Rev. Marlene Whiterabbit Helgemo remembered as beloved chief, mentor

The Rev. Marlene Whiterabbit Helgemo, a beloved religion chief who was the primary Native American lady ordained within the Lutheran Church and led All Nations Church in south Minneapolis for a number of many years, died Friday, July 22, at age 75.

Household, shut associates, congregants and different neighborhood members gathered Tuesday at Central Lutheran Church in Minneapolis to mourn her passing and have a good time her life by sharing their reminiscences of her with each other.

Helgemo, a tribal citizen of the Ho-Chunk Nation who grew up in Wisconsin, was a Hunka relative — a standard Lakota adoptive relative — to Alfred Strolling Bull’s prolonged household. He says Helgemo was one of many first individuals who welcomed him to Minneapolis. It was Helgemo whose ministry helped his mom when she grew terminally ailing.

“Pastor Marlene got here and prayed together with her and left her some sage from Rosebud for her journey,” Strolling Bull recalled. “She invited me and my niece after my mom’s passing that first Christmas with out my mother. That is how we acquired by the primary exhausting holidays.”

The Rev. Marlene Whiterabbit Helgemo

The Rev. Marlene Whiterabbit Helgemo was the primary Native American lady ordained within the Lutheran Church and led All Nations Church in south Minneapolis for a number of many years.

Courtesy of Jolene Jones

Strolling Bull mirrored on what Helgemo’s passing means for her church and for members of the Native American neighborhood who, he mentioned, relied on her management.

“All Nations Church is with no pastor and our leaders are with no compass. However I feel that speaks to her fixed presence in our lives.” mentioned Strolling Bull. “I feel that the most important reward that she left us, is we’re a complete community.”

Robert Lilligren, govt director of the Native American Neighborhood Growth Institute, mentioned he met Helgemo throughout his time on the Minneapolis Metropolis Council.

“Marlene had understanding about tips on how to work the levers of energy inside authorities in any respect ranges,” mentioned Lilligren. “We have been superb allies throughout my metropolis council profession.”

Lilligren mentioned Helgemo additionally performed a key function in directing management inside Minneapolis’ American Indian neighborhood.

“I used to be very proud to contemplate myself one among ‘Marlene’s minions,’” mentioned Lilligren. “I bear in mind after I first felt like I turned a minion when Marlene invited me to emcee the Minnesota American Indian Chamber of Commerce annual gala out at Mystic Lake. It was a really massive and essential occasion. Marlene managed just about each element of my participation — together with my script, my schedule and rehearsal time, even my wardrobe!”

Lilligren mentioned Helgemo’s legacy is discovered within the many individuals she helped mentor.

“I consider that Marlene understood very nicely that to enhance issues for Native folks, she may amplify her affect by advancing others into management positions, then telling them precisely what she needed them to do!” he mentioned.

As a pal, Lilligren mentioned he’ll all the time bear in mind Helgemo for her composure within the face of monumental challenges, challenges she met carrying her signature shade of purple.

“Pivotal was the journey to Standing Rock that Marlene invited me to take together with her. It had a profound impact on my perspective of advancing Native progress within the twenty first century,” remembered Lilligren. “Additionally, I used to be so impressed with how, even tenting at Standing Rock, Marlene confirmed up day by day together with her impeccable purple eyeshadow in place!”

Gov. Tim Walz declared this previous Tuesday, the day of her funeral, as Reverend Marlene Whiterabbit Helgemo Day in Minnesota.

“Helgemo’s fierce and passionate advocacy for Indigenous rights impressed hope and altered lives,” Walz tweeted.

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