I learned about you entirely by accident. Someone in my “community of friends” on Facebook posted one of your YouTube videos which I decided to take a look at. I was, of course, mesmerized, as I’m sure most people who see them are. But I was perhaps moved by a different spirit than the spirit of simple amazement at someone who has overcome fearsome obstacles.
I should at the start admit that I, too, have a disability. I do not say this to compare myself to you, for my disability is invisible. I have Fibromyalgia and have had it since I was 13 years old. It didn’t even have a name back then – in fact many doctors thought it was imaginary, you know, “all in your head.” I suppose they were right to a certain extent. Since Fibromyalgia is primarily a pain problem and since pain is actually felt in the brain, it is all in our heads (to twist a familiar statement, no brain, no pain). Unfortunately, there isn’t any good way to treat it and many people become very depressed, sad, angry and miserable to be with. That was never me. By the grace of God, I have always been a positive, happy, giving person.
That last line leads up to the reason for my letter. In recent years I have found a passion in life that is greater than any passion that I have had in my 57 years on this planet. I have discovered the Oglala Lakota people who live on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. As you have found a calling in inspiring people to live their best lives in spite of any disability, real or perceived, I too have found a calling in working to improve the lives of the folks on Pine Ridge, especially the children.
I work extremely hard to do this in two ways. One is tangible – I work for an all volunteer non-profit organization which matches sponsors with children and elders in need of support on Pine Ridge Rez. But the other way I try to improve their lives is in advocacy. I write … and write … and write. My primary goal in life is to enlighten people in this nation regarding the conditions of life on the Pine Ridge Reservation.
Life on the reservation is more than difficult. The waiting list for housing can be 10 years long. Relatives care for each other, which means that, even if you are truly homeless, someone will take you in. The result can be 10, 12, even 20 people living in a tiny 3 bedroom house (the rooms are not much bigger than a queen sized mattress). The houses are sub-standard construction and not insulated – in fact many are falling apart. There are people who have no running water, use outhouses, have no heat in the South Dakota winters, no jobs (80% unemployed therefore) so no money to pay bills.
The reservation has about 50,000 people and 2 million acres. There are big distances between settlements. Most cars are over 10 years old and have suffered on the dirt and gravel roads. No way to get to a good job perhaps 50 miles away. I could go on and on.
But I figure by now you are sitting there wondering, “Where is the world is this woman going with this? What has this got to do with me?”
So I’ll get to that point. There is, in the past few years, an epidemic of suicide on Pine Ridge Reservation, especially among the youth. At one time, at least one child was killing him/herself every week. If that was the statistic anywhere else in this nation, the country would be aghast. But the children on the reservation feel how forgotten they are. They have lost hope. They feel that no one knows what they deal with and no one cares. So they see suicide as the only alternative.
I can see the lightbulb has turned on in your mind. These children, more than any others I know of, need to hear your message. I do not have the contacts to set this up. I do not have the authority.
But I do have the moral authority to ask you to check into the despair and hopelessness these children face.
I don’t know if you charge for your appearances. I don’t have the resources to pay for something like that. I can say for a fact that the tribal budget does not have funds for it – they can’t even pay for housing for all their people.
But I do know that I have to ask for you to help these children and their families. Because if I didn’t ask, I would not be fulfilling the calling that God has given me.
I have many other posts in the past years that tell about rez life. They tell of the many challenges faced living on Pine Ridge Reservation.
These children NEED inspiration! I respectfully ask that you look into their lives. I promise you won’t be the same if you do.
Thank you for reading this lengthy letter. I am adding a link to one of your YouTube videos so that anyone else who reads this can see the wonderful work that you do.