Steve C. Emery (“Mato Tanka”)


Noember 14, 1958 – December 31, 2020

  • Steve C. Emery (“Mato Tanka”)
    Steve C. Emery (“Mato Tanka”)

Steven C. Emery (“Mato Tanka”) was born November 14, 1958 in Buffalo, NY to Carol Leone Emery and Clarendon Van Norman.

He made his journey to the Spirit World on December 31, 2020 at Monument Health Hospital in Rapid City.

Steve was married to Belva Hollow Horn-Emery of Wounded Knee for over 26 years and together they had five children — Rache and Carol Emery, and Sean, Meaghan, and Mackenzie Casey, and hunka daughter Demaris Mexican. From his early years, Steve had four children — James, Bambi (Hopa), Steve Emery, Jr. of Mankato, MN, and Lupe Oyenque of San Ildefonso Pueblo, NM. He had 20 grandchildren.

Steve had two brothers, Mark and Thomas Van Norman, and two sisters, Diane (died 1987) and May (mother Linda Van Norman).

Steve earned his GED at the Yankton Sioux Tribe youth program and graduated as a Law Enforcement Officer from the Nebraska Law Enforcement Training Center at Grand Island, NE. He served as Chief of Police of the Santee Sioux Tribe and as a Police Officer for the Yankton Sioux Tribe and the City of Wagner.

He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of South Dakota at Vermillion in 1986, and his Juris Doctor Degree from Harvard Law School in 1989.

In 2007, Chief Leonard Crow Dog made Steve Chief Wamni Omni Naca (Chief Whirlwind). Steve wore his headdress at traditional ceremonies and cultural events. He sang with the Brave Eagle family drum.

Steve served as an attorney for the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe for many years, and served the Rosebud, Oglala, Standing Rock, and Yankton Sioux tribes as well.

He was known for his advocacy for Indian sovereignty and Oceti Sakowin treaty rights, including: Indian hunting and fishing rights, motor vehicle taxation, Cheyenne River water quality, Indian voting rights, tribal authority to regulate liquor; trust fund litigation; and sacred site litigation.

Steve was mentored by his Grandpa Jim Emery (Rosebud) in Lakota language, singing and culture and learned his love of Lakota ways and the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe from his grandmother, Edith Veronica Claymore Emery.

Steve sang Dakota and Lakota hymns with Joe Blue Coat and his family, recorded Dakota hymns, and performed his music at the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts. He sang Lakota songs for the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe with his adopted brothers, Jim and Bill Picotte, and Ira Blue Coat, and many other noted singers. He made several recordings, including his own original music and Dakota hymns for the Episcopal Church.

A wake service was held January 7 and funeral services were Friday, January 8 at the Woyatan Lutheran Church in Rapid City with Minister Jonathan Old Horse officiating.

Traditional Lakota services were conducted by Chief Leonard Crow Dog.

Burial was at the Johnson Memorial Presbyterian Cemetery in Wounded Knee, according to Steve’s wishes.

Pallbearers were Tom Van Norman, Sean Casey, Mark Van Norman II, Michael Bush, Rick Emery, Randy Emery, Quentin Emery, Robert Pille, Todd Emery, Ryan Emery, DJ Picotte, and David Emery.

Funeral arrangements were with Sioux Funeral Home of Pine Ridge.