We are very saddened by the passing of Johnson Holy Rock, who died on Saturday, January 21, 2012 at the age of 93.
Mr. Holy Rock was one of the founders of the Lakota Language Consortium and served from 2004-2008 on the LLC board of directors. His leadership regarding the Lakota language was very influential as he was one of the most fluent Lakota speakers surviving into the 21st century. His decisions and recommendations significantly shaped the Lakota Language Consortium’s policies, products and services. Johnson strongly believed in the need of standardized spelling system and curriculum, and always promoted it.
In his life story -- which he recorded in Lakota -- he told how he was born in 1918 to older parents. He said that his father had been born in a tipi while the Lakota were still roaming freely along the Powder River in the 1870s. He did not start going to school until he was 8, by which time he spoke fluently in Lakota, his first language, as well as in English taught to him by his older sisters. His language skills and eloquence in both Lakota and English showed that he was a man of high intelligence and sophistication.
He was a WWII veteran and served as the President of the Oglala Sioux Tribe between 1966 and 1968, and was co-Chairman of the Gray Eagle Society, an organization of Lakota elders.
Before his term as tribal president he met with U. S. President John F. Kennedy in the White House in an attempt to improve the housing situation on the Pine Ridge Reservation. His efforts helped bring the first modern housing development to Pine Ridge. He also worked in support of Treaty rights.
Johnson Holy Rock was a very kind man and one who represented the best values of Lakota culture. As he was the only son and had no sons himself, the name Holy Rock is leaving this world with him. In a way, an era has ended with his passing, as he was probably the last link to the pre-reservation times, raised by his grandparents, who were alive at the time of the Battle of Little Bighorn.