A lot of people wait for me to write about the sadness and poverty that I find when I visit Pine Ridge Reservation. But the truth is, while there is plenty of both to be found, there is also plenty that is positive about Pine Ridge.
The first thing that we saw positive this visit was the land itself. All of our prior visits have been in the fall or winter. This is the first time we have visited in the spring. What a difference a few months can make! It was green! I know, it sounds rather simple, but the difference between a green reservation and a brown, dried up reservation is amazing.
The green vista was incredibly beautiful. It breathed hope and new life. After seeing the reservation green and blossoming, I understand on a new level why the people who live here would not want to leave. The beauty may not be there on that level all the time, but when you are in tune with the land and the seasons, you know it will return.
The first two people we met with were as positive and refreshing as the new life that spring brought to the reservation. They were two inspirational women who believe there is hope for the youth of the reservation and who are doing something to put that belief into action.
I encountered Davidica Little Spotted Horse the first time because she had heard of the ONE Spirit program and wanted to know more about it. She cares very deeply about her people, the Lakota people, and wanted to find out if we really did help people on the rez or not. Sadly, there are organizations that say they are helping (and may on some level mean it) but who turn out to be divisive in the community.
Davidica and her mother, both of whom we met on our visit to the rez, consider themselves “traditional Lakota.” They hold fast and practice the Lakota traditions and values. They pass those ways to their children. Talent and positivity runs through the family like the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon – strong and creative.
This is the bio that I found of Davidica on Facebook after I spoke with her the first time,
I am a singer/songwriter, artist, businesswoman and mother. Currently the opening act for The Women of the Four Winds featuring Martha Redbone, Tracy Bone, Wayquay, and Davidica-www.myspace.com/dlittlespottedhorse
For Booking info firstname.lastname@example.org
My name is Davidica Little Spotted Horse.
I am a singer/songwriter from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. If I had to describe my lyrics in three words it would be, “heartfelt, personal, and passionate.” My songs are about love, loss, hope, and happiness, I believe these are feelings all human beings deal with. My songs are my connection to my inner self. All of the songs I wrote are about my own life and the two I co-wrote with my brother Isnal-Wica Belt are about his struggles. The song “Aaron’s Song” my brother and I wrote together is for his best friend Aaron Lakota because we wanted to give him a gift for being such an important part of our family and to voice that we understand what he’s going through.
I am a singer/songwriter first and foremost I just happen to be native, but more than anything I am a human being. So I humbly give all my songs to humanity no matter what your race because we can all relate to the human condition… life. I’ve always had a dream I would leave something behind to make my mark in history for my future descendants. My music is my gift to them. My children are my biggest supporters and the reason I recorded this album. I cherish my children, my extended family and my friends everyday.
I am also an artist. My beadwork is another way for me to share my creativity. I put my heart and soul into my work to create the best quality beadwork possible. My traditional beadwork is only Lakota style beadwork and I take tremendous pride in knowing how to make traditional pieces.
I also make contemporary beadwork which includes many different beading techniques and I make sure these are also excellent quality work.
You are welcome to purchase any of my beadwork that is put up for sale in my “Beadwork” Album in the photo section of my profile. I also accept orders for specific projects. Just message me and I’ll contact you with more details.
I had wanted to meet Davidica after our first conversation. She is thoughtful and open to everyone. She is an incredibly giving woman. She has nurtured those same values in her own children.
Davidica is a recording artist. That is a remarkable thing for someone living on Pine Ridge Reservation. But she is more than that. She is a strong Lakota woman. She puts those Lakota values into actions — they are not just words for her. She treasures the children — her own and all those on the reservation. It is Davidica who is responsible for the Independence Through Music project becoming a reality.
Independence Through Music is a project to identify talented young people on the reservation, to teach them about recording and performing, to teach them about the recording industry and to give them opportunities to become self-sufficient — not only by being performers, but also producers, managers, booking agents, web designers, art designers, etc.. This is not a “The Rez has Talent” contest where talented performers place themselves into the hands of strangers. This is a comprehensive educational experience and an opportunity for young people to grow into careers and futures.
We were grateful that Davidica took time out of her day to meet us on a day that was a busy one for her prior to the ITM Concert the next evening. We met at her mother’s home and except for the many calls she received regarding the details of the concert, their attention was on getting to know us. We did not feel like we were being a distraction to their day. We talked about the program, life on the rez, raising children and many other things. It was a very pleasant time.
I have not written as much about Davidica’s mother yet because she was not the center of attention. Yet I think she is very much the center of strength in the family. Her deep spirituality and love of her people was very evident. Some lead by the actions rather than many words. This is the way Davidica’s mother leads. I came away feeling it had been a privilege to meet her and wishing we had more time to chat one on one.
After leaving these two amazing women, we went to the home of another woman who strength is different. She is not a community leader. She is not even out of her home much. She is not healthy yet she is raising two teenaged daughters. She is raising them well in spite of poverty that almost crushed me when I entered her home.
I don’t say that lightly. I have been in many poor homes before on the reservation. But this home weighed on my heart and mind — perhaps even my soul — as none have before. I don’t have pictures to share with you of this home because there was no way I was going to ask this woman if I could photograph her home to share with the world. I was probably not meant to be a news photographer.
But I can try to paint it with my words. As we drove up the dirt driveway, which was a hill, we had to avoid a large number of deep ruts that had been formed earlier in the week when the ground had been mud. Straight ahead was a wooden building with a couple of small windows. To our left was a single-stall garage sized building that was or had been used as a shop of some type. A small trailer was behind the shop.
We were uncertain which building to go to when we saw someone peek out the window of the building in front of us (which I will refer to as the house). Then a teenaged girl came out to greet us and lead us into the house. Her mother, who was the person I had come to visit, was sitting in a rather worn recliner.
But before I introduce you to her, let me describe entering this house. As we entered, there was the smell of animal urine — not extremely strong but definitely there. The interior was dark. The two small windows were partially covered by blankets to help with insulation and privacy. We entered through the kitchen. There was a refrigerator and cook stove. The lack of cabinets meant that the non-perishables they had were stacked on the counter and other available spaces. The kitchen table was a metal table that certainly was made prior to the 1950’s. The kitchen and living room were actually one space, perhaps 10’x20′, separated only by the arrangement of furniture. In the living room were the small recliner, an orange plastic chair and a television. In the corner was a pile of several blankets and it made us wonder if this woman slept in the recliner. Her daughter brought the single metal kitchen chair into the living area so we could all sit.
In the center of the space was a small wood stove. My parents used wood to supplement their heat and this stove was probably only half the size of my parents. The wood would have to be cut small to fit and the stove would need to be filled often. I recalled that, the first time I had called this woman, she had told me they had a stove but no pipes to vent it. I could see there were pipes now. The stove was so old that I imagined it might have been in use since the 1800’s.
Off this main kitchen/living room, there was one bedroom, which had a door with a padlock on it. It was the room her daughters shared and was padlocked when they were gone so none of their things would be stolen. I cannot say how big the room was, but based on the size of the building, it was probably not much bigger than a queen sized mattress. There was an indoor bathroom.
This woman was pleasant but had a difficult time talking because she was on oxygen full time. She had been to the doctor’s just the day before for breathing issues. She was due to have a lung scan soon. She also had a difficult time moving around and I will have to assume that the two teenaged daughters must do much of the cooking and cleaning in that home.
We did not visit there long because it was such a physical strain on this woman to have company. Personally, I’m not sure I could have stayed much longer because of my own reaction to the poverty that weighed down on me like a ton of bricks.
We left Oglala and drove to Pine Ridge to meet a woman who works with ONE Spirit for dinner at Subway. Of course, there is only one road to get there and it is clogged with road construction. You have to wait for a pilot car to follow through the construction and that wait can be 15 to 20 minutes if your timing is bad.
The meeting at Subway, however, was wonderful. We spent much longer than expected there discussing rez life, various programs and individuals and much more.
After we ate, we returned to our room for a good night’s sleep. It amazes me how tired you can get just driving around the reservation and talking to people.