Respected elder, Rev. Floyd Heminger passes away at his home

(From the December 10, 2008 edition of the Sota Iya Ye Yapi.)

Respected elder, koda to many on and off the Lake Traverse Reservation, including his non-Indian neighbors, the Rev. Floyd Heminger answered the call to begin his spiritual journey from this life in the early morning hours last Thursday, December 4, 2008.

The date, as were others in his life, was significant.

He answered a different call on another December 4th. The year was 1941.

It was the day he began serving in the U.S. Army, only three days before the attack on Pearl Harbor that brought this country into World War II and began Floyd’s distinguished military career.

The complete obituary is published inside, written mostly by Floyd himself over the past several months. Knowing that his time on earth was nearing its end, he wanted to share these facts about his life. Central to understanding the Rev. Heminger was his 53-year commitment to the promise he made to God during the war.


From the office of SWO Tribal Chairman Michael I. Selvage Sr. –

Tribute to the Reverend Floyd Louis Heminger Ta Oyate Duta – His Red Nation

On Thursday morning, the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate Tribal Chairman, Michael I. Selvage Sr., and members of the Tribal Council, were informed that the Reverend Floyd Louis Heminger, member of the Big Coulee Iyakaptapi District Community and Church had passed away at his home, west of Wilmot, SD.

In a specially prepared statement, Chairman Selvage expressed his profound sympathies to the family of Reverend Heminger, his extended family at the Iyakaptapi Church, as well as to his many relatives and friends from the Presbyterian church community on the Lake Traverse Reservation, and also the congregations throughout the Dakota Presbytery wherein he served over the course of his 54 year ministry.

Chairman Selvage further commented, “Our Dakota community has lost a dearly beloved Servant of God, who also was a warrior of great accomplishments, who served his people with dignity, respect, and great compassion. Few of us can say that we were not influenced nor impacted by this humble man, who labored in the field of ministry without any consideration for himself, other than the people that he served tirelessly and totally. His time of service has ended, no doubt; however he has left an enormous legacy of service and example for generations yet to come. He was truly a great man of all seasons, a man who came from the days of old, a man who spoke, read, and could write in the Dakota language, sing in this language from his heart, and he was a veteran who endured the heat of battles, and then returned home to help his people.”

Funeral services held for Rev. Floyd “Ta Oyate Duta” Heminger

The Rev. Floyd Louis Heminger, TaOyateDuta (His Red Nation), age 93, Wilmot, South Dakota, passed away on December 4th, 2008 at home.

Floyd was born April 3rd, 1915 to Rev. Albert and Ruth Wakeman Heminger. He was the last of ten siblings.

His father Albert was the son of Anthony Heminger, a veteran who served with H Company, 186th Ohio Infantry Volunteers, in the Civil War. He re-enlisted and served with K Company, 33rd Indiana Infantry, and transferred to Ft. Wadworth which later changed to Ft. Sisseton, Dakota Territory. While there, he met TaPahinBdayawin (Fixes Her Hair Fine Woman), a half-sister to Sitting Bull. They were married in August, 1873 by Rev. Louis MazaWakinyana at Ft. Abercrombie, Dakota Territory.

Floyd's mother was Ruth Abigail Wakeman Heminger, daughter of Wowinape, son of TaOyateDuta (Chief Little Crow). Wowinape was given the Christian name Thomas Wakeman. Ruth's mother was Judith MniTanka, a MdeWakantonwan.

Floyd attended the Pipestone Indian Boarding School, Pipestone, Minnesota, along with his brothers Wesley, Leroy, Francis and sisters Rena and Violet. While at the school, they were not allowed to speak their Dakotah Language. When they were homesick, they sought comfort by playing in the stone quarries, where they would then speak Dakotah to each other.

Floyd then attended the Flandreau Indian Vocational High School, Flandreau, South Dakota.

Floyd enlisted in the United States Army on December 4th, 1941 at Ft. Snelling, Minnesota. On December 7th, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and he was sent to the West Coast for desert training. He was assigned to the 3rd Armored Division in anticipation of the African Campaign. With training over, they were sent to England instead, since the African Campaign was over.

They participated in the invasion of Normandy, France. Floyd said he was lucky and never wounded, while one-half of his division was killed at Omaha Beach.

"You could hear the big Navy guns shoot over our heads at the cliffs, from the sixteen inch guns on the battleships."

He said that the country of France was going to award all the soldiers who took part in liberating France with their highest award, "The Legion of Honor." Napolean Boneparte created that medal, he said.

Floyd also said, that while overseas he had received a letter from his mother but "I never got to answer, because we were always moving."

“We never got the chance to clean up long beards and hair. They called us ‘Sad Sacks,’” he said.

While attacked east, they were diverted north to Belgium, and took part in what became known as the "Battle of the Bulge." When they reached Bastogne, the Germans started shelling them and they ran to a knocked-out bunker. There, Floyd looked to his right and standing next to him was another SWO Tribal member, Percy Kirk. It was not the only such “coincidence.”

While awaiting discharge at Camp McCoy, Wisconsin, October 20, 1945, Floyd said, "I was walking down the street, going by a barber shop. I thought, I know that guy . . . it was my brother Leroy, getting a haircut!"

 Leroy was coming back from Southern France, where he had been wounded.

"We came home together," Floyd recalled.

On their return from the war, they rode the train to Milbank, South Dakota. From there, they started walking home with their duffle bags to Big Coulee, when a car came along. The driver asked them, "You guys want a ride"?

"Where are you from"?

“Big Coulee.” they answered.

"What's your name"?

“Heminger,” they replied.

He knew some Hemingers, so he gave them a ride to Big Coulee.

Meanwhile, their brother Francis was a U.S. Marine stationed in Washington, D.C., for awhile. From there, Francis went to Hawaii in the Pacific and participated in the Pacific Campaign.

As the years have gone by, Floyd finds that he is one of three survivors of WWII from the Lake Traverse Reservation.

He participated in five major battles and campaigns: Normandy, Northern France, Belgium, Ardennes Central Europe, Rhineland.

He earned the Good Conduct Medal, European African Middle Eastern Theatre Service Medal, American Defense Service Medal, WWII Victory Medal and 4 overseas Bars. He was a Lifetime Member of the Ft. Sisseton VFW Post #3342.

During the war, his unit came under heavy fire. At this time, he made a promise to God. If he survived the war and made it home safely, he would serve the Lord as a Minister.

Floyd returned home safely and kept his promise. After the war, he attended school at the Cook Christian Training School, Phoenix, Arizona. Rev. Floyd Heminger was ordained in 1954 and has faithfully served the Lord for fifty-three years in the Dakotah Presbyterian Church.

A few of the Churches and locations he served on his journey in life are: Porcupine Church, Porcupine, S.D., Pine Ridge Reservation, Wolf Point & Ft. Kipp Churches, Ft. Peck Reservation, Montana Winner Church, Winner, S.D., Rosebud Reservation, Ft. Thompson Church, Ft. Thompson, S.D., Crow Creek Reservation Lake Andes Church, Lake Andes, S.D., Yankton Reservation, Cottonwood Church, Lower Sioux Reservation, Minnesota Lower Sioux Church, Granite Falls, Minnesota, Lower Sioux Reservation, The Churches of Ascension, Goodwill, Lake Traverse, Buffalo Lake and Long Hollow on the Lake Traverse Reservation, South Dakota.

Floyd had this to say of the Wolf Point, Montana area:

"It got this name because they used to shoot wolves at that location. They would pile the jaws up and sell them.”

The Elders say, "The longest road you're going to have to walk in your life is from the head to the heart." But they also say, "You can't speak to the people as a leader unless you've made the return journey, from the heart, back to the head." {Quote: Phil Lane Jr., Yankton Dakotah}.

Floyd married LaVara Hillers, a Santee Dakotah, and they had one son, Courtney Omar Heminger, adopted daughter Rebecca Heminger-Aadland.

His step-children include Kiva, Lawrence "Hank," Joan, Virginia, Edna, Gene and Edwina.

Floyd was preceded in death by his parents, Rev. Albert & Ruth Wakeman Heminger, his brothers Christian, Felix, Thomas, Wesley "Scoop,” Leroy, Francis and sisters Nellie, Rena Heminger-Johnson-DeCoteau and Violet Heminger-Greeley-Crocker.

Survivors include his son Courtney, daughter Rebecca Heminger-Aadland, step-children Lawrence "Hank," Edwina, Gene and numerous nephews, nieces, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great grandchildren.

Funeral arrangements are provided by Chilson Funeral Home of Winstead, Minnesota.

A wake service is planned for Saturday night, December 6, 2008 at the community center, Agency Village, SD. Funeral services will take place at 11:00 a.m. Sunday, December 7, 2008, also at the community center, Agency Village.

Officiating will be the Rev.

Wake Service: December 6, Clifford Canku.

Honorary pallbearers will be all members of Dakotah Presbytery, James Ross, Dwayne Weston, Winfield Thompson, Ron Gilbert, Eddie "Butch" Hanson Jr., Dave Louis, Don Miller, Francis Crawford, James Crawford Jr., Eldon Lawrence, Edwayne Crawford, Morgan Redday Sr., Ed Williams.

Active pallbearers: Alex Heminger, Dale Aadland, Aaron Aadland, Mike Greeley, Felix Johnson, Gerald Amos, Floyd DeCoteau, Gerald Heminger Jr., Luke Cordell, Anthony Aadland, Francis Heminger and Steve Jackson.

Pianist: Billy Kohl, Great Grandson.

Special Music: Big Coulee Choir, Butch Felix, Moonlight Aadland, Joe and Kathy White and anyone else desiring to participate is welcome.

Military rites provided by: Ft. Sisseton VFW Post #3342.

Drum Group: Red Iron.

Louis Johnson to dance the casket out.