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Indian-owned funeral home nears completion

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New funeral home is in the finishing stages of completion. Owner hopes to have it open by end of May.

New funeral home is in the finishing stages of completion. Owner hopes to have it open by end of May. Photo by Ross DuBray

by Ross DuBray

Eagle Butte area residents will soon have a local option when selecting a funeral home.

Charlie Rooks of Rapid City and member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe will be opening the Rooks Funeral Home in Eagle Butte.

The new facility, which is under construction, is located on Fox Ridge road about a quarter mile east of the Sacred Heart Center.

The 4,650 square foot building will include a chapel for services, with seating for around 100.  The new facility will also include an embalming room, which will allow family members to stay in Eagle Butte. Currently, the closest funeral homes that have embalming facilities are located in Mobridge and Gettysburg.

“This will be a complete funeral facility,” said Rooks. “Everything that is required for a complete funeral service will be provided. Families that don’t have any religious affiliations will be able to utilize the large chapel and have the service here.”

One benefit of the new facility will be a section where family can have private time and visitation with their loved one.

The décor will reflect Lakota culture, and it will be designed to be very comforting and to give it the feel of an at home atmosphere, as families are grieving for a loved one.

Rooks, along with his father, opened the Sioux Funeral Home in 1987 in Pine Ridge. The Rooks’ operated the funeral home for 22 years until selling it in February of 2009.  Rooks is also the co-owner of the Edstrom and Rooks Funeral Services at Serenity Springs in Rapid City.

Rooks received his Bachelor of Science Degree in Mortuary Science from the University of Minnesota in August 1987. He completed his apprenticeship working under the funeral director in Hot Springs.  In October of 1988, Rooks began complete ownership of the Sioux Funeral Home.

According to Rooks, part of their vision was to provide funeral services for the Lakota communities that have to drive a great distance for services. After opening Sioux Funeral Home in Pine Ridge, the support was overwhelming, because  “Pine Ridge residents had to travel a lengthy distance to Rapid City for funeral services.

After that first year, we felt the sentiment would be the same in Rosebud and Eagle Butte and we had a vision to open a funeral home there,” said Rooks.

After taking a year off after selling the Sioux Funeral Home in 2009, Rooks decided it was time to act on that vision. After Rooks’ nephew, Paul Rooks, showed a keen interest in the profession and had began his journey to become licensed, it made the dream possible.

In January of 2010, Rooks approached the Rosebud Sioux Tribe about opening a funeral chapel and received overwhelming support from the tribal council who voted unanimously to support the endeavor thru a resolution. In September of 2011, Rooks officially opened Rooks Funeral Chapel in Mission, SD.

“The community has overwhelmingly supported us,” said Rooks. “The area residents like the fact that there is a local funeral home operated by tribal members, who are keenly sensitive to tribal customs of Lakota people.”

After a year in Rosebud, Rooks felt it was time to look north and after visiting with tribal and BIA officials here in Eagle Butte, Rooks decided to open a funeral chapel.

“Here in Eagle Butte people have had to drive a lengthy distance to get funeral coverage. They will now have a local option,” said Rooks.

Construction of the facility began in February, and Rooks is hoping it will be completed in mid-May. Once opened the facility will have a full-time staff.

One thing Rooks is looking forward to in Eagle Butte is the local humor.

“When I lived in Pine Ridge we only heard the jokes about Rosebud and Cheyenne River, but when I got to Rosebud I found out they were all Oglala jokes,” he said.

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