Lillian Euella Manthei

Lillian Euella Manthei was born the oldest of five children on May 12, 1956 to Dottie and Paul Manthei in Glad Valley, near Isabel, SD, in an area known as Thunder Butte. Lil grew up as a rural cowgirl, and ranch life formed a huge part of her identity, as did riding and roping. Another important part of her identity was that of a teacher. Lil served as an educator and administrator in schools on the Cheyenne River, Crow Creek, and Pine Ridge Indian Reservations for over 25 years, including at Crow Creek, Little Wound, and Takini, among other schools. She could talk about the importance of students’ reading levels as well as she could talk about butchering steers or exercising your roping horse.
  Spending so much of her life and career on the reservation, Lakota culture influenced many of Lil’s personal attitudes and beliefs, especially the Lakota tradition of a “hunka” ceremony; adopting others into your tiyospaye as extended and equal family members. She felt most at home on the reservations where she lived and was a frequent sight at local volleyball and basketball games and pow-wows. She welcomed many young people into her home over the years and treated them as well as her own son. Some became lifelong members of her family, and their children would also become her grandchildren. “Unci” or “Gramma” was also a beloved part of her identity.
Although Lil was married and a mom by age 16, through her own determination and drive, she later returned to school and went on to earn her master’s degree in Education Curriculum from the University of South Dakota. Her journey towards becoming a teacher began when she’d heard that a new school was going to be built called “Takini”. She decided that she would teach at that school as soon as it opened and figured by the time she graduated from Black Hills State University with a teaching degree, the school would be built. She was correct, and she kept that first group of students she taught very close to her heart and the many students who came after that as well.
A high school English teacher for much of her career, Lil loved books and writing. She would never throw out a book, as her son Jake can attest, as he helped her pack up and move her enormous library back and forth across the state. She loved the writing of Louise Erdrich, M. Scott Momaday, Joseph M. Marshall III, and one of her first fa- vorites, Zane Gray. She was highly influenced by teaching colleagues she met at the Dakota Writing Project, and she spent decades bringing students from her classroom to hundreds of writing retreats to help spread the joy of writing.
Lil Manthei, 64, of Spearfish, died Monday, March 29, 2021 in Sturgis.
She is preceded in death by her and Calvin Mittleider’s second son, Rex Cody, who died as an infant; her parents, Paul and Dottie; her best friend in the world, Dixie Linn Norberg; and dozens of her students, all of whom she deeply cared for.
She is remembered by her sons, Jake Mittleider and Al Rutherford; daughters, Majestic Roling, Miranda Silk Redday, and Crystal Lund; her grandchildren, Michael Roling, Ashlee Roling, Tiffany Wisser, Shelby Wisser, Tabitha Wisser, Kallie Mittleider, Jaxon Mittleider, Tyson Redday, Levi Redday, Austin Silk, Amelia Rose Silk, Mazie Grace Redday, Juney Joy Redday, and Roger Redday III; her brothers, Chet and Sean, and sisters, Mae and Maggie, and their families; all her friends and faculty members from over 25 years in education; and thousands of students and their families who were affected by her sense of duty, forgiveness, and enthusiasm for the written word, and a man in a Stetson.
A celebration of life will be held in honor of Lil in the near future. Details to be determined by family.

The Pioneer Review

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