Maria Darlene "Running Moccasins" Pearson, twice nominee for the Noble Peace Prize and Indian Rights Activist, passed away at 8:20 p.m. on Saturday, May 24 at Mary Greeley Hospital in Ames, Iowa.
Since 1971, Mrs. Pearson worked tirelessly on behalf of Native American peoples in Iowa and nationwide, especially with regard to the respectful treatment of Native American human remains and their repatriation. Mrs. Pearson was instrumental in the passage of legislation in Iowa, the first of its kind nationally, in which ancient Indian cemeteries and burial mounds were afforded the same protection as Euro-American cemeteries. This legislation further authorized the professional recovery, interpretation and reburial of Native American human remains by the State of Iowa on behalf of Native peoples. Her work in Iowa and continued advocacy on behalf of Native American rights was instrumental in the passage of important federal legislation with the most recent being the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). This act provides comprehensive protection for Native American burials and associated artifacts on federal properties and in public and private museums and collections.
Mrs. Pearson's advocacy extended to many issues of paramount importance to Native peoples including alcoholism and substance abuse, juvenile justice, education and environmental conservation.
A Yankton Sioux, Mrs. Pearson was born in Springfield, South Dakota on July12, 1932. She was a recognized tribal elder, a position of high regard and equally high responsibility among her people.
Mrs. Pearson served as special advisor on Native American issues to Governors Robert D. Ray and Terry Branstad. She established and served on the Iowa State Indian Advisory Council to the Iowa Legislature, advised Iowa history teachers on correct Native American events and culture and led the movement to replace erroneous history texts. She served on the Juvenile Justice Advisory Council from 1980 to 1986; was a member of the National Congress of American Indians; and served as a consultant to the Yankton Sioux tribal council, Trees Forever Foundation, the Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge and the Dallas County Conservation Commission. She also served as a board member of the Iowa Peace Institute and as president of the Governors' Interstate Indian Council for the state of Iowa.
Mrs. Pearson traveled to the Middle East to observe activities in the Gaza Strip and reported her findings to special interest groups. She was active with the Iowa Arts Council, traveled as a lecturer and worked as a commentator at KUNI Radio. Aside from being nominated for the Noble Peace Prize twice, she received numerous awards throughout her life including the Iowa Woman of Achievement.
Her husband, John Pearson; her son, Jim Stone; and her mother, Winifred Grant, preceded Mrs. Pearson in death. Four sons, Dr. Robert Thompson of Marshalltown, Eldon Earl Thompson of Glidden, Ronald Thompson of Huxley, Richard Thompson of Huxley; one daughter, Darlene Thompson of Ames; 11 brothers and sisters, 21 grandchildren, and 15 great grandchildren survive her.
A memorial will be planned and announced at a later date. No flowers are requested. Sympathy cards may be sent in care of Dr. Robert Thompson, 1502 S. 6th St., Marshalltown, IA 50158.
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