Canku Ota


(Many Paths)


An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


January 27, 2001 - Issue 28



Wateca Singers Go to Washington, D.C.


by Donna Ennis


Lots of Photographs (thanks to Mr. Chris Mosner)


Click Here for More Pictures, our thanks to Ms. Ennis

I had the honor and distinct pleasure of meeting and spending some time with these fine young people and their chaperones in D.C. An awe-inspiring representation of Lakota youth and the Rosebud Reservation. It is my opinion; that these children were the pride of all Indian nations during the inaugural festivities.

They were inspired during a civics class while studying the U.S. Constitution. One of the children noted that the Inauguration was held on the same date for over 200 years. From that point on, the concept of traveling to Washington DC and performing for the President was born. These children had no interest in who won the presidential election; they simply wanted to drum for the President of the United States, no matter who it was. These children had a dream; their dream became a reality through their efforts. They wrote letters and decorated the envelopes with traditional artwork of the Lakota people, so they would stand out. Time went by and they thought they were forgotten. Christmas came and went, the children returned to school after their Christmas break to news that was absolutely unbelievable. They were going to Washington DC, they were going to perform for the President of the United States. This will definitely be a lasting memory for the people of Rosebud reservation and those that supported the children in their effort. As well as those of us that were fortunate enough to be in the company of these fine young people.

Rachelle, (my granddaughter), Naomi Barry, and I met the group at the Capitol building. Naomi Barry is an equal opportunity specialist with the United States Department of Labor in Washington, D.C. Working in the civil rights division, Naomi is concerned with enforcing civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination based on race, color, or national origin. She's also the daughter of Paul, our Canku Ota webmaster!

In addition to having the pleasure of meeting with and spending time with the children of the Rosebud reservation, once again, honor was bestowed upon us. Lillian Sparks, Miss Indian World 2000-2001 was there to greet the pride of, not only the Rosebud Reservation, but, I believe it would be safe to say, The Great Sioux Nation. It is my opinion that Miss Sparks has greatly represented the American Indian people of all nations. Lillian Sparks and her mother, who accompanied her, are enrolled members of the Rosebud Tribe; I can only imagine the pride, felt by both ladies, on this day.

Senator Tom Daschle met with the Rosebud delegation in the Capitol building. He spoke with them for a long time, posed for pictures and received the honor of being made an honorary member of the Wateca Singers. The children presented him with a drumstick and a few bottles of South Dakota water. They also invited the Senator to sit in on the drum with them, anytime he is back in South Dakota. Senator Daschle took the group on a tour of his office, on the Senate side of the Capitol; he was a most gracious host, having given up much of his time to spend with us, during this very busy weekend. Michelle Singer, executive assistant to Senator Daschle, completed the tour, escorting us over to the House side of the capitol building. I think we all found the underground shuttle quite intriguing. I, for one, did not know this system of transportation existed beneath the Capitol.

On Saturday, I watched the Inaugural Parade from the comforts of my living room. I, like many, watched the entire 3 ½ hours of the parade in hopes of catching a glimpse of the children. When I did not see them pass in review of the President, I could only think maybe it was just too cold and wet to bring children out, or maybe their transportation was late picking them up. To be honest, I did not know what to think. I read the Washington Post to see if they commented on the Wateca Singers, only to read "they were a roving act". I contacted their teacher Chris Mosner to find out where they were in the parade. After all, it is possible I might have missed them.

Mr. Mosner stated, "The singers were never meant to march down the street with the other groups - our role in the parade came earlier, and actually lasted much longer than the marching bands. We were, as you found, a roving act. Roving acts have the freedom (supposedly) to wander at will and entertain all the crowds along the parade route. Unfortunately, our efforts were terribly hampered by the weather. It is very difficult for women to dance in traditional dresses and moccasins in 36-degree temperatures, with driving rain. We did manage to get in a dozen or so performances before I finally pulled the plug. No need to contract pneumonia."

While speaking with the children, I asked how they liked the flight out here, it seems there were mixed feelings on flying. Some kids were fascinated, others just did not like flying. Were they afraid? According to one of the young ladies, no, she was not afraid, she just didn't like flying. Sounds reasonable to me. In a conversation with Naomi Barry the children found that Naomi, too, had come to Washington, as a child on a field trip. Naomi told the children “it was then that I decided when I grew up I would like to work in this city”. Naomi encouraged the children to work hard for what they wanted in life, she assured them that nothing is impossible. After all, Naomi is living proof that a child with a dream, willing to work towards that dream, can make that dream come true.

The Wateca Singers were the "talk of the town" once word got out they would be arriving on Thursday. Many were as excited as we were to meet them. The American Indian Society extended an invitation to the group to attend their inaugural ball held in Crystal City. Sadly, they had to decline, due to much needed rest. Chris Mosner said, "We did not make the pow wow. We spent the evening instead by practicing our songs, and... well..... by listening to inspirational sermons from the teacher. =) I will tell you, there were some tears that Friday night -tears of happiness and anticipation. We went to bed quite early, as we had to be up at 4:30 am (3:30 our time). We began performing at 9 am, but had to pass through security checks at 6 am.” The invitation was greatly appreciated."

They did however, enjoy Washington and all of its attractions, they were able to do some sightseeing on Sunday. Mosner said, "We spent the day sightseeing - spending most of our time at the war memorials. The children had a FANTASTIC time, and each one begged to stay longer."

When we left the children, on Friday afternoon, I was swelled with pride. I have met with many people in my lifetime but never have I been more honored than on this day, meeting these children. The children, as we all know, are our future. The view, from where I stood, on this day, the future for Indian people looked bright. The children are keeping the traditions of singing, dancing and drumming alive. The children speak their own language, the language of the Lakota people. They are bright eyed, full of hope, full of life.

The members of the Wateca Singers are:

Kelcey Andrews, Charles Broken Leg, Cole DuBray, Desirae Edwards, Brittany Gunhammer, Benjamin Kills In Water, Richard Kills In Water, John Larvie, Ashley Menard, Lloyd One Star, Shawndai Prue, Timothy Red Feather, Janelle Reynolds, Tiffany Sharpfish, Melvin Smashed Ice, Roger Spider, Zachary Stewart, Francis Valandra, Bradley Williams and Derek Youngman.

Mina Dillon, Mary Waln, Maxine DuBray, Pat Bad Hand, Everett Felix Jr. and Cheryl Prue and teacher, Chris Mosner, served as chaperones for the event.

"The trip cost nearly $10,000. The Todd County School District assisted the children but, the funds will have to be repaid to the school district. Families of the students have helped but, alternative sources will be necessary to repay TCSD."

"The school received more than $1,600 toward the trip from people across the nation. E-mail came from as far away as Georgia and Maryland with inquiries about assisting students on their travel. The school received other donations from people using Western Union in Valentine, Neb.", Mosner said

Those wishing to make donations can make them directly to the school.

Email address is and the phone number is (605) 747-2411

Read more about the Wateca Singers and some of the people they met:


Rosebud Elementary School


Rosebud Sioux Tribe of South Dakota


Senator Tom Daschle - South Dakota Democrat


Todd County School District TCSD Beliefs and Mission


Lillian Sparks Biography Miss Indian World 2001


Gathering of Nations Powwow - Miss Indian World


Naomi Barry '96




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