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Bob Barker

Bob Barker, who died today at the age of 99, was a legendary broadcaster, beloved by millions as the hose of gameshows The Price is Right and Truth or Consequences. What many people may not realize is that Bob Barker was a proud member of the Sioux tribe.

Born on December 12, 1923, in Darrington, Washington, Bob Barker was one-eighth Sioux and grew up on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. During high school in Missouri, he met his future wife, Dorothy Jo Gideon, at an Ella Fitzgerald concert. After receiving a basketball scholarship, he attended Drury College in Springfield, Missouri. As World War II loomed, Barker enlisted but was instructed by the Navy to stay at college for two years. He began his military training in 1943, progressing to preflight and basic training, then trained as a fighter pilot. Though his missions during the war were training-centric, stationed in Florida, he played a key role in training US Navy crews. In 1945, Barker married Dorothy Jo. Although he started training on the F4U Corsair in Michigan, the war ended before his Pacific Theater deployment. Post-war, he completed his degree at Drury, graduating summa cum laude in economics.

Bob's Sioux ancestry comes from the marriage of his grandfather, Joseph Hubbard Barker, and A Sioux woman named Francis Tackett. Joseph was one of the first white men to cross the Badlands to the Yellowstone River, arriving with Captain Alfred B. Brackett's Battalion of General Alfred Sully's Army in pursuit of Lakota including bands of Hunkpapa, Sans Arcs, Miniconjous, and Blackfeet, along with Dakota of the Wahpekute band. When we look back at the transformative period of the American West, few men witnessed its early development or endured as many challenges as Joseph H. Barker. Born on September 10, 1832, in Russia, Herkimer County, New York state, Joseph's journey was marked with trials from an early age. He lost his father, Oliver Barker, to a lightning strike when he was only four. His mother, Ruth, later remarried, and in 1844, the family sought new beginnings in Wisconsin. The move was daunting, as they journeyed by wagon through dense forests, eventually settling 35 miles from Milwaukee. This relocation marked the start of Joseph’s independent life. At fifteen, he left home for Milwaukee, embarking on a job on a lake vessel with a mere two dollars and fifty cents gifted by his mother.

In the spring of 1854, Barker moved further west to Mankato, Minnesota. His ventures ranged from hotel clerk to billiard hall owner. However, his life took a dramatic turn in 1861 when he answered the call to arms. Enlisting at Fort Snelling, Minnesota, Barker served in the Civil War in Brackett's Minnesota Battalion of Cavalry. His military experiences spanned numerous battles, and he took part in the fighting at both the Battle of Killdeer Mountain and the Battle of the Badlands. By June 1866, Barker returned from duty, receiving an honorable discharge.

Post-military life saw Barker exploring various occupations in the West. By 1868, he had delved into clerical work with military traders and later with Indian traders, including interactions with the Rosebud Indians. In 1871, Joseph married Fannie Tackett, a woman of French and Sioux descent. After a stint as a hotel owner and farmer in Springfield, South Dakota, he acquired a trading franchise with the Santee Agency, operating a store for over a decade. Barker, using his wife's affiliation with the Sioux tribe, secured land, establishing a thriving farm and a residence.

Beyond his professional journey, Barker's personal life was equally rich. He and Fannie had four children, each carving their own unique paths. His son Byron John Barker, born in 1887, was the father of Bob Barker. Byron was a high-voltage lineman by profession but was known throughout South Dakota as an expert horseman, having won first prize in several roping competitions in the state.

Bob Barker was raised in Mission, South Dakota, on the Rosebud Reservation, where his mother was a teacher and later superintendent of schools for Todd County, South Dakota. Barker was incredibly proud of his Sioux heritage, and once told an interviewer that, "I've always bragged about being part Indian because they are a people to be proud of. And the Sioux were the greatest warriors of them all."

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