I have been sort-of AWOL with regard to my blog this summer. It seems that, between vacation and the construction/siding being done on my home, I have not been able to focus on writing. It wasn’t that there were no topics to write on. I just didn’t write.
I had a phone conversation this morning with a young woman on Pine Ridge Reservation which has spurred me to get off my backside and get back to work.
What was so important about that conversation, you ask? It was the story. It’s always the story.
The young woman I spoke with lives in Oglala, SD. You might think that, if I tell her story, it will be simple for those who know her to figure out her identity. You would be wrong! The story is hard to hear. But even more compelling is the fact that it is repeated over and over again on this reservation. There are too many young women just like this one. That is what lit my fire!
I will call this young woman Beth because I have not yet come across that name among all those I have come across on the rez. She is probably in her early 30’s, based on the ages of her children.
Beth lives in a 3 bedroom house with her husband and 3 children, whose ages are 4 (daughter), 7 (son) & 16 (son). If that sounds good to you, I ask you to reserve your opinion until you reach the end of the post.
Beth’s children are doing well. Her husband and she are both unemployed, however. That is quite common on the rez, where jobs are as scarce as hen’s teeth. Not like the rest of the country, which also is currently short on jobs. No. Scarce as in 80% are unemployed! If you don’t work for the tribe or the few businesses on the rez, you need to travel 50 miles or more to get to the nearest large town/city where you might find a job. Her husband was employed at one time and currently receives $257 per week. They are indeed fortunate! Many do not have that resource because they have not been able to find work. Do you think they worry about what the government will do to support unemployment benefits? Nope! They are too busy getting by day to day.
They have something else that makes them fortunate – a car. Pay no attention to the fact that it’s a 1990 Chevy Suburban and likely needs repairs they can’t afford. It is transportation. Getting around is more important that pride on the rez.
The family also receives food stamps. You remember that program? I written about it before. $1 per person per meal. You can do that on a permanent basis, can’t you?
So, unemployment benefits, a car, a roof over their heads and food stamps. What more could a family want?!
But wait a minute! They aren’t alone in that 3 bedroom house. They have extended family – a lot of extended family – living there too. In addition to Beth, her husband and 3 children, we have:
- Beth’s uncle, who lives in the basement
- Beth’s brother
- Beth’s sister, brother-in-law & nephew
That’s 4 more adults and 1 more child, in the 3 bedroom house. That’s a bit crowded. And no one else works or collects benefits. That’s a LOT further that the unemployment benefits and food stamps need to stretch to feed and clothe the household.
But wait! There’s more!
This past week Beth took in her sister and her sister’s 3 children. The children include a 9 day old baby. Her sister is suffering from severe postpartum depression and tried to commit suicide last weekend. So Beth has taken her in to keep her and her children safe.
Suicide, which is reaching epidemic proportions on Pine Ridge Rez, is particularly frightening to this family. Sometime this past year, Beth’s brother took his own life. He hanged himself. They found him in a closet. He had a little girl who will grow up without her father. Beth could not let that happen to another child in her family. So they made room for her sister and the children.
So, now that you’ve got the full picture, tell me if you think that 3 bedroom house sounds good. Do you think Beth and her family are leading the good life?
I am trying to find sponsors for Beth’s children. I will do what I can. I am waiting for the rest of this country to open their eyes and their hearts. Because for every sponsor I do have, I have at least 50 children or elders who need one.
It makes my job very difficult!