Niko Barnett Johnson, “Wambli Ho Tanka,” was born Nov. 2, 1997, in Gillette, Wyo., to Debbie L. Bates and David W. Johnson.
Niko attended grade school in Deadwood, S.D., Sturgis, S.D., and Gillette, Wyo., and attended high school in Custer, S.D. During Niko’s school years he joined the football team and received many awards for his athletic capabilities.
After high school, Niko attended the Box Elder Job Corps and received training in drywall installation and finishing and upon completion he was union certified. During his time at Job Corps he received the Golden Perfect Student Award, meaning he was at the top of his class. He was a cook at the Captain’s Table and worked as a construction specialist at William’s Properties of Spearfish, S.D.
Niko’s passion was the outdoors. He loved snowboarding and skateboarding. He also enjoyed making music, rapping, fishing, hiking, rock climbing and writing poetry. When Niko was in school he received the Young Authors Award. His family traveled to Pierre, S.D., where the award was presented to Niko.
Niko died Nov. 12, 2017, at his home in Custer. He was 20.
He was preceded in death by his grandfather, John Scott Bates, Sr. and great-grandparents, Nila and Joe Svara.
Niko is survived by his mother, Debbie Bates of Custer,; father, David W. Johnson of Bismarck, N.D.; sisters, Alisha Garneaux and LaRae Bargmann, both of Custer, and Erica Garneaux of Whitewood, S.D.; nephew, Jarred McNulty of Whitewood; grandparents, Ethel Bates of Custer and Russell and Leah Johnson of Gillette; fiancé, Ann Roxas of the Philippines; and numerous aunts, uncles and cousins.
Memorial services were Nov. 17 in the Pine Room of the Custer County Courthouse Annex with president Keith Glover and pastor Van Arp officiating. Burial services will be held at a later date.