Published August 19, 2015
FORT YATES, NORTH DAKOTA (STANDING ROCK INDIAN RESERVATION) – The Family of Arnold Walker (Deceased) entrusted the funeral service arrangements to DaWise-Perry Funeral Home in Mandan, North Dakota. DaWise-Perry is a funeral contractor doing business on the Standing Rock Reservation.
Nacole Walker (daughter of deceased) stated that upon their initial visit to DaWise-Perry the intake person and secretary had treated the family with respect. Later, the owner of DaWise-Perry came into a meeting with the family and asked them about the services relating to the funeral. The owner of DaWise-Perry informed the family that he wouldn’t be there because he was going on vacation. The owner of DaWise-Perry then stated to the family that if he wasn’t able to get ahold of Tony [who performs services on Standing Rock for DaWise-Perry] he wanted to know if the family had a van. The family said they did not have a van but they had trucks. The owner said that trucks wouldn’t work, that it would need to be enclosed. This confused the family and they asked what a van would be used for and the owner said that it would be used to transport their deceased father from the Church to the burial site. The family was shocked at this suggestion as they had never heard of a family having to transport their own family member, especially for services that they were paying a funeral company to do. Next, the owner asked where the Crazy Walking family cemetery was as that was the burial site. When the family told him where the location was the owner made remarks about how the location was very remote and that he had gotten stuck out there before at one of the other family member’s services. This, of course, offended the family but the family was also relieved that DaWise was able to get ahold of their reservation contractor (Tony) so the family would not be required to transport their own loved one.
The family then had trouble getting the actual grave site taken care of so they had individual family members start the digging. The grave-digging was not the responsibility of DaWise-Perry. However, the grave-digging became relevant when the family of the deceased Arnold Walker began digging the grave by hand and was able to dig approximately 4feet down before reaching a place that was extremely difficult to get through by hand. Fortunately, the Standing Rock Tribal Housing Authority allowed one of their staff to use a backhoe to complete the grave and they planned to finish the digging of the grave on Wednesday (a day after the family had begun). When the staff member got to the grave site they noticed that vault had already been put in the hand-dug grave by whomever was responsible for putting the vault in. This had taken place despite the fact that the grave was not completely dug and was not level, with one side being nearly half a foot deeper than the other.
So a family friend phoned DaWise-Perry and was told that the grave only needed 18 inches of dirt to cover the vault, so it was okay. Not satisfied, family members went back to the grave site later Wednesday evening to lift the vault out in order to finish digging the rest of the grave properly. When the backhoe was used to lift the vault out the family was appalled to find that the vault was covering TRASH.
There were various debris including pop cans, papers and even a phone charger that was underneath the vault meant for their loved one. This trash was NOT present before the vault was installed at a remote family grave-site that the family had dug themselves up to that point, and the directions to said family grave-site were only known by the family and DaWise-Perry Funeral Home who was hired to take care of the funeral.
Had the family not gone back to dig the grave properly, they would not have discovered that the place their father chose for his final resting place would have been on top of a bunch of trash due to the disgraceful actions of those entrusted with their funeral arrangements. The family is not sure which vault company it was that DaWise-Perry contracted with, but the family feels the culprits of such despicable acts should be exposed by those who know and they should not be allowed to disrespect any other Tribal members, intentionally or negligently.
Editor’s Note: This article was first published in lastrealindians.com. Used with permission. All rights reserved.