Chief Steve McCullough medicine Man
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Cheif Steve McCullough - Iktomi Sha

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          Over the years many people have said some very disparaging things about me. I believe this may have come from jealousy or simply accepted misinformation. For what it’s worth, here is the truth—my truth—about my life and who I am today.
As a teen on the Rosebud Reservation (Brule Sioux) but I also spent time on Pine Ridge. I was eventually accepted within the tribe (Lakota/Dakota) and adopted into the Chasing Horse Family in 1971. I witnessed many friends die due to racist practices of law enforcement, the FBI and other governmental agencies. This inevitably led to my involvement in the American Indian Movement and the Occupation of Wounded Knee.  At that time I was an armed guard. I carried a rifle and was always on watch. I was there to protect the Elders, the AIM camp, and so on from the FBI and other law enforcement agencies. I wanted to protect and help the people. I was ready to put my life on the line for these people who lost their aunts, uncles, and grandparents in the original Wounded Knee massacre. They trusted me. It was a turning point in my life. I was a militant at the time, but my life took more of a spiritual turn.
In the late mid 80’s I was in Rosebud and went to a doctoring ceremony with medicine man Robert Stead. The medicine man told me that when I went back east, I would be sharing the pipe with non-Indians. I knew no one that would be of this description—they didn’t know the ceremonies or even what a canunpa was. I went back to Indiana I saw my friend Dennis Banks on TV. I hadn’t seen him in years, so I went to see him at Slack Farm in Uniontown, KY. It looked like a warzone. Into Memorial Day weekend there was a 4 day ceremony for reburial of all the bodies whose burials had been desecrated. There were no laws against grave desecration at that time. For four years, there were native ceremonies during Memorial Day weekend. I had an inipi (sweat lodge) at my house at that time. People started to come to my home for ceremony. The medicine man who had been coming to my home asked me to share a pipe with him to bring a Sun Dance to the region. We were pushing for legislation against desecration in Indiana and the surrounding areas with John Craig (currently running for Governor)and it was eventually was passed on the state level, then eventually recognized on a Federal Level (Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990).
I received Chief Elmer Running’s medicine bundle during the early days of Salt Creek Sun Dance and took it to medicine man Earl Swift Hawk. It was he who designated me as the guardian of the bundle. My bonnet came from the Chasing Horse family (Chief Joseph Chasing Horse), and I have been recognized as a chief since medicine man Elmer Running gave me my name Iktomi Sha. Chief Leonard Crow Dog recognized me as a Chief at his Sun Dance in Paradise, SD in 2008 and gave his blessings to our Salt Creek Sun Dance (which I organized in 1992 and is the oldest sanctioned Sun Dance east of the Mississippi). He also gifted me with a Presidential Peace Medal in front of everyone and referred to me as the Chief of Chiefs east of the Mississippi. I have had the honor of adoption by not only the Chasing Horse Family, but the Bear Runner Family of Pine Ridge, Carl Broken Leg & Bernice Spotted Eagle of Wounded Knee, former logistics man and AIM activist Tom Perkins, and several others.
This is who I am. I am not fraud, plastic medicine man, new age, or any other nonsense.

And to those who would call me these things, I say, “Do your homework!

American Indian Movement

Chief Steve McCullough's Original AIM (American Indian Movement) Membership card 1972

 

1.) What tribal affiliations do you have (Lakota Hunka Relations, Shawnee, etc.)?  “I am adopted Lakota and Dakota through Hunka ceremonies with the Chasing Horse family, Bear Runner Family, Broken Leg Family, my bloodline is Shawnee a few generations back.”

2.) Where did you grow up? (Reservation) What was it like? “As a teen on the Rosebud Rez (Brule Sioux) but I also spent time on Pine Ridge. I was eventually accepted within the tribe (Lakota/Dakota); many friends died due to racist practices of law enforcement. This inevitably led to my involvement in AIM.”

3.) When did you become involved with the American Indian Movement and why (Security of their Medicine People, etc.)? How did that shape the direction in your life as far as activism, ceremonies, and peacework? “I was in my late teens. The turmoil in multiple cities due to oppression of the Natives (especially Custer and Callico, SD), communities were occupied in multiple facilities on the rez. Elders of AIM got together to organize. This eventually led to the Occupation of Wounded Knee. At that time I was an armed guard. I carried a rifle and was always on watch. I was there to protect the Elders, the AIM camp, and so on from the FBI and other law enforcement. There was a lot of conflict within the movement, as well. I wanted to protect and help the people. It was a turning point in my life. I was a militant at the time, but my life took more of a spiritual turn. I was ready to put my life on the line for these people who lost their aunts , uncles, in the orig. Wounded Knee massacre and so on, they trusted me.”

4.) What was your role in the Wounded Knee Occupation in 1972-73 (Arrest, etc.—this ties in greatly with the DAPL conflict right now and the arrest of protestors there)? “I was trying to get back into Wounded Knee and I was spotted by the law. The FBI had a roadblock set up. We were searched, interrogated, and I was put in Pine Ridge Jail. I was scared and 19 years old. There were about 40-50 full-blood Natives in the cell. I heard my name from another cell. I acknowledged the voice. He knew me and my position within the Movement and the inmates began to sing the AIM song and began banging on the cells in celebration and solidarity. Riots occurred in the cells and I was taken to another jail in Hot Springs, SD. When the inmates at that jail found out that I was a member of AIM and was at Wounded Knee, they started to sing AIM songs, too. I was released and I went to a hardware store to buy ammunition for the occupation. As I was purchasing it, the woman at the counter harassed me and called the police. The police showed up and threatened to kill me. This was not the first time or last time. I rejoined my colleagues in AIM and we proceeded to occupy the Community Center in Calico, SD. This became one of the main headquarters for gatherings during the Occupation.”

5.) What was your role in the protest/conflict in Uniontown, KY? How did this help awareness of mound desecration and the necessity to have NAGPRA passed? What was your role in the passing of NAGPRA? (this also ties in with the DAPL and the desecration of sacred sites) “In the late 80’s I was in Rosebud and went to a doctoring ceremony. The medicine man told me that when I went back east, I would be sharing the pipe with non-Indians. I knew no one that would be of this description—they didn’t know the ceremonies or even what a canunpa was. I went back to Indiana I saw Dennis Banks on TV. I hadn’t seen him in years, so I went to see him in Uniontown, KY. It looked like a warzone. Into Memorial Day weekend there was a 4 day ceremony for reburial. There were no laws against grave desecration at that time. For four years, there were native ceremonies during Memorial Day weekend. I had an inipi (sweat lodge) at my house at that time. People started to come to my home for ceremony. The medicine man who had been coming to my home asked me to share a pipe with him to bring a Sun Dance to the region. We were pushing for legislation against desecration in Indiana and the surrounding areas with John Craig (currently running for Governor)and it was eventually was passed on the state level, then eventually recognized on a Federal Level (NAGPRA 1990).”

6.) When did you receive your medicine bundle and bonnet? “Elmer Running’s medicine bundle—92-93 he left the Dance and I became the guardian of it. I took them to Earl Swift Hawk (my grandfather) to bring them to him. It was he who designated me as the guardian of the bundle. The bonnet cane from the Chasing Horse family (Joseph Chasing Horse). I was recognized as a Chief since Elmer Running gave me my name Iktomi Sha. Chief Leonard CrowDog also recognized me as a Chief at his Sun Dance in Paradise, SD in 2008 and gave his blessings  to our Sun Dance. He also provided me with a Presidential Peace Medal in front of everyone and referred to me as the Chief of Chiefs east of the Mississippi River.”

7.) Who are some of the medicine men that you have done ceremony with and who are some of the families that have supported you? “Chasing Horse family (adopted 2/26/1971), Bear Runner family (Pine Ridge), Carl Broken Leg & Bernice Spotted Eagle (Wounded Knee), Tom Perkins (former logistics man for AIM), and several others.”

8.) When did you first start doing ceremonies for people overseas in Europe and South America? Europe (=/-)1999; SA in 2006, India last year How has that broadened your scope in helping people all over the world? Going to both these places as well as China, Russia, and so on have allowed me to work with and meet so many people. I have had the opportunity to work for indigenous rights all over. Most recently, in Columbia, legislation was passed that I helped promote.”

9.) What are some of the international events that have had the most profound effect on you? “The Gathering of Shamans in Columbia, praying with the canunpa at the Wailing Wall in Israel, a canunpa ceremony in Vatican Square, and leading a prayer in India to hundreds of thousands of people. I have so many stories.”

 

Chief Steve McCullough

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