Monday, February 24, 2020

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Anthony Rivers Jr.

Anthony (Tony) (Kid) Alvin Rivers Jr., he was better known as Tony Jr. or Kid Rivers. His Indian name was Hoksila Isnala (Lone Boy). Tony Jr. was a direct decedent of Chief War Eagle. He was born April 18, 1919 to Tony and Laura (Benoist) Rivers in a log cabin south of the mouth of the Moreau River on the Cheyenne River Sioux Indian Reservation.

He was one of four children born to Tony and Laura: Elaine, Elsie, Leona and Tony Jr. He started to receive his education in 1929 when he was nine years old. He attended the Ambrose Benoist Day School, which was located NW of the mouth of the Moreau River. The little one room school house was a log cabin without any modern facilities. When light was needed in the school house, the teacher would light the kerosene lamp. A bucket of water with a dipper hanging on the side of the bucket rested on an apple box by the teacher’s desk. The bucket was the drinking water for the day. The school house was heated with a wood stove and air-conditioned by opening the two windows. There was always a Montgomery Ward catalog in the outdoor privy, which served as toilet paper.

During this time the family was living in Tony Jr.’s, Grand-Father Benoist’s house, which was about two miles from the Moreau River. For the first part of the school year Tony Jr. walked two miles, then he rowed a boat across the Moreau River, when the river froze over he walked across the river on the ice, then he walked another mile to the school house. Later, the family moved into their house, which was up on the Rivers Flat, and much farther from the Moreau River. Then Tony Jr. rode a horse five miles to his Great Uncle Louis Benoist’s house, where he rowed a boat, or walked on the ice across the river, and walked another mile to get to the school house. He attended first grade at the Ambrose Benoist Day School. Through the seventh grade at the Cheyenne Agency Indian Boarding School. Because Tony Jr. did not begin school until he was nine years old, it was decided by the school officials to have him skip the third grade and go to the fourth grade. He also skipped the fifth grade and went into the sixth grade, because he was able to understand the work of those grade levels. He attended the eighth grade at St. Joseph Catholic School in Timber Lake, SD, then he returned to the Boarding School at Cheyenne Agency for the ninth grade.

Tony Jr. was a teenager during the depression in the 1930’s. During the summers he worked for the Civil Conservation Corps, Indian Department for a dollar per day. He picked up rocks for a rock crusher at Patch Skin Buttes, or drove a team of horses pulling a dump wagon during the building of the White Horse Dam near White Horse, SD. He attended High School in Wakpala, SD. He graduated in 1938. After high school graduation, he attended the North Dakota State School of Forestry, and then he attended Aberdeen Commercial College, where he graduated in 1940 with a Junior Accounting Certificate. He then worked for the Civil Conservation Corps, Indian Department, in Cheyenne Agency doing clerical work until September, 1940. He enlisted in the United States Army at Ft. Meade, SD on September 12, 1940. He was sent to Vancouver Barracks, WA for Basic Training, then to Fr. Ord, CA, and Ft. Lewis, WA for more infantry training, and then back to his home station at Vancouver Barracks.  By this time World War II had broken out, and then his outfit was sent to Hunter Ligget Military Reservation, CA for more training. Tony Jr. served his Country during World War II in North Africa, Sicily, and Italy. He was honorably discharged February 3, 1945.

After he was discharged, he worked various jobs at Kaiser Shipyards in Vancouver, WA, then at an Automotive Parts Store also in Vancouver. He also drove a truck for a Dairy Farm near Portland, OR. He was restless, he didn’t know what he wanted to do. While he was working at the Dairy Farm, he received a letter from his girlfriend. She said, “Tony, I am ready to get married”. He gave his required two weeks’ notice. When the two weeks expired, he headed for Meridian, Mississippi, where he and Ruth Ishee were married June 7, 1945. After that, they stayed with his parents at their ranch near Mobridge, SD for about one month. Tony Jr. received notice that he had been accepted for employment with the Civil Service in the Accounting Division of the Navy Department, Washington, D.C. He and Ruth packed his Army barracks bag with everything they owned. They boarded a train in Mobridge, and headed for Washington, D.C., where he worked for the Navy Department for about five months.

Then they returned to SD, in December of 1945, to start ranching. They stayed with Tony Jr.’s parents until June, 1946. They purchased a house for $125.00 and got started in ranching through a Tribal Cattle Repayment Program. They raised Black Angus cattle and a few Quarter and Arabian horses. Tony Jr. was elected Tribal Chairman and served as Tribal Chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe from 1958 to 1962. Tony Jr. ranched for forty-four years until he retired November 3, 1990. Then he and his family relocated near Piedmont, SD, where he resided with his wife Ruth, and their son Tony Rivers III.

He is survived by his wife of 74 years, one son, Tony Rivers III, and one daughter, Linda (Melvin) Meier all of Piedmont, SD, three grand-children, Jeffery (Pennie) Wickersham, Sterling, CO, Justin Wickersham, Piedmont, SD, Jerome Wickersham, Rapid City, SD, two great-grand-sons, Kade Wickersham, and Austin Wickersham (Jerome’s adopted son) both of Rapid City, SD.

He was preceded in death by his parents Tony and Laura (Benoist) Rivers, three sisters, Elaine Rivers, Elsie (Louis) DuBray, and Leona (Cyril) LeCompte, and one son-in-law, Donald Wickersham.

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