David William Beautiful Bald Eagle, Jr.
David William Beautiful Bald Eagle, Jr. “Waniyetu Opi”, age 97, took his journey home on Friday July 22, 2016 at approximately 6:00 p.m. at his home surrounded by family. He was born in a tipi near Cherry Creek along the banks of the Cheyenne River on April 8, 1919. Born the grandson of Chief White Bull, who had led one of the immortal charges on Custer’s 7th Cavalry at Battle at Greasy Grass.
His grandfather was his schoolroom; he didn’t speak English until he was 12, at which age he was sent to school at the old Cheyenne agency boarding school near Gettysburg. He was active in many sports at school and became a formidable boxer. Five years after White Bull’s death, when he was 17 he convinced his father to let him join the US Army 4th cavalry at Ft. Meade where he participated in the last years of mounted cavalry before mechanization, when WWII started, he re-enlisted to Ft. Bragg being assigned to the 82nd Airborne. Sgt. Bald Eagle became a code-talking paratrooper in one of the most storied combat units of military history. He was decorated for bravery in the Anzio campaign; he was also wounded while parachuting behind enemy lines on D-Day.
His life after the service was an adventure to say the least. He was an accomplished Bronc Rider under the name of “Chips Warner” who counted Casey Tibbs as one, of many, of his good friends. Through his career he was also an actor proudly being recognized as a SAG member. He acted in many motion pictures such as “Flaming Arrow” with Errol Flynn, working as his stunt double, the movies “Dances with Wolves”, “Imprint”, the TBS series “Into the West”, and many others. He also trained many western actors including John Wayne on techniques of horse and gun handling.
Some of his fondest memories included his friendship with Marilyn Monroe. His latest movie “Neither Wolf nor Dog” is eagerly anticipated, with its recent debut at the Edinburg Film Festival in England. Amongst his many talents Dave was also an accomplished champion ballroom dancer, he is remembered in the Ballroom Hall of Fame in Minneapolis, MN.
Adding to his accomplishments, Dave became a champion Indian dancer, winning many national champion dance titles. Dave was active in cultural affairs both as an announcer and dancing judge. During his travels, he would have a chance meeting with his future wife in 1958 at the Worlds Fair in Brussels Belgium, it would not be until 1972 they would marry and create a home for the many children they would raise, a labor of love they worked hard to establish and remain so. Dave and Josee’s generosity and kindness to family, friends and strangers alike is legendary. Together they have influenced innumerable lives for the good. Dave also served 17 years as chairman of the personnel policy board, as well as goodwill ambassador for the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. He was chief of the Minicoujou band and 1st chief of the indigenous native nations. His work in conflict resolution would lead him all over the United States and the world.
For nearly 5 decades Dave was accorded the high distinction of leading the Days of 76 parade in Deadwood, SD, also serving as important spokesperson for the history of Deadwood. Dave had many honors and was revered for keeping the traditional ways. In an interview he reflected on his childhood and life: “It was tougher back then; I’ve had a rough life. But I can remember everything. From horses and cart days right up until today; jet planes and computers. When I was a boy there weren’t even any fences. No electricity lines or phone lines. No roads, nothing! You could head out across the country and you wouldn’t have to open any gates or anything like that. All just open prairie. The world has changed so quickly in just one lifetime. It’s so short a time. I’ve had a long life but it seems like yesterday”. There is not one person who has met him that he has not left an impression upon.
With all of his accomplishments and recognition, the proudest moments for him were his family and the continuation of traditional culture and history. Although Dave encountered many forms of prejudice and discrimination he never showed bitterness, only patience and understanding. He met adversity with invincible courage and humor. He had an extraordinary sense of humor and no one could easily forget his easy laughter. He embodied what was great about the culture of the American West as well as his own Lakota spirit. His life and work stand as a beacon to many. He was truly a National Treasure.
The family would like to recognize the very dear friends of Dave’s, Lavon Shearer & family as well as Melvin Anderson and family. We would also like to thank the many friends far and near that were part of his extraordinary journey.
He is survived by his wife, Josee Kesteman Beautiful Bald Eagle, Howes, SD; Children: Sandra Beautiful Bald Eagle (John Flying Horse), Wakpala, SD, David Beautiful Bald Eagle Jr., Sioux Falls, SD, Phyllis Beautiful Bald Eagle (Amos Cook), Takini SD, Lloyd Beautiful Bald Eagle, Takini, SD, Floyd Heart, Red Scaffold, SD, Florence Beautiful Bald Eagle, Eagle Butte, SD, Zola Mae Black Bonnet (Leroy Green), Vermillion, SD, Roberta Beautiful Bald Eagle, Belle Fourche, SD, Nita Sitting Up (Chris Ravenshead), Custer, SD, Luc Francois (Sonia Umana), Dallas, TX, Ines Beautiful Bald Eagle (Chris White) Charleston, SC, Eve Beautiful Bald Eagle (Brent Vavra), Belle Fourche, SD, Remi Beautiful Bald Eagle, Belle Fourche SD, Kili Beautiful Bald Eagle (Desi Cuna), Charleston, SC, Joseph Beautiful Bald Eagle, San Diego, CA, Justis Beautiful Bald Eagle, Howes, SD, Wapila Beautiful Bald Eagle, Howes, SD; Brother: Taylor, Eagle Butte, SD. Hunka Family: Ron Hoffman, New Jersey, Stormy Hollingsworth, Denver, CO, Ramon Nanadish,Puerto Rico, Jay Red Hawk, Custer, SD, Amber Gamble, CA; Grandchildren: 70; Great Grandchildren: 100; Great Great Grandchildren: 2
He was preceded in death by his parents, Taylor & Zola (White Feather) Beautiful Bald Eagle. His siblings, Phyllis, Frances, Lewellyn “Buster” and Violet. His children: Marlene, George, Nancy, and Marie.
A Traditional Lakota Four Day Scaffold wake ceremony began on Monday, July 25, 2016 at the David Beautiful Bald Eagle Ranch, Takini, SD. Traditional Lakota Funeral Services were Friday, July 29, 2016 at the Beautiful Bald Eagle Ranch. Burial with full military rites were Friday at Black Hills National Cemetery, Sturgis, SD.