I got a call a few days ago from my friend on the Pine Ridge Reservation. She called at 8:30 am Eastern Time. That means it was 6:30 am where she was. Early morning calls are not usually a good thing in general, but early morning rez calls usually mean problems.
Problems, aka drama, are common on the rez, so to get an early call means serious problems. So I braced myself as I answered the phone (gratefully I was awake already and not groggy).
“Hi Bee,” my friend said. “How are you?” Even when there is a problem or need, everyone I have ever spoken to on the rez will ask how I am before they ask for what they need. I told her I was fine and asked how she was since this was unusually for a call. She said she was fine but was wondering if I could give her some money for gas to get to Pine Ridge (the settlement area in the southern part of the reservation.) They live in the northeastern section of the rez and it takes at least 45 minutes to drive there in other seasons, which I have done. I suspect the winter road conditions make it a bit longer.
“So, why do you need to get to Pine Ridge,” I asked. I have found that although my friends don’t volunteer information about their lives all the time (unlike some of us who blab about the smallest details of our lives), they will readily share if I ask.
So she told me about the recent adventures of my “godchild.” (For more on her life, check other posts in the category of Lakota friends.) She is now 14 and a rebellious, difficult child with a tendency to get into physical confrontations (fights). She’s been in trouble for running away from home and has spent time in the “juvie” center for doing that. She has started drinking (alcohol, not Kool Aid) and her mother is at her wit’s end. They are trying to get her into a treatment center for mental health and alcohol issues.
To that end, they had recently had an evaluation done by someone down in the Pine Ridge area, which is where my “godchild” currently goes to school. She stays in the dorm the school has during the week and comes home on the weekends. It’s harder to sneak out of the bedroom window in the dorm than it is at home. Apparently the woman who conducted the evaluation made mistakes or did something wrong and the evaluation had to be redone. So they needed to get down to Pine Ridge for 11 am to redo it. (It’s hard to get good help these days, at least on the rez.)
But that wasn’t the whole issue. The reason my “godchild” was home and not at the dorm on a weekday morning was that she had been suspended from school – again – for getting into an altercation. Apparently someone had given her an inexpensive digital camera for Christmas and it had been stolen in the dorm. She confronted the girl who took it (it was discovered in her things) and words led to physical actions (yes, a fight). So she was suspended (the other girl was not, so I guess stealing is not a suspendable offense and starting a fight is).
It is bad enough to be suspended from school, though not a shock with this child. Another “but” , however, comes into play. My “godchild” is on probation with the juvenile system for the running away and drinking (the rez is “dry” by law). One of the conditions of her probation is that she stay in school and not get suspended. Uh oh!! She had a court date in Martin that afternoon by happenstance. My friend was extremely worried that they would pull her probation, put her back into “juvie jail” and perhaps even remove my friend’s parental rights since she was unable to control her daughter.
I offered to call in $20 for gas to the grocery store/gas station that I have that kind of relationship with in her area. She was extremely it.
So that was it, right? Nope! There was more drama! What now?
I have previously written about the death of my friend’s sister in October when we visited the reservation. Her sister left children and my friend was given permanent custody of her niece, who is about the same age as my “godchild.” She originally told me that the niece was a good kid and doing well in school.
We all know that, in order for a child to be born, one needs a father as well as a mother. Therefore her niece has one. The niece’s father has recently been in trouble with the law for an improper relationship with a 12 year old girl. I know, eeew. So he is supposed to stay away from all children in a certain age range, including his daughter. Did he stay away? Unfortunately, no, he did not. He picked up his daughter from school and took her off the reservation to Rapid City.
My friend had to notify tribal authorities, who notified the Rapid City Police, who picked up father and daughter. Both went to “jail” – dad went to the real jail for violating a “stay away” order; daughter went to the “juvie jail” until my friend could get in to Rapid City to pick her up and take her back to the rez (about 2 hours drive each way). This wasn’t the drama. (I know, you wondering if this wasn’t it, what was!)
The drama was dad’s reaction and retaliation. Dad knew, as everyone on the rez does, that there is a huge drug problem on the rez, especially with methamphetamine. So dad told the authorities that my friend was running a meth lab in her house. You may wonder if this could be true. Do I really know my friend that well after four years and several visits to the rez? Maybe she does have a meth lab going? I, on the other hand, almost fell off my chair I was laughing so hard!!!
I have been inside the house in question. I have seen what is there. You have been there, too, if you read my post titled, “Pine Ridge Reservation Visit”. There are photos of the house there. There is nothing happening in that house except the struggle to survive on Pine Ridge Rez!
My friend, of course, doesn’t have the luxury of laughter at this point. She has had the Federal authorities calling to tell her she is under investigation. That’s a scary thing, even when you are innocent of any wrong doing. The Federal government is charged with investigating and prosecuting any felonies on tribal land by treaty. The Tribal Court handles the “small stuff.” So this is definitely their business. And because of the drug problem out there, they can’t afford to assume that this is just the nasty accusation of a sick man. They have to take it seriously.
I told my friend to open the door to her home and invite the investigators in when they come. Let them look around to their hearts’ content. She knows there is nothing for them to find. It will be dropped. I know, easier said than done. If I were in that position, I would be really pissed off. I told her to focus on the real trouble with her daughter.
I have been hesitant to call her to find out how court went for my “godchild.” I’m not sure I want to know the outcome either way. This girl needs help and she will not get it on the rez.
The problems never end on the rez. The drama continues day after day after day . . . . . . . . . .