SISSETON, S.D. (KELO) – Healing can happen in different ways, and for the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate tribe on the Lake Traverse Reservation this past week, healing looked like lit up tipis and prayers.
For five days, tipis were lit up and a fire burned at the SWO Memorial Park in Sisseton.
“I wanted it to be a place of laughter, a place of, you know, feeling comfortable and pray,” memorial organizer Alana Little Bird said.
The tipis were set up as a memorial for all the ways the community was impacted by COVID-19.
“We used red ribbon and the red ribbon is mostly for the mental health disparities that are happening. Each one of those represent depression, anxiety, mental health, PTSD, MMIW, you know, health issues. Everyone that’s going through something right now through this pandemic is something we put up for,” Little Bird said.
Visitors could offer prayers and painted stones with the names of loved ones they’ve lost.
“You know, we’ve lost a lot of community members and it’s been tough, it’s really been tough because you don’t get to spend those final hours with your family members, a lot of them are passing away alone. That’s very difficult, no matter who you are,” Ella Robertson, who helped run the event, said.
Not only did these tipis allow a healing process with regard to the pandemic, but also a healing process about the land on which they stood.
“This previously was an orphanage and it has, you know, horrific history, some good, some bad. But we continue to do good things like this out here in hopes that it will heal and help the people that had those bad experiences to heal as well,” Robertson said.
“To me, it felt comforting knowing that, you know, that our loved ones who have passed on, who were actually living here, years ago, you know, that they get to be a part of this healing process along with us. I just think that this whole thing was over out, it was, amazing just to be here and be a part of it,” Danielle DeCoteau, who helped run the event, said.