I just spoke with my Lakota friends last week, so I didn’t expect a call for a while. I’m using the one calling because I can afford it better than they can. So imagine my surprise when the phone rang Sunday afternoon and it was my friend.
She called to let me know that they had moved to Rapid City on Saturday. I knew they were planning on it, but I was amazed that it had happened in less than a week. Things hardly ever move that quickly in Indian country. They are staying at the same motel converted into apartments that they lived in last fall, until Christmastime. Right now they are in a one-room apartment. They hope to move into the three room unit they were in last year in a week or so.
Picture this: One adult male at least 6′ tall and wearing size 3X shirts. One adult female about 5’5″ and sized XL. Two teen-aged females. One refrigerator. One microwave. One bed. Boxes of clothing. A TV. A CD player. All in one motel-sized room.
All this was set in motion by family “drama.” You can check out my post “Lakota Friends Update” if you want to learn more about that. My friend then had an argument with her middle daughter on Friday. That daughter stayed on the rez with relatives when they moved to Rapid on Saturday. The other two went with my friends. “Drama” is a staple of rez life and I’m beginning to wonder if my friends can survive without it, even though they claim they want to stable, calm life. When she’s not on the rez, with sisters and mother interfering in her life, she had teen-aged daughters, who have never had a stable home life, acting out and getting in trouble.
My friend has been sharing more and more of her past life with me. She is more open about their life now, too. I think she may finally be willing to trust me more. Trust is not easy to come by when you speak of Indians on the rez. They have had many promises broken, both as a group and individually. Treaties have been broken. Promised “payments” have never been given. Do-gooders and church groups have connected and then left. Parents on the rez have told their children it will be better for them. It isn’t. They watch their parents get drunk. They get hungry when the money runs out and their parents can’t buy food.
My friend told me that, as is common in Lakota culture, when her mom asked her for some money for some thing she needed, my friend gave her all she had, no questions asked. But when my friend asked her mother for $10 because she needed to travel across rez (which isn’t cheap or easy when you don’t have a car), her mother refused and “cussed” her out.
I’m all for generosity. I give whatever I can to those who have need. But I think there is a lot of confusion on the rez about this value. From what I’ve read and heard, the concept of generosity in the Lakota culture meant that no one went hungry or suffered from need. In the winter, when food was scarce, a widow with children would not have to worry that she had no husband to hunt and supply the family. Her neighbors shared what they had.
Now, it seems on the rez, that many have perverted that value of generosity. If you have food or money, you should give it to me, even if I plan to use it for alcohol or drugs. If you don’t give it to me, I’ll just take it from you because I think you should have given it to me. What? You are working to provide for your family and I should, too. There’s nothing wrong with me to keep me from doing something to provide for my own family? True, but why should I, when I can get it from you?
There are surely some who are working hard to provide for their families. But there are plenty ready to take advantage of their own relatives, too. I recall when my friends, who certainly struggle to provide for their family, had family take food from their house to sell for alcohol money.
They struggle with the conflict between wanting to be generous and wanting to have enough for themselves.
I struggle with the conflict of wanting to send things to help them and hoping the things I send aren’t taken by someone else.