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Chief Long Wolf goes home, 105 years late

Chief Long Wolf's funeral procession

'It's gonna be a great homecoming'

September 25, 1997
Web posted at: 8:49 p.m. EDT (2049 GMT)

LONDON (CNN) -- Wearing red satin jackets and white-feathered headdresses, three members of the Sioux tribe of South Dakota led a most unlikely funeral procession Thursday through London's Brompton Cemetery.

Ahead of them, two tall black horses with white faces pulled a wagon bearing a casket draped with the American and Sioux flags.

In the casket were the remains of a Sioux warrior named Chief Long Wolf, who died 105 years ago in London and who was beginning his long-overdue return home.

The cemetery was a fashionable place to be buried at the beginning of the century -- opera singer Richard Tauber is buried there, and suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst -- but more recently it has been a place for contemplation and meditation in the heart of a busy city.

It became the final resting place for Chief Long Wolf after he fell ill with pneumonia in 1892 and died while performing with Col. "Buffalo Bill" Cody's Wild West show at Earl's Court.

Long Wolf's dying wish was to return home and be buried in his native soil, but it never happened.

"Back then, they had burials at sea," says his great-grandson John Black Feather. "They did ask his wife if she wanted to take him home and she figured that as soon as they hit the water they would throw him overboard, so that's why they left him here."

CNN's Richard Blystone Reports
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2 min., 58 sec. VXtreme streaming video

'He shouldn't be here'

Returning the body to the United States is important, Black Feather said.

"Our medicine men and holy men tell us that since he's buried in a foreign country and (there are) no relatives, it would be better if he was brought to his homeland for his final resting place," Black Feather said. "They figure that his spirit will never rest until he's brought home."

Chief Long Wolf and family

Long Wolf's grave was discovered six years ago by Elizabeth Knight, a Worcestershire housewife. She had read a second-hand book by Robert Cunningham Grahame that included a description of Long Wolf's life and burial and described the "neglected grave in a lone corner of a crowded London cemetery."

"Being lost and alone and neglected in an unkempt grave somewhere in a London cemetery, he shouldn't be here," Knight said Thursday. "This is what really struck a chord in me."

After finding the grave, Knight wrote to a newspaper in South Dakota. That led, in turn, to the discovery of Long Wolf's granddaughter, Jessie Black Feather -- John Black Feather's mother -- who is 87 and Long Wolf's oldest living relative. She had lost track of where Long Wolf had been buried.

'It's gonna be a great homecoming'

John Black Feather

After a church ceremony Thursday that mixed traditional religious rites with those of the Sioux, Chief Long Wolf's remains began their return to the ancestral burial ground of the Oglala Sioux tribe at the Pine Ridge Reservation.

The burial, with Christian and traditional Indian ceremonies, will be held Sunday. It will be followed by a feast of venison and buffalo meat to celebrate his return at last to the land of his people.

"It's not a sad day for us," said John Black Feather. "It's gonna be a great homecoming for him."

Correspondent Richard Blystone and Reuters contributed to this report.

 
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