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by Blaine Norvold

Elroy DuBray keeps dying art alive


The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe is not the largest Indian reservation in the nation, but for its size it probably has the largest population of talented people ever seen. Whether it be artists, ball players, dancers, singers, or rodeo cowboys and cowgirls to name a few, this reservation definitely has talent and some of it is hidden. Such as the case with a well known cowboy by the name of Elroy DuBray, a talented man who keeps an almost lost art alive in the form of rawhide braiding. The father of four children, Diane, Donita, Ross and Francis, he was raised in the Four Bear Community on the Cheyenne River Reservation. He attended school at the old agency and graduated from C-EB High in 1965. He attended college, served in the US Army for a term, returned home to cowboy on the ranch and graduated from SDSU in 1975, where he competed on the Men’s Rodeo team and qualified for the College National Finals in the bareback and bullriding events. Elroy also worked for the BIA in Montana for a spell. His specialty while ranching was breaking horses but rawhide braiding was always in his blood. Elroy learned some tricks of the trade from his grandpa, but he always had a passion for braiding. 
He studied braided knots by taking them apart and rebraiding them. At the age of nine years, he started learning this trade and during high school he’d secretly hide items behind his schoolbook and braid during class instead of reading. 
He found out you just can’t find good rawhide so he started making his own by tanning hides, cutting strips, etc. and just went from there. This talent led him into making hackamore bosals (noseband), rawhide bridle reins, quirts and headstalls. 
His goal is to braid a rawhide lariat someday. I believe he’ll reach that goal too, if he doesn’t get too busy making fruit jelly. Another secret talent that he has, and his jellies are in high demand right now.

Elroy says this art of rawhide braiding can remain alive if the younger generation would take an interest in it. He’d like to help by setting up some workshops in the area if someday someone would care to pursue a life of an art almost extinct.

 

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