The Exchange 6.19.19: Remembering Frank LaMere, Curt St. Cyr, Juneteenth and More

Jun 23, 2019

Frank LaMere at the Siouxland Public Media Studios - April 2019
Credit Siouxland Public Media

Frank Lamere spent most of his adult life as an activist.  He lived in South Sioux City and worked as a member of the American Indian Movement in the 1970’s. 

LaMere was a leader in the Democratic party serving as a chairman of the National Native American Caucus and a delegate to the Democratic National Convention many times over. 

He recently received an honorary Doctorate from Nebraska Wesleyan University.  An honor that meant a lot to him. 

Preparing for Honorary Doctorate with Family Members
Credit LaMere Family
       Karen Mackey is the Director of the Sioux City Human Rights Commission and a longtime friend of Frank LaMere.  She says Frank loved his family and worked to help others.  They first met when Lamere's softball team traveled to Lincoln, Nebraska.  Mackey was attending law school there at the time and decided to see the team play.  
Karen Mackey - Sioux City Human Rights Commission
Credit Siouxland Public Media

Back in April, Siouxland Public Media explored the relationship between Frank LaMere and Congressman Steve King.

The two worked to restore funding to Indian Health Services for a rehab facility for northwest Iowa.

Just before the start of "The Exchange", King took to the House floor to ask Congress for the money to pay for the facility. 

“I wanted to conclude with this. The lead on this effort has been Mr. Frank LaMere. He has been a statesman for the Winnebago for years, and, also, for Native Americans in a broader sense especially in the upper Midwest. He tragically passed away two days ago.  His funeral is today. He worked on these projects for a lifetime and it’s very fitting that we take action on one of his initiatives here in this Congress today. And I am hopeful that we will be able to take up HR 184 which also transfers the land back to the Winnebago that they should rightfully have.”

Many friends and family members expressed their love and admiration for Frank LaMere on Social Media.

The editor of the Sioux City Journal Bruce Miller says “Frank was one of the most tireless advocates I’ve known.  We shared a love of many things — movies included. He probably saw as many as I did and never hesitated to compare notes. He always had a smile and words of wisdom. Siouxland is better because he was here to lead, instruct, comfort and confront. I will miss him every day.”

Jeanette Hopkins, from Sioux City says:  “He changed my life's journey. He said we must become uncomfortable for any real change to occur. His words resonate with me every day...powerful words and powerful actions. We lost our hero....we lost a good man...the best of human beings. His spirit will live on and his words will impact us all forever.”

The Northwest Iowa Sierra Club released this statement on Facebook: We are saddened by the passing of our friend Frank LaMere, a social and environmental justice warrior who always fought for respect for the planet and its citizens.

And, Woodbury County Sheriff Dave Drew said on Facebook:  “I will remember Frank as a caring person with a warrior spirit, his passion and zeal were unmatched. Go Rest High On The Mountain.”

Funeral services took place this morning for Frank LaMere in Winnebago, Nebraska.

The Native American Community also lost another prominent community member.  Curt St. Cyr died over the weekend.  The 60-year-old was Vice Chairman of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska and a well-know musician.   

Curt St. Cyr
Credit Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska

St. Cyr described his music as “real soulful and funky”.  He began his musical passion with drums but was drawn to the harmonica.  He possessed a vibrant voice for vocals. 

St. Cyr shared the stage with numerous artists including Santana, Smokey Robinson, Dr. John and Buddy Guy.

He performed in many venues throughout the region and beyond.  He took part in many Saturday in the Park Music Festivals in Sioux City.

Founder Dave Bernstein says St. Cyr could have easily pursued a bigger career in music but chose to make a difference locally for his community and family.

SITP Founder Dave Bernstein
Credit Facebook

Curt St. Cyr, believed his music reflected his real-life experiences in the blues genre.  He said “We Native Americans have the blues.  We all have a story to tell, but I don’t see many of my people singing about it.”

Again that’s the words of the late Curt St. Cyr.

Iowa has received one of the top rankings for child well-being in country from the Iowa Kids Count report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

That’s according to the annual Kids Count report released this week by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Statewide, the survey shows improvement in just about every category.

Iowa was ranked third overall in the U.S.

The report shows rates in Iowa for kids who live in poverty dropped significantly since 2010 and are above national averages.

However, in Woodbury County there is an increase of children living in poverty.  It’s up more than 18% since 2000.

Noah Berger with the foundation says while Iowa has made progress, one in eight kids is still living in poverty.

“I think the important questions are: what do you do to make progress? How can you make sure that all of your young people in whatever their community they grow up in, whatever their race have the chance to succeed.

The proficiency rate for 4th grade readers in 2017 for Woodbury County was 72%.

High school graduation rates for Woodbury increased more than 6%. 

And, the number of 8th graders proficient in math rose 17 percent with a total rate of about 74%. 

However, that means almost a quarter of students are still not up to speed in mathematics.

Cases of child abuse and neglect increased by almost 74-percent in that same time frame from 2000 to 2017.

The state average was 26%.   

MercyOne Child Advocacy Center's Amy Scarmon
Credit MercyOne

The MercyOne Child Advocacy Center works to help victims of child abuse and sexual assault. 

Amy Scarmon is the manager of the center.  She talked to Siouxland Public Media about the increase over the years. 

The Iowa Kids Count Book also showed the use of food assistance programs increased two-and-a-half times in almost 20 years in Woodbury County.  The state average was lower.  Executive Director of the Food Bank of Siouxland Linda Scheid gave us an in-depth look at the issue.

Food Bank of Siouxland's Linda Scheid
Credit Sioux City Journal

There was one change in the positive direction in Woodbury County.  The number of teen births in Woodbury County fell by almost 40% from 2000 to 2017.

Are your kids having a good summer vacation away from school?

One place for children to check out this summer is the Dorothy Pecaut Nature Center.  Naturalist Theresa Kroid coordinates summer camps and learning experiences.

Naturalist Theresa Kruid
Credit Sioux City Journal

For more information on summer programs and events at the Dorothy Pecaut Nature Center log onto http://woodburyparks.org.

Coming up this Friday on Siouxland Public Media we’ll be live at the Dorothy Pecaut Nature Center to celebrate the first day of Summer. 

The broadcast starts at 9 a.m.  We’ll explore the great outdoors including the Loess Hills and listen to music by Rick Borg and Walter Peterson of Sioux City. 

This Saturday Battery Park will be packed with the mouthwatering smell of smoked meat this Saturday with the 4th Annual Camp High Hopes Ribfest.  Siouxland Public Media’s Steve Smith talked with event organizer Sarah Morgan about this weekend’s competition. 

Camp High Hope's Sarah Morgan
Credit Siouxland Public Media

Station Manager Mark Munger talked to the leader of the NAACP Ike Rayford about Juneteenth.  Juneteenth is a holiday commemorating the day that marked the effective end of slarvery in the United States. 

Thanks for listening to “The Exchange” on Siouxland Public Media KWIT Sioux City and KOJI Okoboji.  I’m Sheila Brummer in for Mary Hartnett.   Special thanks this week to all of our guests and interviews by Siouxland Public Media’s Steve Smith and Mark Munger.

Our thoughts are with the family and friends of both Curt St. Cyr and Frank LaMere.  Two men gone too soon.