standing rock reservation
My Great Uncle John Clark Spare, who was my Great Aunt Mina Schumacher’s husband, had a lengthy career in the Army, that began when he enlisted in the North Dakota National Guard on June 30, 1916 at the tender young age of 17 years. At that time he was assigned to the Rio Grande River Border Patrol along the United States-Mexican Border, at Mercedes, Texas. In all, he served off and on from 1916 to 1943. When he wasn’t off fighting in wars, he was able to receive training in the Highway Engineering branch of Civil Engineering at Iowa State College. Following his education, he was assigned to field work, which is where I believe he began his initial association with the Indian tribes in the area, and would eventually change his life forever.
However that may have happened, John did end up being considered a person the tribes would listen to, and because of that, he was invited on November 11, 1936 to the Standing Rock Indian Reservation near Cannonball to give a speech at the American Legion Post Rally. Later that day, an Indian named White Eagle told him that an old Indian named Walking Cloud liked his speech very much and wanted to meet him. As it turned out, Walking Cloud had recently lost his son. He wanted to adopt John in his place…quite an honor. Over the remainder of that year and into the next, Walking Cloud and his wife, Mary visited the Spare home frequently. I would guess that they were getting to know each other better.
The ceremony was set for July 4, 1937 at Cannonball, during the first celebration of the Sundance since it was abolished in 1892 because the government felt the ritual was too torturous. For those who don’t know, the ritual entailed raising a huge pole with leather thongs tied to the top…two for each dancer. Incisions were made in two places on the braves chests and the ends of the thongs knotted into them. The dancers then danced around the pole until the thongs ripped from their chest, as a way of displaying their bravery. The Sundance was able to be revived in 1937, because most of the older Indians had died, and the younger ones weren’t very interested in having the torturous dance kept as part of the ceremony after all that time.
John Clark Spare was made Walking Cloud’s son during that ceremony, and given a Chief’s headdress made with genuine eagle feathers, which would be impossible now. Attached to the headdress was a long trailer of brilliant feathers running from the base of the neck to the ground. Trailers were worn by chiefs only on special occasions, Mina had fashioned breeches and a coat of pure white leather for him. Her work was exquisite, especially the bead work that covered most of the garment. After his adoption, John studied Indian lore more than before, and the collecting of Indian artifacts became his beloved hobby.