Loaded down with three boxes of handmade Christmas decorations, two 100-foot lengths of Christmas tree lights (white, not colored, thank you), and lengths and lengths of gold and silver glitter ropes, 30 children and adults from the Rosebud Episcopal Mission GLORY program descended on the State Capitol in November to decorate one of the 100-plus Christmas trees on display there.
GLORY (God Loves Our Rosebud Youth) almost didn't get to decorate a tree this year. The application for decorating one of the trees was sent in August, but when Mother Lauren Stanley called the Governor's office to inquire, she was told the Governor's office never received it.
"The GLORY kids decorated a tree in 2014, which was one of the highlights of the year for them," Mother Lauren said. "I was afraid to tell the kids our application got lost somewhere, because I didn't want them to be disappointed."
The Governor's office offered to put GLORY on the waiting list, in case anyone who had won the tree decorating lottery decided not to do so. In early November, that's exactly what happened. "We got the call asking us if we would still be willing to decorate," Mother Lauren said. "We spent two GLORY nights making paper tipis, using Paul Goble's book, Tipi: Home of the Nomadic Buffalo Hunters, as our template. The kids learned how tipis came to be, and used
some of the designs in that book."
The rest of the designs, Mother Lauren said, were designed to fight the Dakota Access Pipeline. "The children pray for the water protectors every week, so they made tipis with #NoDAPL, and Mni Wiconi and medicine wheels on them. We ended up with more than 200 tipis as decorations."
It only took an hour to decorate the tree; when it was finished, the children and adults with them cheered, and chanted Mni Wiconi in the Capitol hallway before touring the rest of the trees.
Two days later, the Governor's office informed Mother Lauren that the #NoDAPL and Mni Wiconi decorations had been removed. "They told us that if they allowed a political statement against the pipeline, they would have to allow one for the pipeline, which they didn't want to do," Mother Lauren said. "I hadn't given it any thought, to be honest, because I was so proud of the kids for deciding - on their own - to make that statement. But we all understood."
The tree, which was decorated for four weeks, did display all of the other tipis the children had decorated, including ones with designs for Red Cloud and Black Elk.
"We intend to apply again next year, so that we can continue to share Lakota culture and heritage with all South Dakotans," Mother Lauren said.