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Igloo, A History

Igloo, A History

pages 33 and 34

Many Indian people left their reservation homes and came to work at the Black Hills Ordnance Depot through a desire to provide a living for their families and to further the war effort, despite the possibility of prejuduce and discrimination which they often suffered when they went among non- Indian people. (See Appendix I). By the spring of 1945, about 160 Native Americans were working as clerks, stenographers, truck drivers, bus drivers, electrical operators, janitors, and ammunition handlers. Many of the Indian people remained at the depot for long careers. Daniel Van Goodman, for instance, was a Chippewa-Ottawa who worked as a guard. During his years there, he served as commander of the V.F.W. post, managed a junior baseball team, and worked as a scoutmaster. His sons attended Provo High School, where they were top athletes.

pg. 63
Appendix I
By 1945, about 160 Native Americans were working as clerks, stenographers, truck drivers, bus drivers, electrical operators, janitors, and ammunition handlers. Many of these people came to the depot from the eight reservations in South Dakota, and their family names, compiled by Calvin Jumping Bull, are listed below.

Janis, Bad Milk, Badwound, Boltz, Brave Heart, Cliffords, Conroy, Dearly, Eastman, Fire Thunder, Flammond, Goes in Center, LaPlant, Lapointe, Pattons, Pourier, Red Hair, Rios, Running Hawk, Short Bull, Twiss, Waukazoo, White Eyes, White Mountain, Witt.

Some other names not listed in the above book; Arpan, Artichoker, Brafford, Brave, Bettelyoun, Bissonette, Cuny, Ecoffey, Geboe, Giago, Gibbons, Haas, Johnson, Jones, Larvie, Lawrence, LeBeau, Lessert, Mesteth, Miner, Montileaux, Moran, Necklace, Povondra, Sanovia, Sears, Varilek, Vermillion, Whipple, Wright and Zimiga.

These are additional traditional Native American names that I have in my Igloo database; Afraid of Bear, Bad Hand, Bear Shield, Black Elk, Black Feather, Black Spotted, Blue Bird, Blue Dog, Broken Rope, Bull Bear, Chase Alone, Eagle Bear, Eagle Feather, Eagle Tail, Elk Head, Fast Horse, Fast Wolf, Forgets Nothing, Good Crow, Hairy Bird, Holy Rock, Iron Bear, Iron Bull, Iron Cloud, Iron Elk, Iron Teeth, Iron Wing, Kills Enemy, Little Hawk, Lone Elk, Long Bull, Long Visitor, Loves War, No Heart, Old Crow, One Feather, Prairie Chicken, Pretty Weasel, Quick Bear, Red Bear, Runs After, Shell Woman, Spotted Bear, Spotted Elk, Standing Cloud, Standing Elk, Standing Soldier, Swift Cloud, Three Stars, True Blood, Two Bulls, Two Crow, Two Eagles, Useful Heart, Walking Crow, War Bonnet, Yellow Boy, Yellow Cloud, Yellow Hawk and Yellow Robe. I am sure that more will be added.

The Goodman family was mentioned above and the athletic prowess. I will have more about that later. Van Goodman was also a member of the BHOD band. Frank Vermillion, also a guard, was in demand for his singing ability. Norman Shortbull was well known for his artistry with a brush. His co-worker, Jesse Sears, was also an excellent artist. Andrew Standing Soldier and Bernice Necklace were also well known artists. Back to athletics, Tom Necklace attended Carisle and played on the football teams of 1912 and 1913 with the famous Jim Thorpe, under the tutelage of the still more famous "Pop" Warner. Leonard Quick Bear was a member of the 1934 St. Francis Mission team that was the "darling" of the National Catholic Interscholastic Basketball Tournament. St. Francis did very well at the annual tournament until it was canceled because of the war. Leonard and his team mates introduced the country to the "run and gun" style of basketball that later became popular with Igloo teams. Glenn Three Stars was also a popular player on the independent teams at Igloo. He was consistently voted most valuable player at Tri-State tournaments. Jug Brave was on a Santee Normal Training School team that went undefeated until the class B finals in Nebraska. Jug was also an excellent bowler and golfer. Ephriam Brafford was a championship golfer which brings us back to Van Goodman. Later in life Van took up golf and was pretty good at it. As his wife told him, when a man gets too old to chase women, he chases a little ball across the grass! Van Goodman played semi-professional ball as a young man. He attended coaching school at Notre Dame with Knute Rockne. As mentioned above he coached many of the Igloo youth in baseball. Frank Fast Wolf also coached youth baseball. Percy Pourier was involved in coaching and playing on Igloo independent ball teams. Charlie Bad Milk and his brother-in-law, Chester Janis, were regulars on the independent teams. Jesse Sears was a nationally recognized rodeo performer in the 1920's and Art Lawrence was into rodeo during the Igloo era.

Bill Cuny, Charles Geboe and Basil Brave Heart come to mind as Native Americans who taught at Provo School. Several of the Native American students that attended Provo School went into education. Tom Shortbull, Elgie Raymond, Art Zimiga, Charles Zimiga, Buzz Bettelyoun, Junior Bettelyoun, Cecilia Haas and John Haas are a few that I am familiar with.

Many Ordnance Depots were named after Native American tribes; Seneca, Umatilla, Sioux and Navajo and many employed the local Native Americans as laborers. There is a book called "Arizona's War Town" about Flagstaff and the nearby Navajo Ordnance Depot. The ordnance depot hired many Navajo and Hopi as laborers and as an response to the need for housing the government built an Indian village on a isolated part of the depot. This evolved into a Navajo village of hogans and a separate Hopi village of tents separated by several hundred yards and a trading post.

At Black Hills Ordnance Depot it was different, the Native American workers lived in the same houses as the other workers although they seemed to be concentrated in specific areas, namely Custer Cresent and Custer Circle, both East of Custer Road. The streets were named for local towns and these were named for the town of Custer, not for the man, Custer, but it is ironic that this was the area where the Native Americans were concentrated. In defense these were the perfect areas for people who were used to wide open spaces, with a view of the dam and the valley. Most people in the interior of the housing area were probably feeling claustrophobic due to the closeness of the houses but as the depot evolved the distribution became more uniform and the closeness of the houses became a positive.

Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center

Andrew Standing Soldier

Oglala Lakota

(1917 - 1967)

Andrew Standing soldier received his primary education from the Pine Ridge Boarding School.

Standing Soldier, like so many Native American artists, received very little formal art training. His painting style developed when traditional ledger art was popular, and Euro-American easel painting was emerging.

In the 1930s, Standing Soldier studied under Olaf Nordmark, a federal artist-in-residence in Pine Ridge. At age 22, he won a major prize at the 1939 World's Fair in San Francisco for a watercolor submitted to the United States Pavilion. He did much of his work as the result of commissions, including illustrating several primers for Native American children, sponsored by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

His own style was well executed, subdued and simplified; yet in proper perspective, it was suggestive of the unusual land formations on the Pine Ridge Reservation. He succeeded in creating recognizable, coherent backgrounds and authentically portrayed human subjects.

In 1961, he and his family moved to the reservation border town of Gordon, Nebraska. Here, he found a patron in Douglas Borman, a local auto dealer. Borman allowed him to paint in the auto showroom and proceeded to collect a significant body of his work. Many regional people colleced his work, including the owners of the well-known Wall Drug at Wall, South Dakota.

Copyright c 2001 - 2007 Top Level Media.

True West Magazine

Wall Drug of South Dakota

A magnificent Western art gallery, where you'd least expect it.

Written by Bill Markley Published October 04, 2011

Yet, how exactly did Wall Drug's art collection get started?

"I think the first painting ever purchased, my grandfather bought it over 50 years ago," Ted says. "It was an Andrew Standing Soldier painting. Andrew Standing Soldier painted the Native Americans as they were transitioning into cowboys on the reservation. He's probably the most famous Native American artist coming out of South Dakota after Oscar Howe. We have eight Andrew Standing Soldier paintings.

The Edgemont Tribune; March 28, 1945; There are today some 160 Indians employed at the Black Hills Ordnance Depot at Igloo, S. D. These Indians fill positions such as clerks, stenographers, truck drivers, bus drivers, electrical operators, janitors and ammunition handlers. These Indians left the reservation of their own free will and desire to help in the war effort and to better their own lives. This move involved a great deal of courage and thought, because many of them have felt the racial discrimination boot of many of our so-called educated people. But they have the courage to know that they can match these racial conscious people not only in highly technical fields but he can out-distance them in production and loyalty. The Indians are backing their fighting men 100%, of which that total is 20,000 young Indian men and women. I am proud to be an Indian and to know that I need make no apology for my race - Eva J. Nichols

The Native Sun News

Vol. 3 No. 41 pages A1 & A3 Jan. 11 - 17, 2012

Remembering Igloo and its Lakota connection

By Jesse Abernathy
Native Sun News Editor

Warner aerial photo of barracks
Photo Courtesy/

The mostly still-standing prisoner-of-war holding barracks at the U.S. Army's former Black Hills Ordnance depot near Edgemont.

Constructed during World War II, the two-story barracks primarily housed Italian POWs who were utilized as inexpensive sources of labor.

The depot brought Native American and non-native American families together to work and to live in the adjacent civilian community of Igloo.

IGLOO - Among South Dakota's seemingly over-abundant ghost towns, only one is able to lay claim to having a not-so-distant connection to the U.S. military and also to bringing both Native American and non-Native American families together in a rarely seen esprit de corps.

Situated in the far south-western corner of the corner of the state, among the rolling, isolated foothills of the Black Hills, the deserted town of Igloo was once a thriving community of approximately 1800 individuals.

The current population of the largely rural area surrounding Igloo is about 70.

Initially established by the Army in 1942 as the Black Hills Ordnance Depot, a secure munitions storage and maintenance facility, following the country's entrance into World War II, Igloo became the depot's non-military division - providing side-by-side housing for Native and non-Native families alike.

The depot's civilian residential district earned its unique name from the characteristic shape of the munitions storage structures, which somewhat resembled the dome-shaped, snow-constructed Inuit homes - known as "igloos," or "iglus" - of what is now primarily Alaska.

BHOD was renamed "Black Hills Army Depot" in 1962.

On June 30, 1967, the federal government closed the depot, and the economic stronghold of Igloo was subsequently abandoned.

Immediately bordering Provo Township in in Fall River County, approximately eight miles south of the sleepy hamlet of Edgemont, the remotely ensconced former military and residential site is literally a ghost town among ghost towns: both the unincorporated communities of Ardmore and Burdock, which are more commonly referred to as "ghost towns," also lie within the exterior boundaries of the county. Hot Springs is the adminstrative center of Fall River County.

Lying 88 miles from the western border of the Pine Ridge Reservation and 89 miles southwest of Rapid City, Igloo is almost equidistant from either locale.

At nearly 33 square miles, the former bustling gated outpost sprawls out over the prairie where South Dakota converges with the neighboring states of Nebraska and Wyoming, threatening to breach these well-established - yet imperceptible - borders.

"The sheer monstrosity of the area is overwhelming," said globe trekker Mark Lawrence on his traveling website. "This is an urban exploration and ghost town aficionado's dream," he said.

"The roads leading around the base can be a bit confusing as some roads are so overgrown you can hardly tell they are there. One of my favorite parts is (the) overgrown airstrip with some decrepit hangers near some factory-looking buildings. Watch out though - while we were there, we saw some rattlesnakes so make sure to be on the lookout. That rattle sound is eerie; I'd heard it for the first time there in ...Igloo," he said.

Lawrence and two of his associates personally discovered the abandoned site almost a year ago.

The almost forgotten Army establishment, which was purposely situated off the beaten path by the Army for security purposes, is only accessible via foot passage over two now-dilapidated wooden traffic bridges.

Following its closure, most of the depot and residential property was sold to the local government, which has since resold various parcels to a variety of private parties.

For 25 years, Native families from the nearby Pine Ridge and Rosebud Reservations, as well as from the Cheyenne River Reservation and from several tribal communities outside of South Dakota, came and went. The majority of these families, however, stayed for the duration of the military project. Such coalescence between cultures was virtually unheard of at the time, especially in South Dakota.

Former Igloo resident, Jim Anderson of Rapid City, has dedicated a historical and social networking website to the Black Hills Ordnance Depot and Igloo -

"Many Indian people left their reservation homes and came to work at the Black Hills Ordnance Depot through a desire to provide a living for their families and to further the war effort despite the possibility of prejudice and discrimination which they often suffered when they went among non-Indian people, " Anderson said on his website. "By the spring of 1945, about 160 Native Americans were working as clerks, stenographers, truck drivers, bus drivers, electrical operators, Janitors and ammunition handlers - many of the Indian people remained at the depot for long careers," he said.

A 1963 graduate of the Igloo era-transformed Provo High School, Anderson organizes and schedules annual class and community reunions. The two-day event is usually held in July at American Legion Post 22 on East Saint Patrick Street in Rapid City.

Due to its proximity to the already-established community of Provo, most of Igloo's adolescent community attended and graduated from Provo High School.

"The idea for the depot was based on labor," Anderson told Native Sun News. "The Army recruited people from across South Dakota because they needed the labor so bad during World War II," he said.

According to Anderson, this all-inclusive, needful recruitment tactic is the reason many Native Americans and women worked at the military site.

"South Dakota lost some 93,000 workers who had to leave the state because of the war," said Anderson. "What the Army found out though is that Fall River County didn't lose that many people. That's why the depot was built in Fall River County."

The Army also used Italian prisoners of war at the depot for their labor, and many women ordnance workers were truck drivers and did the jobs that the men who went to war usually did, Anderson said.

"The women ordnance workers were called WOWs, so we had POWs and WOWs there at Igloo," he said with a chuckle.

Officers'quarters were located on a slope overlooking Igloo, according to Anderson.

"We called it 'The Hill' and there is now a ranch family that lives in one of the old officers' houses," he said.

"One of Igloo's more famous residents was Tom Brokaw. He lived there when he was in the second and third grades," said Anderson.

Brokaw is best-known for his for his longstanding tenure - from 1982 to 2004 - as anchor and managing editor of NBC Nightly News.

Access to the now-divided property tracts is restricted and, for the most part, only available by appointment.

In addition to the standard-issue federal housing units and public school system, Igloo was once home to a hospital, post office, police station, church grocery store and entertainment facilities including a movie theater, swimming pool and youth recreation center. Most of these now-forgotten buildings are still standing in this old working-class neighborhood, beckoning the year-round trickle of visitors to Igloo with drifting, indecipherable whispers from the community's dual-cultural past.

Following the shutdown of the Black Hills Army Depot in 1962, many of the prefabricated homes were transported to the Pine Ridge Reservation to supplement the recurring housing shortage.

The massive, three-runway Army airfield which the grounds almost secretly contain has three intersecting landing strips that are now overun with Great Plains flora.

Charles Zimiga Jim Anderson
Charles Zimiga . . . Jim Anderson

In the early 1990's, according to, Nathan Barton conducted an environmental assessment of the airfield for Fall River Properites, which owned this particular tract of land at the time.

"The old Black Hills Ordnance Depot airfield was dropped from the list (closed) because the asphalt has so deteriorated that you'd be better off trying to land in the hayfield beside the runways," said Barton. "Fall River Properties actually planned to destroy the old airfield to construct a giant landfill for disposal of sewage sludge shipped on the railroad from Minnesota and Illinois, but the state denied them a permit after a whole series of lawsuits by environmental groups," he said.

Joe Giago and family lived and worked at Igloo. Joe had 11 children with his wife Clara Irving Giago. During one hot summer in the 1940's, Joe's older brother Tim Giago, Sr., came to Igloo and ended up driving caterpillar tractors. Tim recalled watching closely as the blade of his caterpillar dug into nests of rattle snakes. He said the rattle snakes rolled up in balls of snakes as his caterpillar dug into the earth. Tim was the father of Tim Giago, Jr., founder of Native Sun News. Tim Jr. recalled hunting along the ridges of Igloo with his cousins Billy Joe and Bobby Giago.

Charles Zimiga, another former Iglooite, has fond memories of the wartime community.

"I went to school there from the third grade through the twelfth grade," Zimiga said. "My dad worked for the housing there, then in the evening, he was a barber," he said.

Zimiga is Oglala Lakota and graduated from Provo High School in 1957. A lonetime educator, he is now retired after teaching and coaching basketball at high schools on the Pine Ridge Reservation beginning in 1963.

"When I lived there, I was just 'Charles Zimiga'," he said. "in a way, it was like the outside world wasn't like Igloo because I never felt any prejudice, and I though the whole world was like that."

"It was a place where you were just who you were."

A lot of these people who worked there who were non-Indians came from poor backgrounds, said Zimiga. There was no class division, he said.

The Army took stringent clearance measures to ensure the safety of the community's coexistent military and civilian, according to Zimiga.

"There was a gate you had to go through to get in and a guardhouse. People that lived in Igloo had (Army) stickers on their cars and we had to sign in and out at the entrance," he said.

"So in that way, it was like living on a military base. It was kind of a unique situation."

All of the Native families lived in Igloo proper, with officers' pool being comprised entirely of non-Natives, Zimiga indicated.

"I would hate to put a racial slur on it, but that's the way it was," he said.

According to Zimiga, longtime South Dakota politician, the late E. Y. Berry, was an additional instumental force in reaching out to the state's Native American population for employment at the depot.

"(E.Y. Berry) pushed the project as something for Native Americans. And the main thing he pushed it for was the Native Americans from Pine Ridge and different reservations, so I think that was one of the criteria (the government had that they wanted to hire a lot of Native American people" he said, in support of Anderson's claim.

Zimiga spoke highly of Igloo's sense of community spirit.

"We had Christmas bazaars and all the families would be there - the Native mothers and the non-Native mothers would be helping out. The dads would be in there with the fishing ponds and bobbing for apples with the kids and all that stuff. It was really a nice place."

"I can't say enough about how nice (Igloo) was," Zimiga said.

"I'm retired now, and researching the history of Igloo has become my life's work," said Anderson.

(text box) "Many Indian people left their reservation homes and came to work at the Black Hills Ordnance Depot through a desire to provide a living for their families and to further the war effort despite the possibility of prejudice and discrimination which they often suffered when they went among non-Indian people." ~ Jim Anderson

(As noted at the top of this page, this not my quote, it is from pages 33 and 34 of the 'Igloo - A History' book.)

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