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Opinion: The life story of Cecilia Fire Thunder

"Tomorrow morning, after a 20-day suspension that has turned into almost two months, Oglala Sioux Tribal President Cecilia Fire Thunder will have an opportunity to confront her accusers. The first complaint: She's not a member of the tribe!

I have a hard time keeping a straight face. The history of tribal government is so riddled with petty jealousies, ineptitude, financial scandal, grassroots rebellions and the heavy-handed specter of unelected "traditional leadership" that it is hard for outsiders to take the workings of the Tribal Council seriously. But President Fire Thunder doesn't share my impatience.

For three hours last week she sat with me and told me her life story.

She was born at home on the Pine Ridge near the community of Kyle in 1946. "It is part of our tradition that a person of character is chosen to be at the birth," she tells me. "That person is the first to touch the baby, and their good character is passed to the baby by the touch. We have a saying, 'e-oyu-jun-tape,' which literally means, 'putting her finger in the mouth,' to clean away the mucous. All the history of our people, the sense of belonging, the deep roots, are passed to the baby with the touch. For me, that person of character was Nellie Red Owl.""

Get the Story:
Sam Hurst: Cecilia Fire Thunder a 'person of character' (The Rapid City Journal 12/18)

Relevant Links:
Oglala Sioux Tribe -

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