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Swift Bear resident killed by pack of dogs

rapidcityjournal.com, 14.03.2015

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      Swift Bear resident killed by pack of dogs
     A woman died after she was attacked by wild dogs early Saturday morning on the Rosebud Indian Reservation, according to the Mellette County Sheriff's Office.
      Julia Charging Whirlwind, 49, of the Lower Swift Bear community, which is just west of White River, was pronounced dead Saturday at the Rosebud Hospital.
      The reporting 911 call came in at 6:07 a.m., said Mellette County Sheriff Mike Blom.
      An ambulance was dispatched and arrived at 6:17 a.m. Blom arrived two minutes later. When he arrived, he saw two citizens were trying to fend off two remaining dogs as they tried to approach Charging Whirlwind. She had already suffered life-threatening injuries, Blom said.
      The sheriff said he shot one of the dogs as soon as he arrived, causing the other dog to flee the scene. The victim was then loaded into the ambulance. She was breathing and had a pulse when she was taken into the ambulance. She arrived at the Rosebud Hospital at 6:55 a.m. Blom said he did not know what time she was pronounced dead.
      It appeared she had been attacked by numerous dogs earlier that morning, he said. The two dogs he saw were returning to the victim.
      The time when the woman was initially attacked is still being determined, Blom said. The follow-up investigation is being handled by the Rosebud Police Department since the attack happened on tribal land.
      Blom said he responded to the call because the police department is 30 miles away and he lives less than a mile from where the attack took place.
      A dispatcher from the Rosebud Police Department said a statement will be issued after more information is known.
      One of the citizens assisting Charging Whirlwind was bitten when he tried to cover up the victim,, but the injury did not appear to be serious.
      This is the second time in less than six months that a person on tribal land was killed by dogs. An 8-year-old girl died after being attacked by dogs on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in November.
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      Rosebud Tribe officials have killed more than 20 dogs on reservation land since Saturday, when a 49-year-old tribe member was killed by a pack of wild dogs near White River. The death of Julia Charging Whirlwind at the Lower Swift Bear Community has shocked the community and spurred officials to emergency action.
      "It was the first time I've cried really hard in years, was Saturday, Alvin Bettelyoun, a tribal councilman representing the Swift Bear area, said. I couldn't sleep the past couple of days. I still can't fathom what actually happened."
      Bettelyoun still tears up when he talks about Charging Whirlwind and her death from a dog attack on Saturday. He's also sad to be part of a response that included killing dogs, but believes it was a necessary first step to preventing another tragedy.
      Some dogs were strays. Others had owners but wandered and caused problems. Bettelyoun said a number of residents gave up their dogs voluntarily, saying they just couldnt properly care for them.
      "Willingly give their dogs up because they can't take care of them," he said. "That's emotional, for every dog owner, and I can see their point fully in regards to having to destroy what they can't take care of."
      The Rosebud Tribal Council held an emotional meeting Monday, as members worked to strengthen animal-control ordinance across the reservation as Charging Whirlwind's family made plans for services. The emergency response will be followed by a more structured effort at dog adoption, spaying and owner education says tribal Councilwoman Kathleen Wooden Knife.
      "The short-term plan is next to put together a kennel, a holding place for them, but the long-range plan is we don't intend to go on a killing spree," Wooden Knife said.
      Tribal rangers led the initial dog-removal at the Lower Swift Bear Community west of White River, where Charging Whirlwind was attacked. Neighbors just up the road from her house said one of their dogs was seriously wounded by the same dog pack. Many residents helped rangers identify problem dogs.
      "They know which ones are the strays, the problem dogs, and they helped us identify those dogs, and they're the ones we targeted," senior ranger Ben Bear Shield said.
      Bear Shield said officers went door to door in the communities talking to residents. Bettelyoun said public service announcements were aimed at informing those living on the reservation of the crackdown on potentially dangerous dogs.
      While the dog removal and control effort has initially focused on the Swift Bear and Horse Creek, Bettelyoun said the focus will go reservation wide. All communities report incidents with problem dogs and bites, he said.
      Dog attacks on the reservation aren't new. Both Bettelyoun and Bear Shield say they have been bitten. Bettelyoun said he got a report Sunday about a young man who was attacked by three dogs while he was walking along a reservation highway. He was struggling to defend himself when help came.
      He was yelling and trying to get the dogs off him, and they wouldnt stop, Bettelyoun said. And thank God a car came by to assist this gentleman and help him to get those dogs to back off.
      As that work continues, the community grieves the death of a well-known and respected member of the tribe. At nearby White River School, head basketball coach Eldon Marshall took the loss personally. Charging Whirlwind was the mother of three of his former players.
      "She's just a great all around person, you know, for anybody to pass away in that manner, you just really feel bad," Marshall said. "And my heart really goes out to her boys and of course to the rest of her family."
      Charging Whirlwind's death follows a dog attack on the Pine Ridge Reservation in November that killed an 8-year-old girl.



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