Koshares celebrate 100th birthday of founder James Francis 'Buck' Burhsears
By Karen "Susie" Sarlo Koshare Operations Director
La Junta Tribune-Democrat
Tue Jul 28, 2009, 08:15 PM MDT
La Junta, Colo. -
This July, James Francis “Buck” Burshears, the founder of the Koshare Indian Dancers, would have been 100 years old.
His spirit and passion for the Native American experience was uncompromising. He, along with several of his early Scouts, formed a new organization the likes of which had never been seen. The history of the last 76 years ebbed and flowed with triumphs and hard times, yet this one man rose to any challenge and lived his life so that others might better theirs.
“It is important that we honor him this year,” said current Program Director, Jeremy Manyik, “so that our dancers today know that everything we have here today was established years ago.” He also pointed out that Burshears' legacy still draws tourists and Scouts to Southeastern Colorado and still brings commerce to the area.
Bob Inman, one of the founding boys from 1933, echoed that thought, “Buck dedicated his life to his "boys," his mother and the city of La Junta. He was a selfless man.”
Burshears was the Koshare and Scout leader from 1933 until his death in 1987. During his life he was awarded the highest scouting awards: Silver Beaver, Silver Antelope and Silver Buffalo. He was also presented the Volunteer Action Award in 1984 by President Ronald Reagan in a special ceremony in Washington, DC.
Of course, along the way, there were plenty of stories about Burshears' wit and humor — much of which was for the benefit of keeping the boys in line.
Brock Lowman (1972) had many remembrances of Burshears. He said that he was home from college one Christmas and was helping with the Winter Shows. In a conversation with Burshears he found out that Brock was working on a new set of beaded cuffs. "You kids drive me crazy!" he exclaimed. "When you're in the club and doing shows I have to beg you to get your outfits done. Then you go off to college and build new stuff!"
Roscoe Champion, Sioux Chief, Class of 1948, said he first met Burshears during the summer of 1945. He was 36 years old, “strong and filled with great vision and zeal, although they were quietly controlled. He was more than twice our age and I recall some of us wondering, 'What will happen to the Koshares if something happens to Buck?' Well, nothing did happen. He had another 40 plus years to establish his magnificent legacy. The foundation he laid was as strong as his will, and he left inspiration and challenge for thousands in the following generations. May the Koshare Spirit, which will forever be Buck's Spirit, live far beyond those of us who joyously followed him at 36.”
To commemorate Burshears' birthday, the Koshares wil have two special events on Thursday, July 30: (1) a graveside service at the La Junta cemetery (9 a.m.) and (2) a Koshare Indian Dancer show (7:30 p.m.). With the wonders of technology, Buck Burshears will be narrating the show. This is the last show of the seas