A generous bequest from the late Sandra D. Speiden to the American Indian Ritual Object Repatriation Foundation has enabled us to create an updated, user-friendly, multimedia website. Our site is now an important, state-of-the-art educational tool, with audio and video information about the repatriation movement available along with written archival essays, legal documents, and other resource information.
Sandra Speiden’s life was exemplary, marked by compassion, commitment, and verve. I extend my gratitude and thanks to her husband, William H. Speiden, and her family, for working with us to see her wishes fulfilled.
The American Indian Ritual Object Repatriation Foundation dedicates this website to the memory of Sandra D. Speiden
However, she had no clue as to what was ahead when she somehow was led to an American Indian ceremonial pipe at an estate auction in 1986. That impulsive purchase would lead to a two-week, 300-mile winter trip by horseback across South Dakota 16 years later.
Speiden, 66, and her husband, Bill, 68, are retired dairy farmers living in Orange County who still farm on a small scale. Sandra Speiden manages an online used-book dealership, cares for their riding horses and is involved with American Indian issues. Bill Speiden uses his oxen in events depicting their role in the development of our country and writes a weekly column in Town & County, "Lewis and Clark This Week."
With an appreciation for tradition, history and heritage, Sandra Speiden became convinced that the pipe, believed to have been owned by the legendary Lakota leader Sitting Bull, should be returned to his descendants in the tribe.
Detective work on the computer gave her the name of the great-great-great-grandson of Sitting Bull, Ron McNeil, the president of Sitting Bull College in Fort Yates, N.D., who goes by the name his grandfather gave him, "Ron His Horse Is Thunder." She decided to attend the powwow sponsored by the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington in September 2002, with the hope he would be there. This indeed was the case, although she was undecided and a bit apprehensive as to how to approach him. Her hesitancy about meeting him was eased when she had a very clear dream, the night before, about finding him to be a warm and gracious person with whom she had an easy conversation.
That dream did come true. McNeil was so very appreciative of her wish to give the pipe to the family that he invited her to bring it to the Standing Rock Reservation near McLaughlin, S.D., and present it on Dec. 15, 2002, prior to the Lakota Nation's annual two-week-long Big Foot Memorial Ride. He also invited her to be included on that trip.
The memorial ride was initiated in 1986 and was intended to continue for four years, to end on the 100th anniversary of the death of Sitting Bull and the infamous Wounded Knee Massacre. Its purpose was to bring closure to a grieving process that had never been allowed to take place. But urging by tribe members' children has made it an annual event to honor and preserve their history and heritage. It now is called the Oomaka Tokatakiya Future Generations Ride.