A few days ago I sent my Lakota friend in Rapid City an e-mail letting her know the details of our visit in early October. I asked if the family wanted to attend the He Sapa Wacipi (powwow) which is going to be held in Rapid while we’re there. It wasn’t originally planned but we thought they might like to go. (Besides, when in Rome, a Roman tour guide will be more helpful than a foreigner.)
A couple of days ago, I got a response. It was a one-liner that read, “I got your message. I’ll get back to you tomorrow.” Fortunately, I have had experience with “Indian time” when I visited Pine Ridge Rez before, so I didn’t sit here at the computer waiting all the next day for that response.
Indian time is a phrase to describe the Indian way of not focusing on time in the future. In this case, she knows I will be able to get the message before we leave for SD and that’s all that’s important. A meeting (or church service) may have a “starting time” but it really starts once everyone gets there – early if everyone is early (not likely) or later if there are stragglers (much more likely). It is a slow paced, human centered rather than task centered way of life. While it appeals to me, I probably couldn’t take it very long. I prefer promptness as a sign of respect for the other parties involved. Better early than late is my motto. (Rest assured, however, I don’t take it to the extreme my mother does. She is always at least 20 minutes early and oftentimes much more than that!)
My friend is very busy – working full time at a low paying job and taking care of her family in a non-permanent residence. She has one child that, last time I spoke with her, had run away and been picked up by the police. I really want to know how/if that’s been resolved. I may have to wait til October. When they lived on the Rez, she used the computer at work or the college to stay in touch. She had much easier access to it. They don’t have much cell phone time and I hate to use it “just to chat.” She reads and sends e-mail via the public library computers. There is a specific time allotment. She also has to go to the library either before or after work. Not always easy to do. Especially on Indian time!
I had read about Indian time but I really experienced it when we decided to go out to SD and meet my “godchild” last Christmas. We were working with an international children’s relief fund. The local office was staffed by a sponsor coordinator who was also Indian. Trying to get information and make plans with that woman was very difficult due to Indian time. I basically had to do all the research, make the plans and tell her about them. In a way, it worked out in our favor.
This international group claims that you get to know your child and we discovered that many of the “informative letters” were not really written by the child. I had my suspicions because they didn’t seem to be written the way an 11 year old would write or speak. When I had time to speak with my “godchild” on our visit, I found out that she was basically told what to write. This organization did not “allow” sponsors to meet with the child and family unchaperoned. This was allegedly for the sponsors’ protection. When we met with the coordinator before meeting the family, we were told all kinds of scare stories about rez folks who got sponsors to spend all kinds of money on them and even showed up on the doorstep looking for money. It was uncomfortably negative.
We did go shopping and to lunch one day. We had a set budget. They did not ask for anything except what we offered. We then spent a day at the youth recreation center that the money we sent the international organization supported. They may get food, vaccines, clean water and such in third world nations around the globe, but on the Rez they got a ranch house with shabby furniture, broken games, unorganized games and books, a dilapidated, less than clean bathroom and, oh yeah, a huge, at least 50″ flat-screened babysitter . . . I mean TV. So that’s where my $20 plus dollars a month went. My “godchild” did not live close to the center (very few of the 800 children served did live close) though it was close to the school. I spoke with the family and it was clear that they did not get any substantial benefits from the organization except what I actually sent directly to them in gifts. Actually, the gifts weren’t exactly sent directly to them. In order to maintain control and make sure that neither side got the other’s home address, all gifts had to be sent to the international groups local office, cleared and then delivered to the center for the child/family.
Since I learned a long time ago how to say “No” and since I found the rules counterproductive to establishing a good relationship with the child and her family, I broke them. Well, I was also soft – it was Christmas day and I couldn’t in good conscience refuse to join them for church and Christmas dinner. We discovered that we learned more in that one day than we could have in a month of chaperoned visits. So we made friends and broke ties with the international organization.
Our friends have never made excessive demands on us. Well, okay, there was the time my “godchild” asked for an IPod. But what 12 year old wouldn’t. She didn’t get it. She didn’t get the pool she wanted at the beginning of this summer because there was nothing to do where they were living on the Rez, either. Good thing – they moved and they’d have no place for it anyway. She did get passes to the Waterslide Park for her birthday. She loves the water. On a few occasions, there have been requests made – some met, some not. It has not effected our friendship when we have said no. The requests from the parents have never been for luxury items. There was a time when we decided to make arrangements with the local market to allow the family to buy food for the wake of a deceased family member.
I have taken the amount of money I used to send to the international organization and begun to save it, instead. Then, when my “godchild” needs clothes for school or a winter coat or waterslide passes, I have a fund available. I have used the money to send food – fruit and meat through a local co-op, not junk food or candy. I prefer to give her what she actually needs directly, so she knows she is loved – she isn’t a do-gooder’s project.
Speaking of do-gooder projects, I have to work on setting up another one for my church. People have been asking if we are going to do anything like the “baby shower” we had for Cangleska, the shelter for victims of domestic abuse. Right now, I know the shelter is looking for Christmas gifts for the children they serve and they are looking for winter coats/space heaters. I guess I need to make a decision whether we should work on heating the kids from the outside (coats/heaters) or from the inside (with the joy of a Christmas gift). It’s really a difficult decision. Here’s hoping my energy can stay up long enough to get things rolling.
I have another do-gooder project I want to work on, although that one will only require my brain and energy – hmm, that may be asking a lot with the fibromyalgia, huh? Anyway, I came across an article in the latest Family Circle magazine that indicated they are looking for local heroes – women who are making a difference in their communities. I hope to write them about Karen Artichoker, the director of Cangleska, who is making such an impact on her community on the rez. She is definitely changing the lives of others. She doesn’t do it for the recognition, of course, but if they think her story is important, perhaps they’ll print it. That would give Cangleska some of the national spotlight and perhaps help them with their fundraising and work with Native American victims of domestic violence, on Pine Ridge and elsewhere.
It’s word of mouth, really. I took a course on Public Relations and one thing I recall from that class so many years ago (many, many years ago) is that word of mouth is a better form of advertising than most other ads. For every person who complains directly about something, there are 10 who don’t address the problem directly with the company but do tell all their friends. The same is true for every person who has a good experience, though fewer of them take the effort to let the company know. I guess people like to complain more than praise in general. So here’s my one little voice, praising Cangleska and Karen Artichoker for her work in a place unknown or ignored by the rest of this incredible country. You should check out their link and add your voice, if you agree.
Oh my, look at the time! It’s nearly noon! I guess I’d better get going if I’m going to get my chores done and have time to draft a message to Family Circle. Where has the time gone? Oh well, I’ll get what I can done and chalk up the rest to operating on Indian time.
There’s a certain relaxed pace and peace that comes with Indian time. Try it some time.