Elkhorn couple bring donations, comfort to South Dakota reservations
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Bruce Hansen stacks up bags of donated clothing and coats in his town of Sugar Creek home. He and his wife, Cheryl, are getting ready for their annual trip to Native American reservations. In late December they’ll visit two reservations and distribute the donated items.Terry Mayer photo.
SUGAR CREEK TOWNSHIP -- Mitakuye oyasin (pronounced Mee-tah-koo-yay Oy-yah-seen).
In the Lakota Sioux language, the words mean, “We are all related.” Unfortunately, most Native Americans never have been treated like equals since Europeans arrived.
(Read all of this week's stories from Walworth County Sunday HERE. )
The 2010 Census shows there are 5.2 million Native Americans and Alaska Natives, including those of more than one race. Twenty-two percent of them live on reservations or similarly designated areas.
Some Walworth County residents are trying to change attitudes and eliminate the long-held stigmas associated with these people and their cultures, and one way they’re doing it is through winter mission trips to reservations in the Dakotas.
Bruce and Cheryl Hansen of Sugar Creek Township are leaving Dec. 26 on their 13th annual trip, a five- to seven-day effort in which they deliver mostly clothing and some food to residents of Native American reservations.
This year, they will visit the Crow Creek and Lower Brule reservations, located opposite each other along the Missouri River in central South Dakota. But it’s been a long journey to get to this point.
Bruce is a Woodstock, Ill., native whose family moved to Lake Geneva when he was 5 years old, while Cheryl is from Chicago. The couple married in 1975 and they have lived in the Elkhorn area since 1979.
He is a man of Scandinavian descent whose epiphany concerning Native American history occurred innocently enough, but it has led to a life-long transformation, personally and spiritually.
“I was a 17-year-old senior at Badger High School and saw the movie ‘Soldier Blue,’ which is a graphic depiction of the Sand Creek Massacre in 1864,” said Hansen, a retired construction superintendent. “I was stunned. I had never seen, heard or been taught anything about that. That’s when I started researching about all the atrocities. But my grandparents had homesteaded out in that area, and my grandmother actually was a midwife and sewed clothing for Native American people. So we had visited them out there in the summer many times.”
He continued to immerse himself in Native American history and culture, but it wasn’t until 1995 that Bruce took his first trip to the Pine Ridge reservation and stopped at Wounded Knee.
For the complete story see the Nov. 4 print or e-edition of Walworth County Sunday.
How to help
For more information about the Hansens’ mission project, call (262) 903-0869, email to Hansen@elknet.net or write to Bruce/Cheryl Hansen, N7104 Evergreen Lane, Elkhorn, WI 53121.