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River rescuer honored as 'a true warrior'

Josie Green, a freshman at Minnesota State University Moorhead, is seen Thursday near where she rescued Lucas Littleghost from the Red River last month. Littleghost fell from the rail bridge in the background and was swept downstream from there before Green plunged in to save him. He never regained consciousness and died Nov. 24 at MeritCare Hospital in Fargo. (Michael Vosburg/The Forum)

MOOHREAD -- Josie Green gave Lucas Littleghost a second chance. Now Littleghost's family would like to thank her for that.

Green is the college student who rescued Littleghost Nov. 20 after he fell 20 feet into the Red River from a railroad bridge between Fargo and Moorhead. Littleghost never regained consciousness and died Nov. 24 at MeritCare Hospital in Fargo.

Now the deceased man's family has invited Green to attend his funeral Mass on Saturday in St. Michael, N.D.

Afterward, they will honor Green with a drum-group performance and by presenting her with a star quilt, said Wanda Gonzales, Littleghost's aunt.

"It was such a brave thing to do," Gonzales told The Forum on Thursday. "I don't know how many of us could say we'd jump in after someone we didn't know when it's freezing cold. In Indian life, she's a true warrior."

The 18-year-old Minnesota State University Moorhead student has received much media attention for her efforts, which included jumping into the cold river to save the 29-year-old West Fargo man, holding his head above water as she moved him toward shore and calling 911.

Law enforcement officials have called her "courageous" and "heroic." Green was invited to speak to Native American students at the Circle of Nations Indian School in Wahpeton, N.D. Producers from the national news program "Inside Edition" contacted her. And the young woman appeared as a special guest in a holiday parade in downtown Fargo on Nov. 24.

Green, a member of the Oglala Lakota tribe who grew up on Wilmot, S.D., said she isn't always comfortable being in the limelight, although she's glad to be a positive role model for the Native American community. She also was saddened by news of Littleghost's death. Green said the incident reinforced for her the dangers of alcohol, which police have said was a factor in the Nov. 20 accident.

Littleghost's family, meanwhile, has struggled with his loss. After much soul searching, his family opted to remove him from life support, Gonzales said. "My brother (Lucas' dad) already knew he was gone," she said. "I told him I thought he had already died in the river that day. There were no signs of life."

Described by family members as a bright, funny, artistic young man, Littleghost was born in Devils Lake, N.D. He liked to engage in "good conversation," write poetry, listen to music, hunt and spend time with his 7-year-old son, Logan James, according to his obituary.

His funeral Saturday will include a large meal and a "give-away," a Native American tradition in which items such as blankets and pillows are given away to mourners.

The Littleghost family has agreed to donate some of the young man's organs.

"Our family is so devastated over this," Gonzales said. "It was heartbreaking. But when God calls somebody, that's it. Nothing in the world can stop it."