I just had a call from my friend in South Dakota. She was in a terrible state, crying and distraught. I knew I wasn’t going to like what I heard.
In case you haven’t read all my posts, let me bring you up to speed on my friend. She and her family are Lakota. She wants to make it “on her own” and always has, which has made for stressed relationships with her mother and the rest of the family who live on the Pine Ridge Reservation. She lived off rez for a while, then returned with her own family when Salt Lake City, where they had lived, didn’t seem to be the place to raise her daughters. She was divorced. She met a new man, who loved her and was willing to take care of her and her family.
While on the reservation, they lived with other people – the 5 of them and 4 or more others in mobile homes or 5 room uninsulated frame houses. They tried to work, but unemployment is at about 80% on the rez. When they did have money and buy food, other family members would often steal it to sell for drug/alcohol money. The kids didn’t do very well.
Her oldest, who is now 18 and lives with her boyfriend and his family, had a son about a year and a half ago. The second daughter, who is now 16 and wants to quit school, is trying to stay out of trouble so far. The third daughter, now 15, was raped while they lived on the rez. She also got into trouble with drugs. The fourth daughter, now 12, has a history of problems with anger management and may be ADHD. She is my “godchild.”
They moved off the rez and up to Rapid City during this summer. They wanted to be on their own. She had remarried that good man, who was ready to take on a whole family. They found an “apartment” – 2 motel rooms converted to a one bedroom apartment. I’ve written about it before when I wrote about our visit in October.
When they moved to Rapid, the 15 y.o. ran away. She got herself arrested and sent to juvenile detention. She was taken out of her mother’s custody temporarily and sent to drug rehab. At the same time, my friend’s ex-husband (the girls’ father) was beaten to death and my friend’s 2 uncles died. One had been like a father to her (see my post about Everette).
My “godchild” has been in trouble three times since school started in September for fighting. The last time the police were called. She was suspended from school.
My friend had been working as a housekeeper at a local motel, until the pinched nerve in her neck and all the absences she had due to all the troubles I’ve noted, ended the job. Her husband was doing day work – roofing in the fall. But for the past 3 weeks there hasn’t been any day work available. They ran out of food once already.
So what could a woman who has already endured so much in the past few months be so upset about?
Off the top, there’s not enough rent money. The idea of being on the street with your family in December in South Dakota doesn’t make you feel like a good mother. She hasn’t been able to find assistance.
But money alone wouldn’t put her in this kind of distress.
My “godchild” had to go to juvenile court because of her last school fight. They couldn’t afford an attorney and for some reason, didn’t get a free one. So they had to represent themselves. My “godchild” had a chance to plead innocent, guilty or admit to sufficient facts in the case. She did the latter. She was sentenced to 10 days in Juvenile Detention.
When she was in J.D., she told her mother that 2 weeks ago, on her way to school, she was raped.
Oh my God. Not another daughter raped. Her baby. Why didn’t she tell them right away?!! She was afraid she wouldn’t be her mother’s baby anymore.
We had to hang up because she got a call on her sister’s cell phone from the investigators and needed to call them back.
I hung up and felt helpless. All I could do was pray. I’m in Massachusetts, she’s in South Dakota. I’ve never lived in South Dakota. I don’t know what resources are available in Rapid or from the Tribe. I just finished Christmas shopping for the family. I don’t have any spare cash.
I tried to call my husband. He took the day off today so he could take his parents in to the city for his dad’s first chemotherapy treatment. With the bad weather, his sister was afraid to drive them in. So he’s spent the whole day at the hospital with them. I had to leave a message on the cell phone. Damn!
I tried to call our interim rector. No answer at the parish office. Called the rectory – talked to his wife and got his cell phone number. Called his cell phone – had to leave a message. He called me back a short while later and volunteered some money from the discretionary fund. Small sigh of relief. It won’t cover all the rent but it will help.
I called a parish that we had attended last Christmas Eve in Rapid City. I want to find out about resources and send the money there so I will be sure it gets there safely. Neither their priest nor their deacon were in. I had to leave a message. I hope I get a call back.
My husband finally called. He had been trying to call the whole time I was on the phone with other people. I told him the story so he would be prepared to come home to someone with a wounded heart.
So now I’m sitting here with tears threatening to spill over my lashes. I have known about being “sort-of poor” – I grew up that way. But until we met these friends, I didn’t know poverty. I was poor when I was single parenting without child support. But I had friends, family, education and a job. I trusted in God and He took care of me. My friends have little education, no jobs, and a family that has disowned/shunned them because they want to try to make it away from the rez.
Poverty is not knowing if you’ll have a place to live or something to eat. Prejudice is how people look at you, not just what they say or do.
I have learned a lot but my heart has broken along the way.