He served as chief of the Sioux Nation since 1977. He was a delegate to the United Nations and a champion of Lakota culture on Turtle Island and abroad. He was also a fourth descendent of Chief Red Cloud, who led an umber of battles against the United States Army and was a signer of the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty. Chief Oliver Red Cloud walked on July 4 at the age of 93.
“The Sky turned Red today as the spirits are preparing to escort our great leader, father, grandfather, great grandfather, Chief Oliver Red Cloud across the Milky-way. Grandpa Oliver, I know your family and your ancestors are preparing to welcome you home. The knowledge, the wisdom, the compassion, the end of an era,” said Lynette TwoBulls, Red Cloud’s niece on Facebook.
And it is an end of an era. While Vanessa Red Cloud, one of his 36 grandchildren told the Rapid City Journal he did choose a successor, that person has not yet been revealed.
“He’s got big moccasins to fill,” Amy Wilson, another of Red Cloud’s grandchildren. “And I don’t think anyone can ever fill that.”
Red Cloud once served as a foreman to the Bureau of Indian Affairs and according to Steve Emery, Red Cloud’s nephew, he made sure Lakota culture was known.
“He was passionate about making sure that the kids knew the Lakota ways and that they knew about the treaty—the 1868 treaty, the 1851 treaty—and the special relationship that exists between the United States and the great Sioux Nation,” he told the Rapid City Journal.
As chairman of the Black Hills Sioux Nation Treaty Council he advocated for the government to honor the treaties, which guaranteed the Lakota would keep ownership of the Black Hills. The tribes were granted a multi-million dollar settlement in 1980 by the U.S. Supreme Court to compenstate them for displacement, but they haven’t accepted it because they feel the land should be returned.
As a United Nations delegate, Red Cloud took his message abroad.
“He traveled to Japan and Europe, all to gather support so our treaty rights wouldn’t be forgotten,” Emery told the Journal.
But he was no jet setter. Red Cloud’s family said he lived modestly on a ranch outside Pine Ridge Village.
His funeral will be held July 13 with a wake to be held Thursday and Friday evening at the new gym in Pine Ridge High School in Pine Ridge, South Dakota.
“The world was better because of him. May his wisdom and knowledge never be forgotten,” said Patricia Vance in an online guestbook.