Bert Rooks was an enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. He was raised in the Eagle Nest District of the Pine Ridge Reservation. At an early age he was taken to live with his uncle, Charles Kills Ree, who was a Yuwipi medicine man in Manderson, South Dakota, to be trained to perform Lakota ceremony. During the time he spent living with his uncle and later after he was married and had established his own family, he assisted his Uncle Charlie in performing his ceremonies. After his uncle's death, he was called to serve the people. His marriage to a non-Indian woman in 1989 opened the way for him to share authentic Lakota ceremony with non-Indian people of all races.
Bert and his wife began by offering the Sweat Lodge ceremony to women in Taos, New Mexico. Eventually, they expanded the ceremonies that they offered, to include the Vision Quest and Sun Dance, and were offering these ceremonies to people of all races in five different states.
During the course of time, Bert and his wife were able to teach their sons and other members of their extended family to perform the lnipi (or Sweat Lodge ceremony). Several of these trained people are currently maintaining lodges on their private property, so that the people in their communities can get help through this ancient Lakota ceremony.
In 2001, all these ceremonial leaders, an enthusiastic Board of Directors, and others interested in promoting these sacred ceremonies joined together to establish the Hochoka Healing Center, Inc. Their common vision was to expand services currently being offered and to develop projects which they felt would fulfill their mission of charity and preserving the Lakota Way of Life.
In 2012 our beloved teacher and founder of Hochoka Healing Center went home (Bert Earnest Rooks). As it would be when someone with his type of connection with the Creator leaves, it truly helps you see who he really was. He had many dreams and hopes for his people and he balanced a delicate life of a very traditional Lakota man, and sharing one of the few untouched ways of life with people of all races and backgrounds. We as a group see the 20+ years he devoted to his visions, and we passionately, and with great respect for his culture, do our best to keep his teachings and compassion moving forward.
While people the world over are concerned with the rapid extinction of wild animals due to the encroachment of civilization, few seem to notice the decline of entire indigenous cultures. This is the case with the Native American Indians commonly known as the Oglala Lakota (Sioux).
In an attempt to fit into the dominant culture, many of the youth of the recent generations have focused on learning English and emulating current American culture. They have been drawn away from their own language and sacred ways. As a result, there has been a constant decline in the number of Lakota people who can pray in their own language and in the old Way. And, much traditional heritage has been lost with the passing of each elder who has been unable to impart his wisdom because there were no Lakota youth wanting to make the sacrifices necessary to learn it.
What people world-wide are belatedly noticing is the incredible Wisdom that the Lakota people have received from the Creator. And, what a contribution their Way of Life is for all human beings. In fact, there are prophecies that indicate all races will turn to the Red Man for guidance out of the troubled times that are coming.
Since 1989, Bert Rooks and his extended family have offered people of all races the opportunity to participate in authentic Lakota ritual, and have hoped through this sharing to promote an understanding of the Sacred Pipe's relevancy for all people. However, while they were doing this, they still observed a steady decline in Lakota spirituality on the reservations. Their concern about this steady loss of Lakota heritage spurred them to want to do more.
In order to preserve and share the powerful ceremonies and life-style and language of the Lakota People of South Dakota, they established the Hochoka Healing Center, a nonprofit organization, to oversee and fund several projects to preserve what is still available of the Lakota culture.