Leslie Jo Fresquez Walking Elk, “Mi Cante Etan Wowaglake”, 49, was born May 16, 1962, in Omaha, Neb., and began her journey to the spirit world on Oct. 15, 2011, in Minneapolis.
Leslie graduated from Red Cloud (S.D.) High School in 1980, where she was a varsity cheerleader and academically excelled in state oratory competitions. Leslie attended the National College of Business, Oglala Lakota College, and graduated with her Bachelor’s in Elementary Education from Black Hills State University in 1991. Leslie was a dedicated and talented teacher and began working in the Rapid City (S.D.) School System Indian Education programs at Wilson School, while still in college. After graduation, Leslie taught at Horace Mann School, Rapid City, and then at Wounded Knee District School in Manderson, S.D. Leslie moved to the Twin Cities in 1994 and continued teaching Native students at the Red School House, American Indian Magnet, The City, Inc., and Mexica Multicultural Education Charter School. Leslie was the director of the Teen Indian Parent Program for the Division of Indian Work in Minneapolis for a number of years. Leslie was actively involved in educational organizations throughout her teaching career, including the Executive Board, Healthy Start Program, City of Minneapolis; board member, Minnesota Organization for Adolescent Prevention, Pregnancy and Parenting (MOAPPP); board member, Leadership for Learning Charter School, Minneapolis; the National Indian Education Association; the Minnesota Education Association; the Minnesota Indian Education Association; and the Title VII Indian Advisory Board, Rapid City Area Schools. Leslie attained the high honor of being selected for one of the coveted Bush Leadership Fellowships in 2006.
Leslie has always been a talented Native artist, first in beadwork and ultimately in her own small business she operated at the time of her death, Akisni Regalia. Leslie was proud to be a part of the Oglala Lakota Oyate and member of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin. Leslie loved the powwow circuit and was a talented women’s traditional dancer. Leslie was very proud of her work at the Mahkato Wacipi just last month in Mankato, where she helped with everything from head cook duties to personally crafting the sashes and crowns for the powwow royalty. Leslie’s willingness to share her cultural knowledge extended beyond the United States, where she recently participated in an indigenous cultural presentation in Paris, France, in March 2011.
Leslie played a mean game of Scrabble, had a ready sense of humor, devoted herself to the red road, was extremely active in AA, and was on the verge of receiving her three-year token. Leslie had an amazing rapport with children and mothered her siblings, children, nieces and nephews, and her community with unparalleled flair.
She is survived by her sons, Anthony Barker, Minneapolis, Cory Barker, Seattle, and Ryan Barker, Fort Thompson, S.D.; her daughter, Sunkmanitu Walking Elk, Minneapolis; her parents, Anthony and Shirley Fresquez, Rapid City; her quasi-Daddy, Jim Hamm, Minneapolis; her siblings Craig Fresquez and Christine Flett, Portland, Ore., Rose Fresquez and Dani (Steve) Daugherty, Aberdeen, S.D., John (Diane) Fresquez, Rushville, Neb., and Mark (Luta) Fresquez, Wolf Creek, S.D.; her maternal aunts and uncle, Lucille, Rosemarie, Judi and Roger; her paternal aunt and uncle, Cathy and Dennis Gene; and many other members of her extended family.
She was preceded in death by her maternal grandparents, John and Bessie (Trimble) Cornelius; her paternal grandfather, Daniel Fresquez; paternal stepgrandfather and grandmother, Gertrude and Tony Guiterrez; her maternal uncle John; and paternal aunt, Priscilla.
A visitation will be held from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 19, at Edstrom & Rooks Funeral Service, Serenity Springs Chapel of Tranquility, Rapid City. A wake will begin with a meal at 5 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 20, at Sacred Heart Church in Pine Ridge, S.D., and wake services at 6:30 p.m.
Funeral services will be offered at 10 a.m. Friday, Oct. 21 at the church, with Leonard Little Finger and Pastor Larry Peterson officiating. Interment will be at the Cornelius Family Plot east of Pine Ridge on U.S. Highway 18, mile marker 112, with a meal to follow at the church.
Friends may sign her online guest register at www.serentiyspringsfuneralchapel.com.