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GRANDSON BRINGS OLD CHIEF HOME AFTER 100 YEARS

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By Sarah Reinecke
Rapid City Journal

KYLE — Joe American Horse sat in the front seat of a horse-drawn wagon wearing a traditional buckskin shirt and headdress. In the back lay his grandfather's remains, on the way to be reburied, in the same way the funeral would have taken place a century ago, when he died in 1908.

There was dust in the air as seven riders on horses led two wagons, pulled by horses. A pickup led the procession on a trail through the prairie, from KILI Radio to American Horse Creek. A few trucks followed behind.

The 16-mile trail ride ended on Chief American Horse's land, where the chief was reburied Saturday, 100 years after his death.

For 72-year-old Joe American Horse, his hope had finally become a reality as his grandfather was laid to rest on his homeland, near the creek south of Kyle.

"I wanted to take my grandpa back to his original property, wanted to take him back to his homeland," American Horse said.

Friends and relatives took part in the day-long reburial ceremony, which began at Sioux Funeral Home in Pine Ridge at 8:30 a.m. Saturday and concluded on Chief American Horse's land late in the afternoon, after making stops for prayer at Wounded Knee and a stop at KILI radio for prayer and refreshments.

American Horse said he has wanted to move his grandfather's grave-site for at least six years, and finally, with the help of Christina Voormann, he was able to.

Voormann lives in Germany and is American Horse's adopted niece. She learned of American Horse's wish six years ago, when, at the reservation to help clean up after a tornado, she asked him to show her where the chief was buried. American Horse said the Pine Ridge cemetery has been vandalized over the years and is near a development, and he wanted his grandfather buried in more serene surroundings.

"I know that it was his wish for so many years to bring back the remains of his grandfather to the homeland," Voormann said. "So where we go this afternoon is the original allotment of Chief American Horse."

Chief American Horse, an Oglala Lakota warrior and spiritual leader, died in Pine Ridge in 1908. According to his grandson, he was a peacemaker who led a delegation to Congress in 1891 to testify about the 1890 Wounded Knee massacre, resulting in re-issuing of rations and in fairer treatment of the Lakota.

After reburying his grandfather, American Horse hopes to create a cultural center on the land to create awareness and teach people about Lakota history.

"It's important that if you are Native American, you should learn something about yourself," he said. "Let's go back to the basics and maybe learn some of this and teach our kids."

Voormann made the funds available for the beginning of American Horse's vision.

Her husband, Klaus Voormann, is a musician and artist who performed with John Lennon and designed the cover of the Beatles' Revolver album. Voorman said she and her husband are still friends with Yoko Ono, and the money for the reburial was Ono's birthday gift to Voorman this year.

"Yoko knows what I'm doing here, and I know Joe's wish," she said. "Her birthday gift to me this year, she said, 'Use it for the Lakota.'"

So with the funds available and friends and family standing by, the Chief was finally brought back to his homeland, the land that he loved.

Wrapped in a new buffalo robe, the full skeleton and artifacts that were buried 100 years ago with the chief were brought "home" and American Horse said the spirit of his grandfather will help lead his family and tribe to the future.

"I think he's going to guide us to whatever we do," American Horse said.

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