EAGLE BUTTE, SD – Mary M. Clown, 81 of Eagle Butte passed away Wednesday, January 22, 2020 at Rapid City Regional Hospital.
Funeral services will be 10:00 a.m. MST, Thursday, January 30, 2020 at St. John’s Episcopal Church, Eagle Butte. A wake service will be held at 7:00 p.m., Wednesday, January 29, 2020 at the church, with a procession from the 4-mile corner east of town at 5:00 p.m.
Mary Magdaline Clown, Wicahpe Mazaskazi Win (Gold Star Woman), was born to James Clown and Anna Red Bird on June 2, 1938 at Thunder Butte Station, South Dakota. Mary was one of 15 children. From the age of 5 to 8 years old, she attended Thunder Butte Day School. For the first four years of her life, she lived 7 miles north of Thunder Butte camp. Her father James had a large garden, and she spent time helping her father to put up vegetables in their root cellar, and learning from her mother how to darn socks, make skillet bread, and gravy. Every year, the community would come in the fall before harvest and get vegetables from the garden. This is where Mary learned about taking care of your community. When Mary was 5, they moved to the Old camp near Thunder Butte. Mary’s fondest memories of this time were trips to the river with Lillian White Wolf and her siblings and cousins on their horses, Pinto and Sally, where they would eat wild cherries and plums and swim. This is where Mary learned to be a “top notch” cowgirl. Her father James was active in the church and was a lay reader for the church.
When Mary was 9 years old, she was sent to the Old Agency Boarding School with her siblings including her younger sister Phoebe. Mary described these years as the hard years. Raised as a fluent Lakota speaker, learning English as a second language was not easy. She wanted to run away when they told her they were going to cut her long hair, but she stayed to watch over her sister Phoebe. Mary remembered having to wash with Lysol soap and to kerosene her hair at least once a month. She only saw her parents once a year for the 9 months of schooling, but each time they visited, her father James would tell Mary her education was important and she needed to get an education to help her family, and this would convince her to stay. Mary did stay and excelled. She went to state conference in High School, where she sat next to Governor Joe Foss, and got to ride one of his horses. She participated in bowling and excelled at it.
After high school graduation, for a time she stayed with the family of Mary Lee Johns and Sharon Vogel to help care for them as children. She went to Haskell University in Lawrence, Kansas for a time before moving back home during the relocation program years with her parents. She then attended Stewart School of Hairstyling in Sioux Falls, SD from 1962 to 1963 and received her cosmetology license. She worked as a cosmetologist in Rapid City, Dupree, Mission, and Eagle Butte, South Dakota from 1963 to 1970. She married Leonard Theo Traversie in 1963. From 1968 to 1971 she worked for the BIA as a girl’s dorm matron. She started a new chapter in her life and moved to Dallas, Texas from 1971 to 1973. She met Gilmore Williams from Ponca City, Oklahoma and had a son, William James Clown. In 1974 she met Ben One Feather and had a daughter, Ramona Clown. Mary worked for JTPA as a GED Assistant on the West end, and also worked for Dr. Welty, researching the Clown family in the BIA records. She also worked for the Title 3 program under the direction of Yvonne Garreaux, and enjoyed preparing meals for the elders including her mother. She found her true calling at Head Start, and became the Nutrition Director for Head Start, where she worked for over 35 years until she retired on May 5, 2017. The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe proclaimed that day as Mary Magdaline Clown Day. She received her Associate of Arts Degrees from Northern State College in 1985 and from Cheyenne River Community College in 1986, and held many certifications including Identification of Children with Special Needs, Management Team Training, Bus Driver Training and Food Services and Food Handling certifications.
One of Mary’s best days was when her auntie Clara High Elk gifted her Lakota name Wicahpe Mazaskazi Win, Gold star woman. She made a statement before naming Mary that she chose this name because “Mary doesn’t go around looking for trouble or quarreling. She’s humble and she greets everybody. Her grandma, Julia Iron Cedar, was a nice lady and a humble lady. This is where her Lakota name comes from, as Julia Iron Cedar was the first Lakota woman to receive a gold star when her son, Moses Clown, was killed during the First World War in Germany. Also, she was the first Lakota woman to be inducted into the Eastern Star in Ziebach County, Dupree, South Dakota.” Mrs. Lillian White Wolf tied her plume.
Mary loved her family and helped her siblings and nieces and nephews raise their children. She was a grandmother and mother to everyone who knew her, and was known for her quick wit, contagious laugh, and loving nature. She loved to tease, and often could be found taking trips with her siblings and cousins. Always up for an adventure, Mary was always out and about. Many nieces and nephews and grandchildren recall stories of times they passed Mary and her sister Kay on the road heading out to casinos all over South Dakota. She was an avid quilter and loved spending time with her grandchildren. In her later years, she spent many hours visiting family at the homes of her daughter Mona, granddaughters Rhea and Peyton, hunka daughter Chip, nephew Steve (Rebecca) Brings Plenty, niece Darshane Clown, the Veit residence in Dupree, and Priscilla and Leon Hale’s home, to name a few. Her energy and love for her family and friends was tireless. Mary was called home on January 22, 2020 in Rapid City, SD.
Mary is survived by her daughter Ramona Clown, hunka daughter Chip Bird Necklace, granddaughters Rhea Olivera, Payton Olivera, Joni Olvera, and Joni Veit, great grandchildren Loren, Daz, Chloe, Harper, Nevada, Nathaniel, and Tomas; hunka sister Lillian White Wolf, sister Kay Clown, and brother Richard (June) Clown, and many, many beloved cousins, nieces, nephews and takojas in the Wakinyan Kiza and Tasunke Witco Tiospayes. She treated all of her nieces and nephews and their children as her own, helped raise them, and called them all her takojas.
Mary was preceded in death by her parents Anna and James, her son William James, sisters Phoebe Clown, Patricia Adams, Alma Bowker, Betty Crow, Carol Clown, Elaine Clown, May Clown, and June Clown; brothers Stuart Clown, Larry Clown, Carlin Clown, and True Clown; nieces Brenda Veit, Deanna Kersteins, and nephews Jerry Clown, August Marcelle, Andrew Brings Plenty, Lou James Crow, and Reno Clown; and takoja Hazel.
She will be greatly missed. Her family is grateful for her life and her teachings and for the love and support of Mary’s family and friends. They ask forgiveness for anything they have left out.
Luce Funeral Chapel of Eagle Butte has been entrusted with Mary’s arrangements. (www.familyfuneralhome.net)