The History of the
General Convention of Sioux
strong kids, strong families, strong communities.
In 1862, the Dakota People, tired of
semi-starvation and poverty, took part in an ill-fated war
meant to push white settlers out of their lands in Minnesota. At the
end of the brief war, 160 Dakota warriors were captured and sentenced
to hang. In 1864, President Abraham Lincoln commuted the sentences of
120 of the younger men. However, 40 other warriors were hung from a
single scaffold in Mankato, Minnesota, making it the largest mass
execution in U.S. history.
These younger Indian men languished in a military
prison. Volunteers from the Young Men's Christian Association visited
them, bringing clothing, bedding, English language lessons and
The Dakota men were so impressed with the compassion
of these YMCA volunteers, that upon their release in 1879, some of
them, including Chief Little Crow's son, Thomas Wakeman, started the
Koskada Okadiciye, a Young Man's Association. In 1885 they were
recognized by the national YMCA movement and changed their name to
Sioux Young Men's Christian Association. Their goal then, as it still
is today, was to teach and encourage the values of Wawokiye,
Woksape, Ohitika, and Wa o’hola or Generosity, Wisdom,
Bravery, and Respect.
The original log cabin Sioux YMCA.
Change and growth have continued. In 1970 the Sioux
YMCAs voted to become a family association and in 1971 a summer
residential camp, YMCA Camp Leslie Marrowbone was started. The YMCA
was incorporated in 1972, became a member of the National Council of
YMCAs in 1977 and assumed full responsibility for fundraising in
Today, the General Convention of Sioux YMCAs, with a
Lakota Board of Directors and supported by a dedicated Board of
Trustees, operates youth, recreational and camping programs that
serve youth and families spread out among isolated villages on
the 4,500 square mile Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Reservation.
Three generations of Chief Sitting Bull's family were
members of the YMCA.
Contact the YMCA
SD General Convention of Sioux YMCA's, Inc.
P.O. Box 218
1 YMCA Street
Dupree, South Dakota 57623
PH (605) 365-5232
FAX (605) 365-5230
Thomas Wakeman, son of Chief Little Crow,
organized the first Sioux Indian YMCA in 1879.
Dr. Charles A. Eastman, Ohiyesa, a member of the Santee
Sioux, formerly with the Indian Health Service during the
Wounded Knee Massacre, was selected by the national YMCA to head the Indian
office in 1894. He was the first Sioux YMCA Executive