The title question was asked of me by my Lakota friend’s oldest daughter. She was asking about her grandmother, who raised her from when she was a baby. My Lakota friend had her oldest daughter when she was still a teenager and her mother had taken the baby away from her and raised her. So in essence, here, granddaughter is asking a question about the grandmother who has been like a mother to her.
But you and I both know that things change in life.
Granddaughter now has her own 2 young sons. She has gotten closer to her own mother (my friend). She has a difficult relationship with the father of her children and his family is not welcoming of her or their children.
That’s your background, in case you are new to the family.
Recently, my Lakota friend, her husband and her sister had been living in a trailer that belongs to grandmother. My friend’s oldest daughter and two sons had also been living there. Grandmother is fortunate to have a new house that a charitable organization built for her. She invited her son and his family to move in with her. She allowed my friend and her family to live in the trailer that has been condemned as uninhabitable (see a prior post on this topic). Then, when they did not pay the electric bill promptly, she tossed my friend and her husband out.
My friend and grandmother (her mom) have always had a contentious relationship. It probably stems from my friend’s youth. So I was not truly surprised when she tossed them out of “her trailer.” But now she has done the same to the granddaughter she raised and her 2 great-grandsons! Yes, that’s what this young girl was asking me about. How could the woman who raised her just throw her and her sons out, to be homeless?! It was a reasonable question for which I had no reasonable answer. I could only tell her that she didn’t deserve it and that her grandmother had unpredictable for the 6 years I have now know her. Personally I wonder if she is bi-polar or has some other mental health issue. I know she drinks. Enough said there.
So what does that mean for this 20-something mom and her 2 young sons (ages 2 & 5)? It means she called me for gas money so she could pay someone to “drive us to a shelter at Rapid City and dump us off.” The 2 little boys I sponsor now will be living in a homeless shelter in Rapid City!!!
I feel so helpless to help her! I do not have the means to help her pay rent and utilities. I don’t have the money to do that for my Lakota friend, either. So now we have 2 homeless families that we love and can do very little to help.
And the question remains: How can a grandmother who knows how difficult rez life is just evict her own family and make them homeless?! Why did she do that?
The answer may be as old as antiquity. There was another cousin that returned to the rez from Rapid City and needed a home. Grandmother favors that cousin. So she has evicted the children she raised for this cousin of theirs.
It’s the old Tommy Smother’s sad refrain, adjusted for relationships.
“Mom always liked you best.”
It is one of the most difficult reasons for homelessness on the reservation that I have come across and it is common on the rez. The shortage of homes has created a class of homeless people who have a roof over their heads only at the whim of a relative. It is a group of people who are always one argument, one crying baby, one perceived slight away from being on the streets.
That’s a psychologically stressful way to live one’s life – always worried that the home owner/renter will get mad at you for something and toss you into the street. It is especially difficult to understand for the young children who never really know the whole story. They just bounce from home to home to home to . . . Small wonder there is such a problem with hopelessness and suicide among the youth on the reservation.
I’ve turned this one over to God the Creator because I don’t have the solution or the answer to this problem. I just love this family.
If you have any ideas or suggestions, any way to build more homes on Pine Ridge, let me know.
By the way, I spoke too soon on my “godchild’s” good news. As often occurs in her life, she “shot herself in the foot” by backsliding and may not be released by the time we visit. So my 12 hour drive to Utah and 12 hour drive back to the rez may still be on. Yeah, looking forward to that. Oh well, just more unpredictable rez life.
At least she has a roof over her head while she’s there.