Buffalo Soldier Wolf learned a lot during her time at Arapahoe High School, but perhaps the most important was a clear sense of her identity.
“Be yourself and continue on,” she said. “Don’t try to be somebody you’re not.”
On March 23, it was evident where Soldier Wolf learned such values. She and dozens of her fellow Arapaho Tribal Nation members put on a powerful and dazzling display of their cultural identity as part of a ceremony to reaffirm their relationship with the school.
Soldier Wolf, 24, earned a special shout-out from Principal Ron Booth during the ceremony. In 2006, she became the first true Arapaho to graduate from AHS.
Booth lauded Soldier Wolf’s courage in coming to a big suburban high school from the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming, where she could walk out her back door, hop on a pony and ride until her heart was content.
Booth himself made the opposite journey in 1993, reaching out in the midst of a slew of mascot controversies around the country. After a meeting at the reservation that lasted from dusk until dawn, tribal elders visited AHS to ensure it was a place deserving of their respect.
They were convinced, and endorsed the school’s “Arapahoe Warrior” mascot, which was designed by Arapaho artist Wilbur Antelope.
This will be Booth’s last renewal ceremony as principal, as he’s retiring at the end of this year.
In an honor that master of ceremonies Darrell Lonebear said would last a half a day on the reservation, tribal members led him around Arapahoe’s Sitting Eagle Gymnasium — named for an elder Booth sat with on the reservation — in a traditional dance to show the highest level of respect.
“He is our brother,” said Lonebear. “... And if he doesn’t have anything to do, he can bring all of his retirement money, because we have four casinos and we would love to see him.”
Lonebear said that despite Araphoe’s recent loss to Chaparral in the boys state basketball title game, which he happened to catch on TV, all the AHS students are champions to the Arapaho Tribal Nation.
“I can tell warrior pride here at this high school is strong, and the energy we feel here today is great,” he said.
Soldier Wolf, in between happily greeting old teachers and friends after the ceremony, said her time at AHS was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. She returned to the reservation after graduation and is happy to be back home with her family and customs. She does admit to missing the aquarium, the zoo and, of course, the mall.
“I wouldn’t change anything, I’d just do it again,” she said. There were those who didn’t think she’d make it to graduation, she said, but she succeeded with the support of others.
“Keep your head up, stay strong and anything you believe you can do, you can do,” she said.