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From Billy: Wings of an Eagle, the Gold Medal Dreams of Billy Mills

Dear Running Strong family and friends,

I am reaching out with Donna Janell Bowman to introduce you to our new children’s book we co-authored titled: “Wings of an Eagle.  The Gold Medal Dreams of Billy Mills” released July 2, 2024.

The book is beautifully illustrated by our own highly respected S.D. Nelson, Standing Rock Sioux.

I will begin by sharing a few significant footprints of my ancestors that have formed me into who I am today and also became a major motivation behind my interest in the writing of “Wings of an Eagle”.

In 1871, Chief Red Cloud wanted B.B. Mills, an Englishman, to be the first Indian agent on what was to become the Red Cloud Agency, today the Oglala Sioux Reservation.  The request was denied because B.B. Mills spoke fluent Lakota, had a Lakota wife and Lakota children. “He was too involved in the indigenous community to have either the capacity or inclination to work for the salvation of the Indians and his appointment would risk perpetuating past evils.” (Quote from the Wyoming History Journal).

B.B. Mills was my great-grandfather.  A few months later he died, leaving my great-grandmother widowed and their five children fatherless.  She found her way with her children to Crazy Horse’s band.

After the Battle of the Little Big Horn and Custer’s death, the U.S. government drastically increased their military force and continued to systematically kill the tribes’ main food source, the buffalo, forcing the tribes into surrender or starvation.

As of mid-spring in 1877, only three bands remained free; Crazy Horse, Lame Deer and Sitting Bull.  On May 6, 1877, Crazy Horse and 900 of his band and followers rode and walked into Red Cloud Agency.  Crazy Horse led the procession followed by leaders, warriors, men, women and children, referred to as “additional savages.”

Among them was my great grandmother, Sally Bush Mills, and her five children.  The youngest child was 5 ½ years old, Benjamin Mills, my grandfather.

Crazy Horse said he would smoke the sacred pipe and with the help of the Great Spirit, establish eternal peace.  He simply accepted peace as a free man.  A few months later he was killed.  As he lay dying, a soldier asked “Where are your lands now Crazy Horse”?  He responded, “My lands are where my people lay buried.  I will return to you in the stone.”

When Sitting Bull surrendered, he said “Let’s take the best of both worlds and create a new world for our children.”

Conditional treaties were signed.  However, the path forward soon became misleading and cluttered with broken treaties, boarding school trauma, land theft, and genocide.  This gave birth to generational trauma and generational privilege.  Our elders said it would take seven generations to heal.  Today, we find an increasing number of our seventh-generation children sitting in our classrooms across America.

The seventh-generation along with the diversity of their peer group, all have their own individual areas of interest and dreams.  I want to positively influence their pursuit to follow their dreams, for every dream has a passion, every passion has a destiny.

My father told me: “Follow your dream, son.  It will lead you down a path to find your passion in life.  Develop your skills to equal your passion.  Bring them together and magic happens”.

I want to inspire the dreams of our youth as they collectively, along with the dignity, character and beauty of their diversity, choreograph the horizon of America’s future.  “One nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.”

Through “Wings of an Eagle”, I want the young students in the classroom to know everybody’s dreams can be accomplished.  This is possible through having a dream and by everyone having an understanding of the diversity in the classroom.  We are stronger together.  Our most powerful Lakota prayer is: “We are all related.”

When Donna Janell Bowman first approached me about this project in 2015, she had already done extensive research on the Lakota culture, traditions and spirituality.  I was so touched on her knowledge of young Billy.  She knew how to bring my thoughts, feelings, fears and dreams, to life through words.

She gave “Wings of an Eagle” the soul and heartbeat of young Billy.

S.D. Nelson, our illustrator, has always been an inspiration to many, including me.

It is my hope you will find our book empowering and place orders for the youth in your families and communities.

Billy Mills

Tamakoce Te’hila

Buy your copy today!

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