Thomas "Lala Tom" Red Bird, Sr. is a fluent Lakota language speaker. He is Ȟoȟwóžu Lakȟóta from Wakpá Wašté (Cheyenne River). He currently resides in Bismarck, ND with his family. In July of 2022 he was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, a cancer of the blood.
Lala Tom is a Lakota language immersion teacher at the Lakȟól'iyapi Wahóȟpi (Lakota Language Nest) at Sitting Bull College on Fort Yates, ND. He has worked one-on-one daily with Standing Rock's youngest citizens and has helped to bring the Lakota language back into the homes of countless families. For over a decade, since 2012, he has been making the 130+ mile round-trip commute from Bismarck to Fort Yates daily in order to share his language with his students.
Since his Multiple Myeloma (blood cancer) diagnosis, Lala Tom has been undergoing vital chemotherapy every Friday to battle the disease. During this essential time away from work, his job is protected via the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), but he is taking unpaid leave, which has placed a financial burden on his family. Now, his doctors have informed him that he requires a bone marrow transplant. Within weeks, he will be sent to either the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN or the Sanford Roger Maris Cancer Center in Fargo, ND to undergo the treatment. During that time, he will once again be away from work on unpaid leave.
Lala Tom and his family need financial support to make it through this difficult time. Battling cancer is difficult enough without having to worry about money. We are asking for financial donations that will help Lala Tom and his family. Donations will:
- Supplement his lost income due to the unpaid leave taken to cover his time while undergoing chemotherapy and other life-saving procedures, and
- Provide financial support to his family to accompany him to either Fargo, ND or Rochester, MN for his bone marrow transplant procedure.
It's time for the communities of Standing Rock, Cheyenne River, and all those across Lakota/Dakota Country who have benefitted from his knowledge to support Lala Tom and his family.
Some shared thoughts on comments in praise of Lala Tom:
- "There is no other individual who is deserving of this support for his dedication to the Lakota language and the children and families of Standing Rock."
- "Lala Tom … You have left a lasting legacy on so many of us and our children. We are so grateful for the love of language that you have gifted."