Beloved Therese Agnes Marie Martin passed away on July 5, 2019 in Bismarck, North Dakota. Therese was 102 years old. She was born on November 3, 1916 to Thomas and Irene (Black Lightning) Martin near the Mad Bear Camp along the Missouri River.
Therese entered the Oblate Sisters of the Blessed Sacred in Marty, South Dakota, a Native American order of nuns and left after nearly 30 years when the order was disbanded. Therese taught school there and received her bachelor’s degree from Mount Marty College and received her teacher’s certificate from the state of South Dakota.
Upon leaving the order, Therese moved back to Standing Rock and worked for various tribal programs over the years. She remained in the region and taught school at local tribal schools. In the 1980’s she taught the Lakota language at the Sitting Bull College up until she retired.
Therese was a beautiful woman both inside and out. She was known to be very independent and traveled as a speaker at conferences in her retirement. She was loved by her family but also by everyone who knew her. She raised many of her nieces and nephews as her own and remained committed to her faith throughout lifetime.
Therese was a product of government boarding schools. At her 100th birthday celebration she gave an emotional speech filled with gratitude, humor and her life’s most memorable experiences.
“Some of the happiest moments of my life were when I was a teacher, being able to speak and share our language once again,” shared Theresa. “But since I can remember our people have been under the thumb of the government.”
“She used her knowledge to teach the next generation to learn about her people’s ways,” continued Father Basil of St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Ft. Yates, North Dakota. “There isn’t a single person in this community that can’t learn from the life of Therese.”
As a retired nun, she spoke about her faith; “There is a heaven for all of us and I’m looking forward to that. I feel I can pray better in my own language. It seems like God understands more and I talk to him like I’m talking to a friend and it seems like he hears me. He has kept me well all these years. I want to stay healthy so I can pray to the Creator, to be good to people—I love all people.”
Therese expressed her thanks to those opposing the Dakota Access oil pipeline and said, “I love everyone who has come here to help us in Standing Rock,” continued Therese. “To see our people standing up for our rights, makes me so proud, I hope they fight to the bitter end.”
She closed: “We are still under the Government’s thumb and it is time to save what little we have left.”