Native women carry a banner during the 16th Annual Memorial March to Honor Our Lost Children in Sioux City, Iowa, on November 21, 2018. Photo by Kevin Abourezk

March held in honor of Native children lost in foster care

'The prayers of the children are very powerful'
By Kevin Abourezk

SIOUX CITY, Iowa – As he has for the past 16 years, Frank LaMere stood atop a hill overlooking the Missouri River here just before sunrise.

Nearly 50 people gathered around him beneath a 31-foot statue of Santee Sioux Chief War Eagle.

The Winnebago activist told the people they were there because of the children and he invoked the names of three Native children murdered in foster homes, deaths that inspired a march 16 years ago – Hannah Thomas, Nathaniel Saunsoci-Mitchell and Larissa Starr-Red Owl.

“The prayers of the children are very powerful, and I believe it’s the prayers of the children that brought us here,” LaMere said. “Our children feed the system, and all of us let it happen.”

Indanz.Com Video by Kevin Abourezk: Marchers Honor Native Children Lost to Foster Care

The 16th Annual Memorial March to Honor Our Lost Children was held Wednesday in Sioux City. The marchers started in War Eagle Park before walking down the hill to Jackson Recovery Centers, a treatment center, where marchers stopped for coffee and speeches. They then walked to the Siouxland Center for Active Generations, where they also listened to speeches before moving on to the Sioux City Public Museum.

At the museum, LaMere and others honored Omaha attorney David Domina, who represented Sheridan County residents who opposed the liquor licenses of four beer stores in Whiteclay, Nebraska, during hearings last year before the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission and the Nebraska Supreme Court.

The commission voted in April 2017 against renewing the liquor licenses of those beer stores, and the Nebraska Supreme Court upheld that decision in late September of last year.

“There’s a community now in western Nebraska that’s beginning to heal,” said John Maisch, an attorney and filmmaker who produced the documentary “Sober Indian/Dangerous Indian” about the people who drink in Whiteclay.

Frank LaMere, an activist and citizen of the Winnebago Tribe, speaks at Jackson Recovery Centers during the 16th Annual Memorial March to Honor Our Lost Children in Sioux City, Iowa, on November 21, 2018. hoto by Kevin Abourezk

LaMere shared the story of a young Native couple who approached him following a celebration this year marking the one-year anniversary of the closing of Whiteclay’s beer stores. The young man pointed to his two young children and told LaMere they were born after the closing of the beer stores, but that he planned to tell them about the people that closed those stores.

“I want to able to tell him that I met one of those men that helped shut that down,” he told LaMere.

As he drove home to Nebraska after the celebration, LaMere said he began thinking about what the young man told him, and he realized that maybe the purpose of the nearly 20 years of efforts he and other had made to shut down the beer stores in Whiteclay might have been to facilitate that brief exchange between LaMere and the young man.

And he said he thought to himself, “Will it have been worth it?”

His answer to himself was swift.

“Hell yes it was.”

Marchers take part in the 16th Annual Memorial March to Honor Our Lost Children in Sioux City, Iowa, on November 21, 2018. Photo by Kevin Abourezk

LaMere said it’s important to fight for the children, for those who are unable to fight for themselves, and that’s what he and others were doing in Whiteclay and that’s why he organized and led the first Memorial March to Honor Our Lost Children 16 years ago and every year since.

“When your children are not with you, when they grow old, they must know that you fought for them,” he said.

But much work remains, he told people gathered at Jackson Recovery Centers on Wednesday.

He said of the 17 mothers at the treatment center who recently graduated from a parenting class, 15 are homeless. They are homeless despite the fact that Sioux City officials hold more than 100 housing vouchers for people, LaMere said.

“We have to elevate our discussion, or they’ll never listen to us,” he said. “I care about those little ones. They have no voice. That’s what we do with this memorial march.”

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