Congratulations Chris! We are honored to have you lead our plant team.
For the past fourteen years, Chris White Eagle has been an employee of Wild Idea Buffalo Company. He has worked every position in the plant and also on the harvest crew. When there was a void, Chris would step it up, seeking out the opportunity for more responsibility and growth. We are delighted to introduce Chris to you today as our new Plant Manager.
Chris has been cutting meat for the past twenty years. He learned in an “on the job training” environment and honed his skills over the years – so much so, that in 2019, he earned a spot on “America’s Top Butcher” series, where he made it all the way to the last round before finals.
His speed and his attention to the Wild Idea way of doing things is second to none. But perhaps his best quality is that of leadership. Chris oversees a plant staff of twelve, two of which are his sons. He is a mentor to all, teaching them the craft of artisan butchery and to take pride in that work. A lifelong skill that will serve them well, allowing them to establish a career and earn a good living.
Chris’ leadership doesn’t stop at the workplace, he and his wife Tara, took over Chris’ late father’s (Daron White Eagle) Wambliska Society; a non-profit that teaches youth their Native culture. This includes; Native language, spirituality, making their own regalia, drumming & dancing and they host intramural basketball tournaments, where the kids receive a pair of new basketball shoes. Recently, Wambliska Society added a mentorship program and a suicide prevention program.
Chris stated that the last six months have been difficult in the community due to a higher rate of suicide within our Native youth. Current suicide deaths within the community, including on the reservations, are one to two children per week.
Chris and Tara are leaders in the Woyatan Church (a Lutheran Church affiliate) and is currently the only church holding wakes and funerals. These services are for the whole community, not just the Native community. Chris states, “At Woyatan, we don’t see color." Fortunately, they're able to hold services within the CDC guidelines with the assistance of Oyeta Health, who provides the needed PPE supplies. Drumming & singing for these services is provided by the Wambliska Society.
On the outside wall of the building there is a memorial site for Missing Murdered Indigenous Relatives (MMIR), where people come to mourn and pay tribute - they draw hand prints, along with the name of their relative. The wall includes the name of Kevin Marshall, Chris’ cousin and a former employee of Wild Idea, who is greatly missed.
Chris is also part of a Prisoner Support Group and is the current acting president. Their goal is to help the incarcerated transition back into society. There are two rooms in the back of the Woyatan Church, where they can house up to eight people.
When COVID is over – Chris hopes to start a bi-weekly talking circle and drumming group inside the jail. For now, they drum and sing outside the jail to let them know they are not forgotten and that the community has not given up hope.
Chris and Tara also participate in the Juvenile Diversion Program, which finds alternative ways for youth correction instead of locking kids up. The kids participate in the Wambliska Society and are given community service. Chris states, “I’m not trying to save the world, but if we can give kids hope, and the parents who are in trouble support and save one or two, we are headed in the right direction.”
When asked what motivates him, Chris replied with, "I’m the father of seven, I don’t want to get that phone call. We found your son; we found your daughter. I don’t wish that on anyone.”
Wambliska Society is a 501c3. They are mostly funded through the Lutheran Church and the Juvenile Diversion Program, a handful of contributions and their own funds. If you would like to offer support you can do so at wambliska.org
or, mail directly to : Wambliska Society, 5411 Pine Street, Black Hawk SD 57718
Artist Angela Beharnds was so moved when she saw the Wambliska Society dancers and listened to some of their testimonials, that she has offered to donate the sale of her amazing “Wired Buffalo” sculpture to the Wambliska Society. You can purchase it here. All proceeds will go to help youth and those in need of help.