A lifelong champion of Lakota culture. A delegate to the United Nations. A descendant of one of the most important leaders in Native American history.

Those were a few of the terms that family and friends used to describe Oliver Red Cloud, chief of the Sioux Nation, who died on Thursday, July 4, at the age of 93 in a Denver hospital.

Vanessa Red Cloud, one of Oliver Red Cloud’s 36 grandchildren, said that her grandfather died from a long-running illness at 4:20 p.m. while surrounded by family. Red Cloud, who lived on the Pine Ridge Reservation, was admitted to Rapid City Regional Hospital in early January and transferred to Denver for treatment.

Oliver Red Cloud, a former foreman for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, has served as chief of the Sioux Nation since 1979. He was a fourth generation descendant of Chief Red Cloud; a powerful war chief in the 1800s. Chief Red Cloud led several tribes in battle against the U.S. Army and also signed the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty peace agreement.

In a phone interview, Vanessa Red Cloud broke into quiet sobs while remembering her grandfather.

“Words can not describe how this man has become a part of everyone’s life as a whole,” she said. “Family-wise. Community-wise. Reservation-wise.”

Vanessa Red Cloud said that her grandfather had chosen a chief to succeed him before he died, but the name wouldn’t be released until the family had time to grieve.

Steve Emery, 54, Oliver Red Cloud’s nephew and a private attorney in Rapid City, described his uncle as a lifelong advocate for the Lakota culture.

“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 said.

Oliver Red Cloud served as chairman of the Black Hills Treaty Council where he advocated for the U.S. government to adhere to those treaties, which guaranteed ownership of the Black Hills to the Lakota. The U.S. Supreme Court awarded a multi-million dollar settlement to the tribes in 1980 to compensate for displacement, but the tribes have refused to accept it, arguing that the land must be returned.

Emery said that Oliver Red Cloud had taken that fight to the world stage. He served as a delegate to the United Nations and traveled as a figurehead for the Lakota.

“He traveled to Japan and Europe, all to gather support so our treaty rights wouldn’t be forgotten,” he said.

But although he may have undertaken his share of international travel, Red Cloud was no jet-setter. His family said he lived a modest existence on a family ranch a few miles west of Pine Ridge Village.

“My grandpa did not live a wealthy life,” said Amy Wilson, 43, another of Red Cloud’s granddaughters. “He didn’t live above his people.” Red Cloud’s funeral is set for Saturday, July 13, with a wake to be held on Thursday and Friday evening at the newly built gym in Pine Ridge High School.

For Wilson and other tribal members, it will be a celebration not only of Red Cloud’s life, but his legacy.

“He’s got big moccasins to fill,” Wilson said. “And I don’t think anyone can ever fill that.”

VIDEO In Remembrance of Chief Oliver Red Cloud

Responses to "Sioux Nation Chief Oliver Red Cloud dies at age 93"

  1. Anonymous says:

    My deepest simpathy for your loss. May he rest in peace.

  2. Unknown says:

    Heartfelt sympathy to Jim Red Cloud and Beth and the Sioux Nation, May God bring you Peace and Strength.

  3. Unknown says:

    Heartfelt sympathy to Jim Red Cloud and Beth and the Sioux Nation, May God bring you Peace and Strength.

  4. Cait says:

    Peace be with him as he travels on and many blessings to his family and community as they come to terms with his loss. The thoughts of many are with you.

  5. Anonymous says:

    The world has lost a great man.

  6. Bonnie Case Bono says:

    Heartfelt sympathy to Jim Red Cloud's Lakota Sioux family...We have lost a great advocate for all Indians..Thank you Lord, for letting us have him as long as we did..May his legacy never be forgotten, by both old and young..May his travels from now on be filled with peace, knowing he did all he could to protect the precious "ways" of the Lakota people...

  7. Unknown says:

    May his spirit live on in us all. Strength and Love and I pray that one day we can return to the respectful ways of indigenous people.

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