The passing of Oglala Lakota spiritual leader Wilmer Mesteth, born in 1957, at midnight on Friday, January 16 came as a surprise to the Oglala Lakota nation. Mesteth will be remembered as the spiritual leader of the tribe, and as a man who was as generous with his time and spiritual teachings as he was spiritually gifted. Mesteth served his people in every possible way. Those who are mourning his passing are remembering his guidance, direction and leadership.
According to his daughter Rachel, Mesteth underwent surgery for a double hernia on January 8 and was recovering at the Prairie Winds Hotel in Pine Ridge, South Dakota. On Thursday afternoon, he was visiting with his adopted brothers when he called his wife with concerns that he was having a heart attack. “The ambulance came for him and took him to Rapid City. The doctor said he passed right at midnight. In our way, that midnight hour is a spiritual time. All the people he already prayed for, they are all there already,” Rachel said.
Mesteth lived in the Cheyenne Creek community and was married to Lisa Mesteth. He was the teacher at Oglala Lakota College for over 20 years, where he was a cultural instructor. He taught traditional songs, dance, traditional herbs and foods, language and history. OLC student Lilly Jones said about Mesteth, “He treated everyone the same. Whether it was a Hollywood film crew or a student, he was always so respectful and humble.”
Mesteth also participated in the Big Foot Rides and the Crazy Horse Rides, and supported the Northern Cheyenne Fort Robinson Run. “He always made sure those children who ran had hot chocolate and cookies,” Rachel said.
Stephanie Big Crow, a relative, said, “We are eternally grateful for the spiritual guidance and direction he brought to our family.”
Survivors include his wife Lisa Standing Elk-Mesteth, and children Juan Mesteth, Lonnie Mesteth, Ronnie Mesteth, Hoksila Mesteth, Dakota Mesteth and Rachel Mesteth, all of Pine Ridge, South Dakota. Brothers Gilbert Mesteth and Phil Iron Cloud of Pine Ridge, and Phillip Mesteth of Ethete, Wyoming. Sisters Mary Ann Mesteth-Witt, Lynette Mesteth-Murray of Parmalee, Ruth Mesteth-Gray Horse and Letitia American Horse of Ethete, Wyoming, Dennis Mesteth-Spoon Hunter of Fayetteville, North Carolina. Wilmer had 19 grandchildren. Numerous hunka children, brothers and sisters.
Wilmer was preceded in death by his parents Gabriel Mesteth Sr. and Rosalyn Red Shirt-Mesteth, and his siblings Daniel Mesteth, Gabriel Mesteth Jr., Orlin Mesteth and Theresa Mesteth.
Two night wake services are being held—the first at 1 p.m., Wednesday, January 21, 2015, at the Lakota Dome, Prairie Wind Casino, Pine Ridge, South Dakota, and the second day starts at 2 p.m. on Thursday, January 22, 2015 at the Mesteth family residence, Cheyenne Creek, Pine Ridge, South Dakota. The funeral will be held at 10 a.m. Friday, January 23, 2015, at the Mesteth family residence. Arrangements are being handled through the Sioux Funeral Home of Pine Ridge.