Wanda Fox Sheppard
(Ida-ii xuuga Dagii Ahuush)
September 26, 1950 – December 30, 2021
Wanda Fox Sheppard, 88, of Mandaree, North Dakota, passed on December 28, 2021 at Sanford Hospital, Bismarck, ND. Wanda was born on April 9th, 1933, the second of fifteen children, to Anthony Guy Fox and Grace Parshall Fox in the area of the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation referred to as Shell Creek. She was a member of the Prairie Chicken clan and a child of the Knife clan. Her Indian names were “Plenty Sage” (Ida-ii xuuga Dagii Ahuush) and “Plain Design” (Maaraa gii ihtaash). After the development of the Garrison Dam and forced removal due to the rising waters, her family relocated from Shell Creek to the “Big Lease” area east of Mandaree where they maintained cattle and horses. As the eldest daughter, from a young age she cared for her siblings and was always kept busy around the family ranch. Her responsibilities ranged from cooking, sewing, driving cattle, milking the cows to making cheese and other products, along with helping to care for her siblings.
Wanda attended and graduated from Elbowoods High School, which now rests beneath Lake Sacagawea. She was always known for her spunk, quick wit, generosity and tenacity. She liked to say “Where there’s a will, there’s a way” and lived by this philosophy. As a teenager her strongest influencers were her father and grandmother Ruby White Bear, but she absorbed many lessons from other family members as well. Her father, Guy Fox, taught her how to cook, the importance of honesty, hard work and respect. She recalled standing on a chair and her father showing her how to bake raised bread. She had a special relationship with her grandmother Ruby, who was loving, nurturing and kind—in many respects, she was her mother. It was also from her grandmother where she learned to make her much sought-after traditional cornballs. Wanda had fond memories of her grandmother wearing her moccasins playing the pump organ while the kids sang along. She shared that her Grandma Ruby kept a strict schedule, starting with working in the garden in the morning. She was also fluent in Arikara, Mandan, Hidatsa and English.
Wanda learned our Indian ways from her father and grandmother, which she valued and balanced with her love for our Lord. She believed Creator/Lone Man/Jesus is one and the same and she had respect and love for all beliefs and manner of prayer. Wanda was the Director of the CHR program for ten years. She was the medical records clerk at the Mandaree IHS clinic for nine years and then also worked at the Mandaree School working as a home school liason and managed various title programs.
Wanda was always a strong contributor to her community. She served on the Mandaree Celebration powwow committee numerous times where responsibilities included year-round fundraising to assure enough resources for a successful annual celebration. Her efforts were always a combination of fun and hard work. Daily camping rations to every single camp were always a necessary provision. Today, few celebrations provide rations (basic food staples including bread, meat, eggs, coffee, sweets), but in her time they were always assured. One of her cherished accomplishments that demonstrated her grit and resolve was the construction of the first all-covered celebration arbor. She was on the powwow committee and the celebration was just weeks away. She felt it was important that dancers and attendees had shelter from the sun and elements. She approached the TAT Tribal Chairman at the time about following through with his statements that a new powwow arbor for Mandaree had been erected (it had not). She made a strong case for honoring this and soon after her role evolved into one of ad hoc construction manager. She made daily visits to the construction site on her breaks from work to check on the progress with the celebration only a few short weeks away. When her car was visible nearing over the hill, it could be heard, “Wanda’s coming,” and everyone would scramble to get busy. Her effort resulted in a beautiful arbor just in time for the annual celebration; complete with a warm “DOSHA” welcome in bright yellow letters visible on the roof. Wanda was also a talented seamstress. Wanda’s Aunt, Rose Crow Flies High, taught her how to bead. She enjoyed making items ranging from everyday clothing for her children, a wedding gown for her grand-daughter Stephanie, traditional clothing and regalia (grass dance outfits, elk tooth dresses, shawls, etc.), men’s and women’s beaded moccasins, beaded medallions, to cotton and satin starquilts. One of her satin starquilts was displayed at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. She also enjoyed sharing her knowledge on the art of preparing traditional Mandan/Hidatsa foods, clanship and relations, as well as the history regarding her ancestor Sacagawea’s story. In fact, she was one of the contributors to the recently published book, “Our Story of Eagle Woman Sacagawea: They Got it Wrong” to correct the misinterpretation that she was in fact a member of the Hidatsa tribe and was not Shoshone. Wanda has also had the honor of giving Indian names to many people over the years. She had many fond memories about adventures with her friend, Tillie Walker, which oftentimes included impromptu road trips. One time, Tillie picked her up and they made their way to Lammer’s in Hardin, MT. They visited and laughed all along the way. Upon their arrival, they realized they didn’t pack any bags, so they stopped at a gas station for overnight clothes. Wanda ended up with a t-shirt with the text “I’m half white but no one believes me,” and Tillie found a “John Deere” shirt.
Wanda was a life-long resident of Mandaree, North Dakota. She loved spending time with her children, grand-children, great-grand-children, and great-great-grandchildren. Until her mobility was limited, during the Summer, you’d often find her pulling her camper or driving her RV to meetup with friends and family to enjoy a powwow. She always beamed with pride and rattled her tongue when watching her grandchildren dance. She instilled in them a sense of pride in their culture and where they came from.
In addition to her own children, she also raised her grandson Manny Sheppard and from time to time cared for others. Wanda had five (5) children, Cheryle J. Fox, Sheila (Sheppard) Jenner, Angus Jerome (“AJ”) Sheppard, Shane Sheppard, and Norma (Sheppard) Miller.
She is survived by her Brother Dennis Fox (Sandra); Sisters Belinda Beston, C.A.Wolf Eyes, Arla Muzzy (Don), Theola Fox, Daughters Sheila Jenner and Norma Miller; Grandchildren Stephanie (David) Fox-Alcocer, Delmar Sheppard, Tamara Torres (Jorge), Shyla Sheppard (Missy), Shanna Fox, Raylene Miller, Lavon Miller; twenty (20) great-grandchildren Pierce (Destiny), Dakota, Shaylyn, Rainee, Ayla, David, Mataya, Dione, Stephan, Mateyo, Dominic, Madolynn, Bonnie, Thorton, Summer, Jackson, Duwayne and twelve (12) great-great-grandchildren Ryleigh, Kylee, Aaliyah, Jocelyn, Jayden, Shylin, Coulee, Anevai, Raquel, Cannon, Dameric, Draven.
Wanda was preceded in death by her grandparents Ruby White Bear, George Parshall, Hannah Levings-Fox, Martin Fox, parents Guy & Grace Fox, brothers Esley Thorton, Maynard Fox, Rex Fox, Tex Fox, Dean P. Fox, Thorton Fox, Theresa Ann Fox, Angus Fox, sons Angus Jerome Sheppard, Shane Guy Sheppard, daughter Cheryle J. Fox.
Full of life & laughter, true to her values, instilled in family and faith, adventurous, guided by grace & grit, generous, and loving, she will be deeply missed.