“Elders attack ‘keystone’ web site solicitations.”
By Karen L. Testerman, Today staff
Article originally published by Indian
Country Today in March of 1999.
NAIIP News Path ~ Friday, March 5, 1999
“Brookie Craig/Schiavi and Joe Chasing Horses”
RAPID CITY, S.D. – “American Indian” business owners who claim to be Lakota through adoption have raised the ire of tribal members. Accusations include exploitation of Lakota tradition and culture through the internet.
Wolfsongs/Cherokee Productions is one of many web sites to offer viewers a glimpse into the world of American Indians. Once logged on, an intricate web page appears and “click here” links the surfer to visuals of Lakota spiritual leaders and recordings of the owners singing what they term “heartbreaking” songs. The site also promotes fund-raisers for American Indian events.
Owners and operators of the Keystone-based company, Brooke and Steve Schiavi,are the focus of heated debate amongst tribal officials and elders. She also is known as Brookie Craig
The Schiavis opened their recording studio and put the WolfSongs/Cherokee Productions web site on the internet sometime between 1996 and 1997. Concerns center around the web site’s fund-raising and co-owner Brooke Schiavi’s history.
Brooke informed ICT she, “does not do interviews.” Further requests were denied and when questions in regard to the allegations were submitted, she demanded that ICT refrain from further contact.
The site drew criticism from the Lakota community after a 180-page document surfaced alleging Brooke utilized the internet to solicit funds on behalf of American Indians – now that she’s based in South Dakota and has staked a claim to being Lakota. Tribal members believe it’s all a part of a money-making scheme, according to Mel Lone Hill, acting fifth member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe.
The site in question offers several links where the viewer can go. There’s an internet trading post where one can purchase Black Hills Gold jewelry, trinkets and recordings with a credit card.
A photo gallery of “The People,” includes photos of Arvol Looking Horse, the keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe, “Chief” Joseph Chasing Horse, presented as a Sicangu spiritual leader, David Swallow Jr., Oglala, presented as a Lakota spiritual leader, and Marvin Helper, Oglala, presented as a Lakota spirit leader.
Also pictured are Rosalie Little Thunder, Sicangu, Nathan Chasing Horse (Joseph’s son) and the Chasing Horse family, Everett Poor Thunder and Swallow’s wife and daughter, Nyla and Vanessa Swallow.
“There are a lot of people exploiting our Lakota people. This web site is questionable. We’ll have to look into this further,” Lone Hill said. Fern Mathias, American Indian Movement executive director based in Colorado, said the Lakota aren’t the only people asking questions about the web site and Brooke Schiavi.
“An Indian organization in Canada is upset with her for using their web site name in her connections. They do not want their name out there with her,” she said.
Both Brooke and Steve Schiavi claim to be Lakota by adoption and Cherokee by marriage and ancestry. This is misleading non-Indians and Indians alike, Mathias said.
Looking Horse said public claims of being Lakota by adoption is a perversion of the Hunka – making of relatives – ceremony.
When a Lakota adopts someone through the Hunka ceremony it means that person is adopted as a member of the family, it doesn’t mean that person is Lakota, he said.
J.D.K. Chipps from Texas, who regularly surfs the Internet, said he’s known about Brooke Schiavi’s history soliciting funds and promoting herself as a “spiritual” Cherokee woman.
Chipps, who uses the internet to garner public attention for American Indian issues, said he has received documents about Brooke which disturbed him, but the name she used was Brookie Craig.
He said Wolfsongs/Cherokee Productions offers additional links that volunteer more information and a place to make a commitment and when you clicked on, “you would see Brooke Schiavi’s name and address.”
Chipps, who has been to Pine Ridge Reservation, warns people to beware of web sites that request a commitment. He said, “What that means to me – is to send money. No one knows what she does with the money.”
Looking Horse, who met Brooke Schiavi in 1997, said he didn’t know she was using his photograph or his name. In fact, he said he told them not to associate themselves to him by using his name.
“The first time I met her (Brooke) was through Joe and that was about the buffalo, two years ago. But I realized what she was up to. People were contacting me and sending me information about her, which alleged a criminal background. I backed away from her.”
He said Brooke didn’t want to talk to him when he questioned her about it and said she became vindictive when she found out he did not want to be associated with her or Chasing Horse.
Questions also arose about the money the Schiavis raised for the recent 507-mile buffalo walk from Rapid City to Yellowstone National Park in Montana. According to Little Thunder, the only funds available to the participants – that she knew of – came from the Seventh Generation Organization.
When asked about the funds, Chasing Horse said he’s not on anyone’s payroll, and any money that he uses comes from his own pocket.
Looking Horse, who believes everyone should have the benefit of doubt, said he doesn’t want anything to do with the Schiavis or their web site because of Brooke’s tainted past.
Rosebud traditional tribal members, Sharon Stead (daughter of the late medicine man Robert Stead), Rose Blue Thunder-Stenstrom, and elders Harriet Blue Thunder and Harry Blue Thunder said Chasing Horse is known to use spirituality to gain personal recognition.
Chasing Horse said he allows his information to go out on the Schiavi’s web site but said he wouldn’t comment to any rumors. He did say there are too many important issues at hand that need to be addressed, instead of focusing on negative, petty disputes.
Questions were raised on Chasing Horse’s web page, which states, “Chief Joseph Chasing Horse,” and claims he is a direct descendant of Crazy Horse.
In response, the title “chief,” he said, comes from the media – even though he tells them he is only a traditional leader. He said he doesn’t claim to be a chief, although he was honored with the “Sun Dance Chief” title at Wanblee, and Looking Horse tied an eagle feather in his hair, he said.
As for being a direct descendant of Crazy Horse, Chasing Horse said his family’s lineage is private and will be kept that way.
Chasing Horse promotes his teachings as emissary of Looking Horse, and has a signed document from Looking Horse that gives him authority to act on behalf of the Sacred Pipe Carrier.
Looking Horse said he signed a letter, agreeing to work with Chasing Horse. However, after becoming suspicious of Chasing Horse and Schiavi’s activities, he wrote him another letter that stated he was no longer associated with Chasing Horse, he said.
Several tribal members, educated in Lakota Star Knowledge, were surprised to see the star teachings on the site. Rosebud Sioux Tribal member Leland Little Dog said there were discrepancies within the information. He was not surprised to see Chasing Horse involved with the web site since Chasing Horse’s exploitive activities are well known on the reservation, according to Little Dog.
As for the web site, Little Dog said a lot of people use the internet to sell Lakota spirituality.
Tribal members said they want to know whether the allegations about Brooke Schiavi are true and if she is soliciting funds on behalf of Rosebud Sioux elders and other American Indian people and issues, can she account for them.
Chasing Horse defended Brooke and said the allegations were started by “Ishgooda”, a disgruntled, former member of the cult-like circle. He said she was putting out misinformation and allegations to discredit Brooke.
Ishgooda [aka Linda J. LeMonde of Monroe, MI], a Wyandotte, said she never was a member of the “circle” and that the information she circulated came from former members of the circle. She publishes “Native American Digest,” an e-mail American Indian news service, from her home in Michigan.