Sarrasani was a German circus troupe that reached world fame before World War II. It was widely known for the native American Lakota whom they employed. One of these Indians was William Big Charger and this is his story.

In the fall of 1932 the circus performed in Emden, East Frisia. Unfortunately, it was was dogged by bad luck from the day that it arrived in the city. Among the unfortunate events, a number of the Native Americans began to suffer from diseases and injuries, including William Big Charger. He suffered from a pneumonia and his condition worsened to a point that he was admitted to hospital on May 25th 1932.

Meanwhile, the circus went on to Groningen, the next stop on it’s tour. There Hans Stosch-Sarrasani, the director of the Sarrasani circus received the unexpected news of the death of William Big Charger. He immediately chartered two buses and drove with one hundred of his employees, including Charger’s widowed wife, Lena, 20 other Native Americans and the jazzy Argentinian circus orchestra, to Emden in order to attend the funeral of William Big Charger.

Thus began one of the strangest episodes in the history of the city. The funeral oration was led by the Catholic priest of Emden, but the final words were those of an Indian chief, who spoke of his notion of God before closing the coffin. After the service, the funeral procession to the cemetery was headed by the Argentinian circus orchestra and the Catholic priest, followed by Indians in colourful traditional costumes, the circus director and some of the performers.

Finally, William Big Charger found his final resting place in the churchyard of the Große Kirche in Emden. After a few words from the priest and a representative of the circus administration, a Copy Editor thanked the people of Emden for their great sympathy. Lastly the tribal elder said a prayer in his mother tongue. Charger is still buried in Emden. Circuses passing through East Frisia still do a stopover in Emden to honour and upkeep his grave, but legend has it that William Big Carger has not found his rest. Many are those who have witnessed a Native American Indian in traditional costume, riding through the eerie, sea-borne fogs of Emden on a white horse.

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