Newport Beach : Sioux Indian Children See Ocean for First Time

Two station wagons and two vans loaded with 25 Indian children from South Dakota arrived on Newport’s Balboa Pier Thursday, where the children caught their first glimpse of the ocean.

“It is like listening to music,” said Belva Montileaux, 9, referring to the surf’s roar. After some tentative steps toward the pounding waves, she ran back up the beach where it was more “peaceful.” “I thought the water was little, like a pond,” she said.

The children, members of the Ogalala Sioux band, traveled 1,500 miles from a reservation in Pine Ridge, S.D., to see the ocean, Disneyland and the San Diego Zoo.

“For them, this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance,” said Anne Stromberg, an Orange County resident who campaigns for better living conditions for the Indians in South Dakota. Stromberg said Shannon County, where the Indians live, is considered one of the nation’s poorest.


Elvina Brewer, a teacher at the children’s school and one of the chaperones for the group, said the kids left homes without electricity or plumbing and an 80% unemployment rate behind for a while. “They started to talk about their hardships last night, but I said, ‘Forget it, let’s talk about Disneyland.’ ”

The group will begin a three-to-four-day drive back to South Dakota tonight, but not without regrets.

“I don’t want to leave,” said Billie Jo Buckman, 10, who appeared to be adjusting painlessly to a California life style. “I like the water,” Montileaux chimed in. “It tastes like sugar mixed with salt.”