MANDERSON, S.D. — Descendants of a Native American man who died more than a century ago while touring with Buffalo Bill’s wild west show gathered together Sunday to honor his life and celebrate his remains coming home to a South Dakota reservation.
About 75 people gathered at a gymnasium on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation to take part in a Lakota funeral for Albert Afraid of Hawk, who died at 20 at a Connecticut hospital in 1900. A ceremony at a nearby cemetery followed the Sunday service.
‘‘He’s going to make his journey today after over 100 years,’’ said Lakota medicine man Rick Two Dogs.
Afraid of Hawk died after suffering food poisoning while traveling with the famous show and was buried in an unmarked grave in Danbury, Conn. Family members were not sure where he was buried until Connecticut history buff Bob Young uncovered records of the Oglala Sioux member’s death and burial. A few years ago, Young pieced together the details and contacted Afraid of Hawk’s family.
Last month, Daniel Afraid of Hawk, Albert Afraid of Hawk’s last living nephew, and other relatives traveled to Connecticut from the Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota to witness the disinterment of the remains. On Sunday, Daniel celebrated his uncle’s life by singing a song in Lakota before Two Dogs and others performed a smudging ceremony with herbs to bless Afraid of Hawk.
Other people involved in the repatriation of Albert Afraid of Hawk, including Young and his wife, Mary Jo, spoke at the service about the process of bringing the Lakota man back to his tribe.
Young, who worked at the cemetery at the time of the discovery, said he and his wife have gained a new family.
‘‘We love all of you dearly,’’ Young, who is president of the historical society in Danbury, said to the Afraid of Hawk family. ‘‘I’d like to say, Albert, you’ve become like a grandfather to us.’’
Following the funeral service, Albert Afraid of Hawk’s remains, which were wrapped in a buffalo robe, were driven to a nearby cemetery. With the Badlands in the background, Afraid of Hawk was hoisted on to a wooden scaffold to remain until evening. His remains were then to be buried with buffalo and cherry juice.
According to Lakota spiritual belief, the journey to the spirit world takes four days.