Don’t yell at me – I know. I have been very lax about writing. It isn’t that there have not been important things to write about. I have been doing some fun things (which makes it harder to write about the hard ones.) It really is more due to my fibromyalgia being out of balance energy-wise. I seem to be back on track – for today anyway! So let me share what’s gone on in the past few days.
First of all, my Lakota friends. I know many have followed the lives of my friends as they moved from home to home and crisis to crisis. I think one of the hardest things for them is that there is no consistency or peace. I’ve quoted my friend before, “There’s always drama on the rez.”
The last time I wrote about my Lakota friends (Might as well be 2 Million Miles, May 12, 2010), my “godchild” had recently had a seizure while in court, being remanded into state custody. There are updates due.
They took my “godchild” to the emergency room at the hospital, where she was put on Dilantin and give the name of a doctor to follow-up with. How could she do that when, as soon as she was stable, they returned her to the courtroom. The judge completed the process of taking her away from her family and placing her in the state juvenile system. She was taken to “juvie jail” in Rapid City until they can locate a permanent placement for her. She is now an hour and a half away from her family.
While at the jail she developed a severe rash. She is apparently allergic to Dilantin. The state did arrange for her to see a doctor. They notified her mother less than 24 hours prior to the appointment. Her mother needed gas to get from the rez to the city. I paid for the gas. The family is broke (a later story).
At the doctor’s visit, my friend was told that her daughter’s seizures are triggered by severe stress. No more drugs. The prescription: avoid stress. Okay, I’m not a doctor though I play one at home. But I don’t think anyone needs a degree to see how ludicrous that statement is.
How can a 15 year old girl who has been taken away from her home and family avoid stress? How can this girl live in a foreign environment where prejudice is rampant have no stress?
In the midst of all this, my friend had to defend herself in court last winter on charges that she was an unfit parent. The court agreed with her that she had done everything humanly possible to help her daughter. But, of course, she had to have an attorney for the whole thing. She just got a bill for nearly $2100 for attorney’s fees.
I hope that attorney isn’t counting on being paid so he can pay his electric bill. Oh, that’s right – that’s another bill my friend cannot pay. They had to move out of the “house” they lived in (also pictured elsewhere in this blog) because they could not pay the electric bill and the power was shut off in the spring. $700 on that bill.
They moved into a trailer that belonged to my friend’s mother. Her mother moved into another home. Last week, part of the family of my friend’s deceased sister moved into the trailer, too. They had been evicted from their tribal housing home for drinking. My friend and her family do not drink. It was a cause of serious tension. Fortunately, somehow, this family was allowed to go back to their home. We thank God for all blessings on the rez, even the small ones.
However, her oldest daughter (with spouse and 2 children) has moved into the trailer. Their electricity was cut off by the daughter’s father. WARNING: This is going to get complicated – read slowly or you’ll get lost. This man who fathered my friend’s eldest child owned the house they were living in and, it seems, wanted to rent it out to someone who would pay more. So he had the electricity shut off so they would have to move – his 2 grandsons included! He said he hates his daughter (that is enough to send my friend into a “murderous” rage). The kicker is that this man is currently married to my friend’s sister. So the father of her daughter is now her brother-in-law. Oh my …..
I wanted to talk a bit about money, didn’t I? Finances for most folks on the rez fall into 2 categories: barely getting by or dirt poor. Right now (and probably all the time I’ve known them) my friends are dirt poor. My friend is unemployed. Her husband, who gets a higher education stipend during the college year, gets nothing when school is out. He is looking for temporary employment. That is a challenge, of course, since jobs are few and far between on the rez. Getting a job off the rez requires reliable transportation and gas money. Her two daughters that are living home have jobs with the youth corp on the rez for the summer. Helpful, but likely minimum wage.
So income is minimal right now. But liabilities are not. My friend was told she would have to pay about $200 per month in child support for the daughter in state custody. There is the outstanding $700 electric bill. Let’s not forget the $2100 legal bill.
If my friend did not incur another single new liability for the rest of the year, this being June, she would end 2010 with $4200 owed. That’s what I know about – I have no idea if there are other bills. She recently asked if we could send some things to help out – soap, shampoo, toothpaste, feminine sanitary pads. I don’t have to tell you what the likelihood of those bills getting paid is. (Does anyone know the winning numbers for the next big lottery?)
My friend and her family are not alone in their tribulations. There are approximately 50,000 people who live on the Pine Ridge Reservation. The unemployment rate is about 80%. You may remember that I work as a volunteer with One Spirit, an all volunteer organization which matches children and elders who need assistance with sponsors.
Right now I have over 500 children who need sponsors – just in my little corner of the rez. There are 3 others who do the same job – so perhaps we have over 2000 children who are living in dire poverty.
I have been working on one family today. No, I don’t have any sponsors for them. But I have still been trying to figure out how to help these children. You see, their parents have lost parental rights and been sent to jail. The reason is not a good one. The oldest child, a 20 year old daughter, is trying to keep the family together with the help of her wheelchair bound grandmother. There are at least 8 other children, ranging in age from 19 to 5. There may be younger ones that we don’t know about yet. The grandma’s son (the children’s uncle?) is cooking the meals for the kids at grandma’s house and taking them over to the kids and his mother.
I have visited grandma’s place on my last visit to the rez. It was a dilapidated trailer. Since the children’s home is in the same trailer park housing area, I would assume it is also in very poor shape. It will likely get worse with the parents now gone.
Big problems that seem to keep getting bigger. Only heaven knows the answers.