Keith Annis was born on June 10, 1948, in Dupree, South Dakota, to Melissa West Annis and Delbert “Bud” Annis. He was the fourth of their five children together and the only boy. Later he would gain three more siblings.
Our Dad grew up along the banks of the Cheyenne River, like the four generations of his family before him. He spent his days riding horses and working the ranch. As soon as he was old enough to walk, he could be found horseback, swinging a rope. According to his sisters, Dad’s ability to throw a rope couldn’t be taught, it was something he was born with. When he entered First Grade he rode his horse to the Carlin School with his sister, Patsy. He went to high school in Eagle Butte, often staying with his Grandma West.
He and our mom, Lucy Ann Ganje, were married in 1969 and together had four children: Holly Ann, Heather Kinning, Amber Austin and Francis West. And from the moment we were old enough to walk, we learned to run at the urging of Dad who would be swinging a rope behind us, practicing for the next Team Roping.
“Down home” is where Dad loved to be. He lived his life much like the Cheyenne River he so loved. Rivers twist and turn, shaping the environment around them, just as they are shaped by the existing physical geography of the surrounding landscape. As he changed and progressed, he shaped and taught us, opening our eyes to new and different ways of thinking. He went back to school at age 47 to get a degree in Biology and Prairie Management and spent years working to reintroduce the Black Footed Ferret into the Ecosystem and protect Eagles and their habitat. Dad lived a full, varied and ever-evolving life. He was many things to many people and he wore many hats—cattleman, roper, stock contractor, conservationist, activist, storyteller.
Dad faced seemingly insurmountable adversities in his life. His strength and determination in the face of these challenges humbled us all. Each year that he lived with diabetes, he lost a piece of himself. Regardless of setbacks he moved forward. He insisted on being positive and his motto when dealing with his health issues was “one battle at a time.”
After losing a limb to diabetes he struggled to retain his independence. He refused to let his wheelchair constrain or define him and as soon as he was able he started driving. Then as soon as he was driving, he traveled, often alone, from Eagle Butte to Oceti Sakowin Camp at Standing Rock several times a week. If there weren’t friends or family available to help him with his chair, he remained in his truck. Many times we heard him say, “I don’t know what good I do up there, but it’s good to be there.”
Our Dad is a reminder that warriors came in many different packages. The strength of their prayers and their presence makes us all more powerful. Each day when his children and grandchildren were working and going to school he took our prayers with him as he made the long journey north.
On the morning of April 18, 2018, our dad walked on. We know he went ahead to make a place for us. He arrived early, like he likes to do, so our spot will be the best one. None of us know how to be home without him. we just pray that he will have enough “projects” to keep himself busy until we can join him. We’ll miss our road trips, his questionable pocket sandwiches, his sense of humor, his quiet and sage advice, his never-ending love for us and his unwavering support. We don’t say goodbye, so we’ll just say, “We’ll see you later Dad and Lala. We love you more than all the cottonwoods down home.”