Sacred Pipe Finds Its Way Home

May 15th, 2002 | By | Category: 13-4: The Many Faces of Leadership, Tribal College News
By Avis Little Eagle

Sitting Bull College President Ron McNeil (right) presented Greg Boettcher with a college Pendleton blanket in gratitude.

A grandfather’s dream and a spiritual leader’s Hanbleceya vision were both realized when a catlinite pipe with its beaded and porcupine quilled pipe bag were returned to the Standing Rock Nation.

In ceremonies at Sitting Bull College on Jan. 11, 2002, Greg Boettcher and his son, Ronnie Boettcher, of Pierre, SD, returned the pipe to the Standing Rock Nation. Ron McNeil, J.D., president of the college, received the pipe. It will be put in a glass display for viewing. “I think it’s very significant that these items are coming back without us going out and looking for them. That says a lot for the person returning them. This wouldn’t have happened 30 or 40 years ago,” McNeil said in opening ceremonies.

The pipe’s journey home took nearly three-fourths of a century. It came into the hands of the Boettcher family following the 1930 closing of the Lutheran Parochial Boarding School. An Indian family apparently gifted the pipe to the school. Boettcher’s grandfather sat on the school board. When the school closed, Boettcher’s grandfather kept the items, with the hope of returning them to the Indian people.

That wish did not come true, however, and Boettcher’s grandfather died in 1956. The pipe was then given to Boettcher’s aunt, who kept it in a cedar chest. When his aunt was placed in a nursing home, she informed Boettcher of her father’s wish– to return the pipe to the Indian people. Boettcher contacted his friend, Joanne Beare, who, along with Pearl Stone and Gwen Holmes, helped organize the return. “I feel it is the right thing to do and that it is my obligation to my aunt and my grandfather,” Boettcher said.

Everette Jamerson, a spiritual leader, explained the symbolism of the pipe and how White Buffalo Calf Woman brought it to the people. He said it was fitting that this particular pipe returned through the efforts of women. Felix Kidder, a spiritual leader, purified the pipe with a sage smudge and said prayers that thanked the Creator. Kidder told about a dream he had during a vision quest. In the dream, Sitting Bull said he had something to tell Kidder. “So yesterday when they told me that this was coming back, I thought maybe this is a fulfillment of that dream.”

Excerpted with permission from the Lakota Journal.

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