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He died on the Indian reservation he loved

Notes from Indian Country

He died on the Indian reservation he loved

By Tim Giago (Nanwica Kciji – Stands Up For Them)


Father Sialm (Pronounced See-Ahm) was born in the German speaking area of Switzerland. How he ended up in Kyle on the Pine Ridge Reservation in the 1940s is beyond me.

But there he was sitting on his front porch next to St. Sophie’s Catholic Church puffing on his favorite pipe and, just like he did every afternoon, he was listening intently to his radio.

He was shouting back at the voice on the radio so I moved a little closer to see what this was all about. The voice on the radio was speaking in German and seemed to be making an effort to bring a crowd to life. He succeeded and pretty soon the people were shouting back at the speaker.

The speaker was Adolph Hitler and so thanks to Father Sialm I got to hear the voice of the soon-to-be dictator of Germany who would bring the United States into WWII.

Father Sialm shouted back at Hitler in German and I could tell that he was pretty angry. When he saw me standing nearby he waved me over and told me that the man screaming on the radio was a very bad man and he would get this world into another World War.

I have a picture of Father Sialm standing in front of his church with my sister Shirley and my cousin Rose Marie Vocu. I am sitting in the background wearing a WWI pilot’s cap.

Father Sialm was the pastor of the church in Kyle until he died. It was in the summer because the big Pejuta Haka powwow which usually ran for 3 days and nights was going strong. Father Sialm became ill and my mom did her best to take care of him. He told her that when the drums stopped he would die. And that is exactly what happened. As soon as the drums stopped Father Sialm died. I was visiting the tomb of my grandmother and grandfather at the Holy Rosary Mission cemetery when I spotted a small, stone headstone where Father Sialm was buried.

Father Sialm baptized, buried, and performed marriage ceremonies for hundreds of the Lakota people of Kyle and to the best of my knowledge, he was loved and respected in return.

He lived, died, and was buried on the Indian reservation he loved.


(Contact Tim Giago at






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