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Native American Tradition In Sioux City Remembers Children In Foster Care

Katie Peikes
IPR File
This year marks the 18th annual Memorial March to Honor Lost Children.

The Native American community in Sioux City and the larger tri-state area will hold a march Wednesday to honor their children who have been removed from their homes and placed into the foster care system.

The 18th annual Memorial March to Honor Lost Children started Monday with two days of virtual educational workshops. The workshops feature topics like historical trauma and understanding implicit racial bias. During the actual march on Wednesday, participants will need to wear face masks and social distance, said Manape LaMere, one of the march’s organizers and the son of the late Frank LaMere. Frank LaMere was one of the founders of the memorial march 18 years ago.

“We definitely don’t want any consequences of COVID to come upon our gathering,”Manape LaMere said, “so the leaders of the march have to ensure that we could take as much caution as possible.”

According to a spokesman for the Iowa Department of Human Services, 58 Native American children throughout Iowa have been placed into foster care since March when the pandemic began. More than half were placed with a relative or an adult known to the child.

LaMere said he wonders how the pandemic has affected these children as people cope with quarantine and their mental health.

“I can’t help but think what’s really going on because of quarantine, because of all those hard things that are happening,” LaMere said.

The march begins at War Eagle Park, a site considered sacred to the Native American community. People will walk about 3 miles from there to downtown Sioux City. They’ll stop for prayer four times, LaMere said.

Normally people eat a meal together at the end of the march. Instead, LaMere said food will be handed out to take home.

Katie Peikes was a reporter for Iowa Public Radio from 2018 to 2023. She joined IPR as its first-ever Western Iowa reporter, and then served as the agricultural reporter.