Rosebud Yellow Robe - Educator and Native American Folklorist
Author and Educator ~
Rosebud Yellow Robe was an author, educator, lecturer and Native American folklorist. She left an inspiring legacy, for not just her own,but, for all people. She was very influential in changing the stigma in society about the American Indian. It was part of her life-long dedication to other cultures and her own people
It is so encouraging and awe-inspiring to look back in history and find people who have dedicated their lives to giving hope, encouragement and renewed life to their people and to help others better understand all Native Americans. Rosebud Yellow Robe and her father, Chauncey Yellow Robe, were such people.
Early life ~
Rosebud was born February 26, 1907 in Rapid City, South Dakota. She was the eldest daughter of Chauncey Yellow Robe. Throughout her adult life she fought against prejudice. With her ability of showing patience and tolerance she left a lasting impression on all who knew her.
Chauncey named his first daughter after the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota. The family were registered members of the Sioux Nation. Like her father, Rosebud's main focus in life was being an educator. When Rosebud and her sisters were young, Chauncey spent a lot of time telling them stories in his native Lakota language. It was so important to him to keep his daughters aware of their heritage.
Rosebud's mother was Lillian Belle Springer. She worked at the Rapid City Indian School as a volunteer nurse where she assisted with students of the Sioux, Northern Cheyenne, Shoshone, Arapaho, Crow and Flathead tribes. She was born in Minnesota in 1885. Her family moved to Tacoma, Washington where Lillian received her education. The year before she was born, Lillian's parents of Swiss-German ancestry had immigrated to Minnesota from Neftenbach, Switzerland. It was her parent's marriage that enabled Rosebud to be open to different cultures and cross the cultural bridges she would encounter later in life. When Lillian died in 1927, Rosebud became the caregiver of her two younger sisters.
After early schooling near her home and attending high school in Rapid City, Rosebud became one of the first Native American women at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, South Dakota, where she received her formal education from 1925 to 1927.
While at the University, Rosebud took part in productions and presentations about Native American dances. She would dance in her traditional regalia and did so with reverence. Her spirituality and love of her people's culture came across so strongly with grace and beauty that the audiences adored her. She was truly admired by all who saw her performances.
Chauncey Yellow Robe ~
Chauncey Yellow Robe was the great nephew of the famous Dakota Sioux leader, Sitting Bull (Thathanka Iyothanka).
At the age of fifteen, Chauncey was sent to Pennsylvania to attend Carlisle, the first Indian boarding school. In spite of the school trying to remove all signs and inclinations of his heritage, Chauncey never abandoned his heritage or people. He graduated in 1895 with honors and helped his people with cultural differences and difficulties. He entered government service after graduating.
Chauncey later represented the North American Indians at the Congress of Nations at the opening of the World Colombian Exposition in Chicago.
It was very important to Chauncey to pass on the heritage of his people and Rosebud continued this same desire and dedication for the rest of her life. Rosebud continued to learn from her father about the Lakota traditions and her heritage.
Chancey Yellow Robe and his father ~
Career and Honors ~
Rosebud's goal in life was to dispel the common misconception of the image of the Native American. In the early 1930s, Rosebud took her mission further by becoming an educator of children. With her teachings, storytelling and writing she was able to instill in children a revealing insight into Native American culture.
Taking the position of Director of the Jones Beach Indian Village , in Long Island, New York, she was able to further teach children with games, crafts, songs, and of course her storytelling. She wore traditional Lakota clothing when teaching and performing for the children. Rosebud worked at the Village from 1930 to 1950.
Rosebud also worked at the CBS radio station during the 1930s, writing and reading her stories on the air. During the same period, Orson Welles also worked at the station. Many believe that is how he got the idea to use 'Rosebud' as the last word of the dying Citizen Kane. She also appeared often on NBC children's programs during the 1950s.
Rosebud had her first book published in 1969, "Album of the American Indian", depicting the daily lives of seven different Indian tribes prior to European contact. Her second book, of Native American folk tales for children was titled "Tonweya and the Eagles". It was based on the stories told to her and her sisters by Chauncey, their father.
She was a very talented woman of diversity and thousands benefited from her knowledge and desire to teach truth. She devoted her life to this endeavor and had a special place in the hearts of children and adults everywhere. She had the strength and courage to accept people for who they were, to praise their achievements and honor their differences.
A life size portrait of Rosebud was done in oils in 1984 and placed in the W. H. Over Museum in Vermillion, South Dakota. She received tribute and an honorary doctorate in Humane Letters from the University of South Dakota for her ability to cross bridges and cultures and provide a more accurate understanding of the Native American. A scholarship was established in her name in 1993 and 1994 at the University of South Dakota. The Rosebud Yellow Robe Society was also established at the same time.
Yellow Robe family ~
Marriage and Death ~
Rosebud's first husband, Arthur Seymour, a journalist, died in 1949. Their marriage was one of mutual support and inspiration. In 1951, she married photographer Alfred A. Frantz who also supported and encouraged her goals.
Rosebud died from cancer on October 5, 1992. Her strong spirit inspires people even today. Her remarkable devotion and dedication to children and loyalty to the cultures of Native Americans left us a legacy of honor. She is still an inspiration to those wishing to seek truth, learn of their heritage and develop pride in their lineage and people.
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Beloved teacher and storyteller ~
Note from author ~
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Phyllis Doyle Burns - Lantern Carrier, Spiritual Mentor
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© 2013 Phyllis Doyle Burns