The Michigan groups traveled 1,000 miles to put on the free benefit concert, and the WBCWS is over 220 miles from the Custer church where the concert took place.

While those involved in the concert live long distances from each other, organizers said they are close on battling domestic violence, teen suicide and sexual assault.

The pastor of Custer Lutheran Fellowship church said the concert has renewed his congregation’s connection to the WBCWS and the Rosebud Reservation.

“We share in the goal of eliminating violence against women and violence in all of our families,” said Rev. Dave Van Kley. “We are also strongly committed to reconciliation between native and non-native peoples and hope that this concert was a small step in that direction.”

Black Bear said “the connection between Custer and the Rosebud reservation is once again open and strong.”

The crowd and the musicians shared stories about the Lakota reservation and social issues addressed by Tillie Black Bear of the WBCWS.

“It was like being in our own living room with some friends,” said White Water lead singer Dean B. Premo of Amasa, MI.

White water and Duo Borealis played a wide range of folk music including a “twist” on Amazing Grace that stirred the emotions of the crowd.

“Domestic violence, no matter the community, is a human travesty,” said Premo, founder of the White Water family band that has been performing together for nearly 30 years. “Addressing this problem at grass roots is an effective approach and White Water and Duo Borealis were happy to assist in a small way.”

The Michigan groups were joined by popular local singer Roxanne Sazue of Fort Thompson, S.D. who performed several songs and opened the show warming up the crow for the visiting musicians. the connection between. The three acts became one at the end and performed “I Will Fly Away.”

Black Bear closed the concert by singing a traditional Lakota song in native tongue that captured the hearts of the audience

Organizers plan to make the concert an annual event.

Related websites/info:

White Buffalo Calf Woman Society:

Custer Lutheran Fellowship:

Folk musicians White Water, Duo Borealis:

Rosebud Tribe website:

U.S. Department of Justice report: “American Indians and Crime” report:

The White Buffalo Calf Woman Society, Inc.

“Domestic Violence Is Not A Lakota Tradition.”

Shelter & Safe Home Available for Emergencies

Women’s Support Group
Mon. & Wed., 7-8pm Sat. 11am-12pm

Sexual Assault Survivors
Every Monday 2-3pm

Men’s Re-Education Group
Every Wednesday 6:30-:30pm

Serving Battered Women & Children Since 1977.

White Buffalo Calf Woman Society, Inc.
Tillie Black Bear, director
North Main St.
Mission, SD
Call 605-856-2317
For Men’s Program please call 605-856-4666


About yoopernewsman

I am a news reporter, writer and investigative journalist and began my career about 40 years ago as a young teenager in Augusta, GA after moving south during the middle of high school. I'm a news reporter, writer & investigative journalist specializing in street news, plus Indigenous, civil rights & environment reporting. Currently volunteer media advisor for numerous American Indian & environment related nonprofits that include the Navajo Lutheran Mission in Rock Point, AZ & its executive director Rev. Dr. Lynn Hubbard, the nonprofit Cedar Tree Institute (CTI) in Marquette, MI & its many projects founded by Rev. Jon Magnuson, Author Joy Ibsen of Trout Creek, MI, Celtic Christianity Today (CCT) founded by Rev. Dr. George Cairns, the Turtle Island Project founded by pastors Hubbard & Cairns. In its third summer, the CTI Zaagkii Wings & Seeds Project & its volunteers built a16-foot geodesic dome solar-powered greenhouse that was built in this summer at the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) in an effort to restore native species plants to northern Michigan. It's located at the tribe's Natural Resources Department north of L'Anse along Lake Superior. During the summer of 2010, Zaagkii Project teens built & painted 25 beautiful reliquaries that are boxes made from pine & cedar that are used to store seeds for planting & included samples of Native American medicine including sweetgrass, cedar, sage & tobacco. From April-June 2009, I promoted the EarthKeeper Tree Project that planted 12,000 trees across northern Michigan. Co-edited "Unafraid," the second book by Author Joy Ibsen of Trout Creek, MI that was printed in May 2009 based on her father's handwritten sermons she found in shoebox. I edited numerous videos for nonprofit CCT. Began career 35 years ago as teenager in Augusta, GA after moving south during middle of high school. I was co-coordinator of the 1986 original James Brown Appreciation Day in Augusta, GA, where the Godfather of Soul was always trashed by local media who didn't report anything positive about the music icon. Mr. Terence Dicks was the other co-coordinator & most recently served as chair of the Augusta Human Relations Commission and serves on the Georgia Clients Council. Mr. Brown taught us to "fight the good fight" by battling all forms of racism & evil while not uttering a bad word about those who try to block justice, respect, fairness & kindness to all. As a child, I lived in the Harbert, Michigan home built by late poet Carl Sandburg, where the legendary author penned some of his greatest works including his Chicago works & Lincoln papers. The four-story home had a sundeck on the top & a cool walk-in safe in the basement. The neighborhood (Birchwood) has numerous cottages used for other purposes by Sandburg like the milk house where they milked goats. My parents remodeled fourth floor of the home that stands atop the Lake Michigan sand dunes/bluffs. They found items that belonged to Mr. Sandburg concealed in the walls including prescription bottles with his name, reading glasses, & a small, thin metal stamp with his name. I've worked for dozens of newspapers & radio & TV stations in GA & MI. I'm volunteer media advisor for several interfaith environmental projects involving Native Americans across Upper Peninsula of MI including the Turtle Island Project, The Zaagkii Project, the Interfaith Earth Healing Initiative, EarthKeeper Initiative & the Manoomin (Wild Rice) Project. The Zaagkii Wings & Seeds Project restores bee & butterfly habitat to help pollination of plants following death of billions of bees. Keweenaw Bay Indian Community youth & Marquette teens built butterfly houses, planted/distributed 26,000 native plants to help pollinators. The Earth Healing Initiative assisted EPA Great Lakes 2008 Earth Day Challenge. EHI helped organize interfaith participation across eight states for the 100 plus recycling projects (April 2008) involving recycling millions of pounds of electronic waste & proper disposal of millions of pills/pharmaceuticals. EPA goals were exceeded by 500%. Under an EPA grant, EHI provided free media services for the cities/groups/tribes including videos & press releases. The EarthKeeper environment projects include an annual Earth Day Clean Sweep (2005-2007) at 24 free drop-off sites across a 400 mile area of northern Michigan that collected over 370 tons of household hazardous waste. The 2007 EarthKeeper Pharmaceutical Clean Sweep collected over one ton of drugs plus $500,000 in narcotics in only three hours. Some 2,000 residents participated & many brought in pharmaceuticals for their family, friends & neighbors. In 2006, 10,000 people dropped off over 320 tons of old/broken computers, cell phones & other electronic waste, all of which was recycled. In 2005, residents turned in 45 tons of household poisons & vehicle batteries. The Manoomin (Wild Rice) Project teaches teens to respect nature & themselves by having American Indian guides escort them to remote lakes & streams in northern Michigan to plant/care for wild rice. The teens test water quality to determine the best conditions for the once native grain to survive. The Turtle Island Project was co-founded in July 2007 by Rev. Lynn Hubbard of Rock Point, AR (Ex. Dir. of the Navajo Lutheran Mission) & Rev. Dr. George Cairns of Chesterton, IN, United Church of Christ minister & research professor for the Chicago Theological Seminary. TIP promotes respect for culture & heritage of indigenous peoples like American Indians. TIP is a platform for American Indians to be heard unedited by whites. Rev. Hubbard says whites don't have the knowledge or right to speak on behalf of Native Americans. I specialize in civil rights, outdoor, environmental, cops & courts reporting thanks to my late mentor Jay Mann (Jan Tillman Hutchens), an investigative reporter in Augusta, who lived by the books "Illusions" & "Jonathon Livingston Seagull." Love to fish, hunt, camp & skydive. Belong to Delta Chi national fraternity. I was active in Junior Achievement, band played cornet. With my dear friend, the Rev. Terence A. Dicks, we were the co-coordinators of the 1986 original James Brown Appreciation Day in Augusta, GA, where the Godfather of Soul was always trashed by the local media who found no reasons to print or report anything positive about the music icon. I am honored to help the human rights activist Terence Dicks - with some of his projects including the nonprofit Georgia Center for Children and Education - and the economic initiative he founded titled "Claiming A Street Named King." I am the volunteer media advisor for several environmental projects across Michigan's Upper Peninsula including EarthKeeper II - an Initiative of the nonprofit Cedar Tree Institute in Marquette, MI. EarthKeepers II is an Interfaith Energy Conservation and Community Garden Initiative across the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Goals: Restore Native Plants and Protect the Great Lakes from Toxins like Airborne Mercury in cooperation with the EPA Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, U.S. Forest Service, 10 faith traditions and Native American tribes like the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community Previously known as the Earth Keeper Initiative - that project included many environmental projects including an annual Earth Day Clean sweep at two dozen free drop off sites across a 400 mile area of northern Michigan. The target of the 2007 Earth Keeper Pharmaceutical Clean Sweep are all kinds of medicines. In 2006, some 10,000 people dropped off over 320 tons of old/broken computers, cell phones and other electronic waste, all of which was recycled. In 2005, residents turned in 45 tons of household poisons and vehicle batteries. The Manoomin (Wild Rice) Project taught at-risk teens (just sentenced in juvenile court) to respect nature and themselves by having American Indian guides escort them to very remote lakes and streams in northern Michigan to plant and care for wild rice. The teens conducted water quality and other tests to determine the best conditions for the once native grain to survive. I have always specialized in civil rights, outdoor, environmental, cops and courts reporting thanks to my late mentor Jay Mann (Jan Tillman Hutchens), an investigative reporter in Augusta, who lived by the book "Illusions."
This entry was posted in abuse, Battered women, children, domestic violence, Indian, Lakota, Michigan, music, prejudice, racism, religion, Rosebud, shelter, Sioux Nation, South Dakota, Tillie Black Bear, Turtle Island, woman. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Concert for Sioux Nation battles racism, domestic violence, teen suicide in Custer, S.D.

  1. Mr. Tillie,

    What has happened? Briefly my grandfather was born around 1895 in Canada. His mother, younger brother and he went to a reservation in Wisconsin around 1902. He ended in the white man’s world and we all have lost contact. The way of domestic violence was not his, or any of his family members. Now I, his granddaughter, have read of this in the Billing, MT newspaper. Maybe you can direct me where to search for answers. Grandfather went on the Milky Way road 15 years ago. I am glad he did not know this. Please understand I am not looking to assert a tribal connection. I just want to understand. Can you help me?

    Mona Shippy Sanford

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