Photo by O. A. (Ole Anders) Vik, ca 1927, Denver Public Library Special Collections, Western History Collection, X-31841
Native American (Lakota), Education, Children’s Folklore
Rosebud Yellow Robe Frantz (Lacotawin)
Rosebud Yellow Robe was a Native American educator and culture broker who taught schoolchildren about the realities of Plains Indian life through traditional stories, crafts, games, and songs in order to combat prejudice, negative stereotypes, and ignorance.
Rosebud Yellow Robe was born the eldest of three daughters in Rapid City, South Dakota, to Lillian Belle Springer and Chauncey Yellow Robe, in 1907. Her father taught his daughters as many Lakota traditions as he could, and on occasions when elders visited her school, her father would make sure Rosebud listened to the stories they told in Lakota even though she could not understand a word. Later he would retell the stories to her in English.
From 1925 to 1927, Rosebud was one of the first American Indian students to attend the University of South Dakota. She impressed her classmates and others with her performances of traditional Indian dances for the annual student stage production. Rosebud also attracted attention and admiration for her participation in the annual “Strollers” productions. These student presentations included many traditional Native American dances, such as the rabbit dance, the hoop dance, and the war dance–all performed by Rosebud in her full regalia. In 1927, she helped conduct a ceremony for President Calvin Coolidge, who was visiting South Dakota with his wife. The ceremony, which inducted him into the Sioux tribe, garnered her national attention for placing a headdress on the president. This attention also brought her an invitation to star in a Cecil B. DeMille film production, but she declined.
She left University of South Dakota in 1927 to care for her terminally ill mother and help support her sisters. After her mother’s death, she moved to New York City to pursue a theatrical career. There, she married a theatrical manager Arthur Seymour and had a daughter, Rosebud Tachcawin. In the 1930s, she also worked with Orson Welles on several dramatic shows. After Seymour died, she married photographer and publicist Alfred Frantz.
Ultimately, like her father, Rosebud became an educator who used performance and storytelling to educate about the stories and cultures of Native peoples. From 1930 to 1950, Rosebud was the director of the Indian Village at Jones Beach State Park on Long Island where she educated countless school children and other visitors with stories from her culture. After leaving her post at Jones Beach in 1950, she continued to lecture and write on Native American cultures, especially for children. She also performed at the American Museum of Natural History and the Donnell Library of New York. In 1989, Rosebud received an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from the University of South Dakota.
Among her publications of interest to folklorists are:
The Album of the American Indian (1969)
Tonewaya and the Eagles and other Lakota tales (1979)