This week, Mary McDonnell visited Sinte Gleska University, where she participated in the 46th Annual Founder’s Week celebrations and was honored for her support of the Lakota people.
Mary first became associated with Sinte Gleska – a university located on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota – while filming Dances With Wolves in 1990. Her friend and Lakota language coach, the late Doris Leader Charge, was closely affiliated with the university, where she taught for over 28 years. In recent years Mary has renewed her relationship with the university, working to raise funds and awareness by donating proceeds from her convention appearances to SGU and coordinating with fan organization Mary Cares.
Mary and Doris Leader Charge, behind the scenes of Dances With Wolves
During her visit, Mary took part in the activities celebrating Founder’s Week, which included speakers and discussion forums, planning sessions, spiritual ceremonies, games and tournaments, and several Wacipis (powwows). She toured the university, visited the day care center opened with funds she helped raise, interviewed faculty members, and taught an acting class.
On Saturday, January 30th, she was honored with a plaque during the Wacipi as a “beloved member of Sinte Gleska University” by Lakota Elder Duane Hollow Horn Bear, who added “the Lakota Oyate of the Sicangu nation wholeheartedly welcome her […] she will always have a home and a family here on the Rosebud.” Also present were Sinte Gleska President Lionel Bordeaux, who emphasized the impact of Dances With Wolves, and the family of Doris Leader Charge.
During the ceremony Mary participated in the traditional Grand Entry and was presented with a number of gifts, including a star quilt (a deeply significant gift among Lakota people) handmade in Green Bay Packers colors in honor of Mary’s favorite football team.
Mary shaking hands with SGU President Lionel Bordeaux (wrapped in her Packer’s-themed star quilt!)
“I’m very proud to be associated with Sinte Gleska University,” she said upon receiving her plaque. “I understood when I had to be instructed in the Lakota language what a beautiful thing it is. I understood as I was learning it that it was something that needed to be preserved and enlivened, and all of these kids out here would benefit from knowing it. So I’m kind of committed to helping out with that.”
Many of the week’s events were streamed live on YouTube, including Mary’s introduction on Thursday (she is introduced around the 1:03 mark) and the entirety of the Wacipi during which she was honored. The Sinte Gleska Media Production team also shared photos and videos on their Facebook and Twitter accounts, and the Mary Cares website has been updated with images and transcripts from the week.
Congratulations to Mary for this beautiful recognition of her advocacy for the university and the Lakota people!