John Fire Lame Deer was a Mineconju-Lakota Sioux born on the Rosebud Indian Reservation. His father was Silas Fire Let-Them-Have-Enough. His mother was Sally Red Blanket. He lived with his grandparents until he was 6 or 7, after which he was placed in a day school near the family until age fourteen. He was then sent to a boarding school, one of many run by the U. S. Bureau of Indian Affairs for Indian youth. These schools were designed to assimilate Native Americans into the dominant culture after their forced settlement on reservations.