The child who was known as Sophie High Dog or Wacheka Albanya was Sioux born in South Dakota around 1890. Little information is known about her early childhood or family, but she was brought to Albany at the age of five as an orphan. It was later claimed that she had been abandoned by her parents and that an uncle took no interest in raising her.
Wacheka was initially sent to the Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. The Carlisle school’s purpose was to assimilate Native American children in white society and its history is one of abuse and tragedy. Wacheka, however, came to the attention of the Albany Indian Association and was termed “too delicate” for a boarding school where hundreds of children died of disease and harsh treatment. The Association, which was founded in 1883 to aid in solving the so-called “Indian problem” through education, had the child brought to Albany and placed her in St. Christina’s Home. St. Christina’s, which operated under the auspices of the Episcopal Diocese of Albany, was located in Saratoga Springs and served as a summer home for the Child’s Hospital.
Described as a “bright and earnest” child, she soon became a favorite of caretakers who referred to her in the sentimental language of the era, as a “sweet flower out of rough forest soil.” The letters she wrote to her guardians in Albany were regularly featured in the local newspapers and, every Christmas, collections were solicited to fill a box of gifts for “the little Indian orphan.” It was reported that she hoped to become a teacher and, eventually, returned to the South Dakota as an educator.
Meanwhile, the delicate health that had first won the sympathy of her guardians worsened. Her body was weakened by measles and tuberculosis and she passed away on February 13, 1900. Four days later, William C. Doane, the popular Episcopal Bishop of Albany, presided over her funeral at the Cathedral of All Saints. Her little coffin was placed in the receiving vault of the Rural Cemetery until burial arrangements could be made that summer. She was buried in a little plot paid for by the Association and a marble headstone was paid for by donations, many which came from children.
A bell, cast by the famed Meneely foundry, was sent to the All Saints Episcopal Church on the Rosebud Reservation as a memorial to the little girl.
Her headstone, which has toppled in recent years, is located in Lot 156, Section 26.
By Paula Lemire, Historian at the Albany Rural Cemetery from the Cemetery’s FB page: https://www.facebook.com/albanyruralcemetery