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Life on Pine Ridge Reservation is very complicated.  I am thrilled that ABC News has followed through on their plans to spotlight life on Pine Ridge for the Lakota people.  But the 20/20 program they will air tonight (Friday, October 14, 2011) will only scratch the surface.

Yes, you will see the deplorable living conditions that most endure.  You will see the ideas and programs that are trying to bring hope to the people.  But there are stories that you won’t hear.

You won’t hear these stories because of “political correctness” and the fear of offending those in positions of authority on Pine Ridge.  I usually avoid those stories as well, because I have friends who live on Pine Ridge and I want them to be safe.

But after the 3 phone calls I have received from my Lakota friends this past 10 days, I’m stepping out of my gentle persona and allowing my passion and “righteous anger” to vent.  The volume may get a bit loud, so step back a bit if that will bother you and read from a distance.

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Call #1

When the phone rang 2 weeks ago, I was still recovering from organizing and conducting an event at my church which included a silent auction of Lakota arts & crafts, a video presentation about my Lakota friends’ housing search over 6 years and a “feed” that included buffalo stew.  It had been a huge undertaking the prior weekend and I was, quite honestly, feeling the energy drain.

My friend’s eldest daughter had moved to Rapid City to find work and build a home for her 2 little boys.  They are all my takojas (grandchildren), at least in my heart.  Her partner, the boys dad, was living with them.  Her daughter found work at a fast food restaurant, got an apartment and tried to make a home.  Her partner did not find employment.  He did find the time and money to drink with his friends, even when he was supposed to be caring for the boys.  He had the “energy” to beat her in front of his sons.  This latest call was because he’d slept with another woman.  All of this may sound like your garden-variety domestic drama — but not to my friend.

My friend and her husband got sober years ago.  No AA or other 12-step group; just a strong desire to put her children first.  They do not want the takojas, the boys, to live in those conditions.  So my friend was going to Rapid City to pick up her takojas.  She was going to bring them home to live with them while her daughter figured out what she wanted in her life.

Why did they call me in all this?  Gas money.  The most mundane things can complicate these domestic issues even more.  The first complication is they no longer have a car.  So in order to make the 2 hour trip to Rapid City, they have to borrow a relatives car.  Then they must fill the tank with gas so they have enough gas to get that “rez ride” to Rapid and back.  With no source of income and limited funds, gas money is a frequent request in times of emergency or stress.  I called the local gas station and authorized gas for my friends.

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Call #2

It was no more than a week later that I spoke with my Lakota friend again.  She was not feeling well, having severe pain in her abdomen and chest that was strong enough to cause her knees to buckle.  I told her she needed to be seen by a doctor.  She said she had been seen at the nearby clinic and the only thing they had found was that she had a significantly elevated platelet level in her blood tests.

I am fairly well versed in medical knowledge but I did not have much information about elevated platelet levels and if pain was a result or a cause of that finding.  So I did what any slightly tech-savvy nerd would do – I researched it on the internet.  I found that pain is not typically found when you have elevated platelet levels.  I discovered that there are many causes of elevated platelets, ranging from “benign – no obvious cause” to cancer with many options in between.  I could find nothing that made any sense based on the symptoms my friend had related.

She called a day later, in so much pain that I could hear it in her voice.  Since I was 2000 miles away, I could not say “Show me exactly where it hurts” or do any kind of touching to clarify what I was hearing from her.  But she sounded so frightened, she is newly diagnosed as diabetic, she has a family history of heart disease and the pain was lasting far longer than seemed okay to ignore.  So I made the suggestion that I would make to any friend:  go to the emergency room and have a doctor look at you.

I was aware that the nearest hospital was at least 45 minutes away, if she went to Pine Ridge Hospital.  There is a hospital in Martin, SD that she could go to if she wanted a bit longer drive and of course, there was Rapid City Regional, 2 hours away.  She decided to go to Pine Ridge Hospital, since the clinic was planning to have her check in there the following day for additional tests.

Pine Ridge Hospital is an Indian Health Services (IHS) facility.  The residents of the reservation have a standing joke about IHS:  “I sat in the emergency room for 6 hours and all I got was 2 Tylenol.”  It is a commentary on the quality of care received from IHS.

There were 2 physicians who examined my friend, one male and one female.  They did an x-ray of her abdomen which showed nothing.  [I cannot fathom how an x-ray of soft tissue with no contrast administered could be expected to show anything of significance.]  They did an EKG, which they said was find.  So the male doctor started to discuss what might be going on when the female doctor made a comment aloud, to no one in particular, that my friend’s problems were all in her head and she needed a psychiatrist.

My friend stopped the male doctor in mid-sentence to ask if the female doctor had spoken about her.  The male doctor was uncomfortable enough that my friend realized it was true.  She asked both doctors to leave so she could get dressed and she prepared to leave the hospital without treatment.

That was when she overheard a number of hospital staff, doctors, nurses, etc, making comments about “drunken Indians”.  They were laughing and mocking.  My friend and her husband, who were stone cold sober, were shocked.  They were even more shocked when one of the staffers made a comment to the effect that, if all the drunken Indians were shot, it would make their nights a whole lot easier and saner.

I know the anger that rose in me when my friend told me about those comments and the mocking.  I could barely speak, which was fine since I could not think of what to say that might possibly be appropriate in this situation.  I was embarrassed that those in the medical community would say such things.  I knew my anger, resentment and embarrassment couldn’t begin to approach what my friend and her husband felt.  She did file complaints through the proper channels.  But you and I both know that will not take away the sting of being mocked by those charged with your care.  It was so totally unprofessional.  Sadly, it was not particularly unusual.

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Call #3

The most recent call occurred 2 days ago.  Before I detail the call for you, I want to tell you about my Lakota friend’s husband.  Understanding this man is germane to understanding the event.  It is also important to understand a bit about rez life, so I will also go into that a bit in case you don’t know very much about it.

As I said at the beginning of this post, life on the rez is very complicated.  That statement might actually be an understatement.  There is the poverty the underpins almost everyone’s life, since 90% of the residents live at or below the poverty level.  There are divisions that tear at the fabric of the culture:  pure-blood vs mixed-blood, traditional vs contemporary, activist vs passivist, etc.  There are times when the true Lakota culture, its values and traditions, are ignored or perverted.  Elders, women and children are considered sacred yet domestic violence is rampant.  Based on the traditional clannishness of historical Lakota life, who your family is can be more important that who you are or what idea you may have.  Nepotism and corruption abound.  The tribal council has actually tolerated disrespect among its members. People who are elected do not have to meet any age or educational requirements.  Politics play a bigger part in who gets a job than does who is the best qualified.

My friend’s husband is a big man but he is not the kind of man who uses his size to intimidate.  He is quiet and funny.  He is very smart and currently working on his college degree in business.  He would like to see honesty and respect return to the tribe and the interactions of the people who live on Pine Ridge.  He is a man of integrity who married my friend when she was a single mother raising 4 teen-aged daughters.  That takes courage in any culture!

All of that information is what made the phone call I received from my friend 2 days ago even more unthinkable.  She called to tell me that her husband was going to be arrested and she could find no one on the rez who could loan them $125 for bail money!

If it had not been for the panic in her voice, I’d have thought it was a joke.  I have always told her that, if the girls got into trouble, there was no money available for bail money.  Just not going to happen.  But the panic was there.

Here is the story that I pieced together:  They had submitted, to the proper person, a voucher for gas to go to a health appointment for her daughter.  Somehow, it had disappeared (mistakenly thrown out, intentionally “misplaced”, who knew?); they resubmitted it.  The check was supposed to be ready that day but wasn’t.  My friend’s husband called the office and the clerk told him she had seen the check in the official’s office.  So my friend’s husband called the official and, as he stated, “in a voice of authority” told the official that he would come down to the office “to straighten things out.”  The official decided that was a threat and called the police to arrest my friend’s husband for threatening a tribal official.

This had been on the phone.  My friend’s husband did not assault anyone nor did he go into the office and create a scene.  [I must say it is probably a good thing I don’t live on the rez; I’m not sure I could keep my temper in the face of all the “crap” that goes on.  I’d probably be a “regular” with the jailer under that criteria.]  If she could not bail him out, he would be suspended from college and lose his scholarship money.  It would destroy everything he has worked so hard to achieve thus far.

I was really torn because I had always said there would be no bail money.  But this man has worked hard.  He makes really good grades.  He is honest and straightforward.  I have always respected him.  I wired the bail money.  They plan to wire it back to me when they receive his educational stipend for the semester in another week.  I plan to let them send the money back to me.

After all, there is no gift of bail money, even if there is a loan of it.

And life on Pine Ridge Reservation is complicated, even for those of us who don’t live there.

 

 

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ABC NEWS Has Come Through For Pine Ridge

Over a year ago, I was contacted by a researcher/producer for ABC News.  She had found one of my blog entries (in which I was chastising ABC for not paying attention to the disasters in the west, especially on the reservations).  She told me they were working on a Diane Sawyer prime time special in her “A Hidden America” series.  The prior one had been on life in Appalachia.  This time they were planning to profile Pine Ridge Reservation.

Those of you who have been reading my blog will know that there is not much that fires up my hopefully righteous passion more than talking about life on Pine Ridge Reservation.  So talk we did, for almost an hour.  And we emailed – resources that they might find helpful.

I had heard that Diane Sawyer was out on the rez this past summer when I was there (no, we didn’t happen to cross paths traveling the approximately 2 million acres on the rez.  But I did here that she went up to KILI Radio one of the days I was there.  Try to keep that quiet when you’re talking to DJ’s.

I am giving you a link to the promo for the show.  Please, if you have ever enjoyed or been moved by anything I have written, I implore you to watch the 20/20 program on Friday at 10 PM.  See with your own eyes the good and the bad of Pine Ridge.  You may not find it possible but this place does exist.  I have been there and I suspect they will not tell you the worst story nor show you the poorest homes.  But it will still be worse than you expect.  After all, the living conditions on Pine Ridge rival those in Haiti and the life expectancy on Pine Ridge rivals that of Burundi.

I work for an organization that works to support self-sufficiency – not an easy thing to have on Pine Ridge.  Many of us work to keep the dam from breaking by trying to improve the life of one person at a time.  The big picture can be truly overwhelming.

If you can’t watch the show when it airs, record it or have a friend record it for you.

I will be honest.  I prayed for someone with greater reach than mine to focus attention on the needs of Pine Ridge.  I did not know (or care) who it would be.  I am grateful to ABC News because I know that if more people see the conditions, they will be moved to respond.  I believe in the American people and I know in my heart that things can improve.  I do not have the answers but I know it can be done.

Thank YOU for helping them to raise awareness.  You can do that by sharing this blog post with everyone you know.

Oh yes, here’s the link to the promo:  http://abcnews.go.com/2020/video/hidden-america-children-plains-14708439#.TpOhj9LOE2E.facebook

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Let me say this right up front, while I’m dusting off my soapbox . . .

I AM NOT A PRUDE!!

And while I’m at it, although I’m 58+ years old, I am not old – my mind has settled in at about 25 years old.  So I am not an “old fogey.”  If you’ve read any of my posts before, you know that I am eclectic in interests and liberal in my approach to social justice.

I have attended R-rated movies and comedy shows.  I’ve even seen an X-rated movie. I’ve seen some recent music videos.

I do, however, occasionally comment on the clothing that young children wear these days and how adult many parents are allowing/assisting their young children to look.  I was horrified that a mother would allegedly inject her grade school aged daughter with Botox.

But NOTHING prepared me for the opening number of the Billboard Awards Show last evening.  I hadn’t planned to watch it.  But the movie I wanted to watch was not on until 9 EDT, so I decided to check out the music awards.  I try to keep current.

The opening number, “S & M“,  featured Rhianna in a white patent leather leotard fashioned in dominatrix style.  By the end of the first phrasing, “I feel so good being bad,” we were being treated to a full, straight-on shot of Rhianna’s crotch as she sat on a bench and moaned her lyrics.  She slinked and slithered around the stage, dancing on a raised platform from which male arms were extended — reaching, of course, for her crotch no matter what position she was in.  She gyrated with a pole, as did Britney Spears, who joined her for the second half of the song.  Britney was clad in a similar black get-up.  Both women were sporting “hand-cuffs” and chains binding their wrists.

Ken Jeong, who was in a popular but tasteless movie recently, was the emcee for the night.  He was raunchy and not particularly amusing.  The song he “sang” with Nicki Minaj tauting the greatness of the show included lyrics such as “This show won’t suck!” and “This show won’t blow!”.  Jeong made suggestive tongue gestures toward Minaj and ended the scene by cupping and shaking his genitals.

The show contained many, many bleeps.  And it contained many words that would have been bleeped in the days of my youth (think of George Carlin’s routine about the 7 words you can’t say on television).  Some of them would not offend me personally today.

HOWEVER, I am ranting about things that don’t necessarily offend me personally because they were aired by ABC (yeah, not FOX) between 8 PM & 8:30 PM EDT on a LIVE show from Las Vegas.  That means it was even earlier in the remainder of the country.

So what??!  So kids — young kids — were watching this raunch.  I saw kids in the 8 to 10 year old range in the live audience in Vegas.  Imagine how many were watching on TV – either with parents who wanted to watch and didn’t think how their kids might be effected or alone in front of their TV, which may have been acting as a baby sitter.  Woe to the kids whose “babysitter” presents them with Rhianna’s crotch.  What lessons were they learning?

It was already my belief that this society brings “sexiness” into children’s lives far earlier than is healthy for them.  The low-cut, skimpy clothes available for little girls are ridiculous.  The raunchy gyrations that 5 year old “cheerleaders” and “dancers” are taught should be illegal.  If you and I made some of those motions on the street or bus, we’d be arrested for lewd and lascivious conduct in public.  But it’s okay to teach them to our young ones.

It astounds me that we allow our kids to wear sexy clothes and make sexy moves in kindergarten, but we refuse to allow them to show genuine loving actions like holding hands or hugging without risk of being accused of sexual harassment.  It’s ludicrous!

So what — I hear some of you saying that.  So what if kids act sexy too early in life.  What difference does that make?

Before I answer, let me ask you one more thing.  If you watched the show last night, how many of the men did you see prancing around in clothing that consisted of little more than fringe over underwear?  Even the ones who were sexy didn’t show everything they owned.  They left something to the imagination.  Boys are not treated the same way.  The are not dressed in skimpy outfits in grade school.  T-shirts and jeans or shorts.  Oh, not those short-shorts the girls wear.  Old fashioned shorts that cover their butts.  They are encouraged to do things, not focus on looking good.

This difference is not new.  Neither are the differences that girls and boys experience as the grow into men and women.

  • Who makes more money to do the same job?
  • Who suffers from more eating disorders from trying to look good?
  • Who suffers from more domestic violence?
  • Who experiences more sexual assaults?
  • Who is expected to contribute to the family income as well as raise the children and maintain the home.

These are just some of the more important inequities that women face.

Why do these inequities still exist after SO many years of trying to right them?!

I would suggest that showing raunchy, relatively explicit sexual moves by scantily clad young women that are idolized as celebrities by children in our society, as occurred in this show, is one of the causes of the difficulty  women still find in their lives as adults.

Do I think this is the only cause?  Of course not; I realize the world is not that simplistic.  However, we need to start thinking about it seriously.  There’s an old saying that children “learn what they live.”  Pretty scary if you think about what some children are obviously living.

Ranting on the soapbox is great for me.  It helps get the steam out of my head.  But just ranting or reading the rant is not going to change a things.  You need to tell the people responsible that you are not amused; that you are “mad as hell and not going to take it any more.”

You know I am nothing if not helpful!  So here are some links to help you express your feelings to the responsible parties.  . . . . . You’re welcome!

Billboard.com Editor, Jessica Letkemann, Jessica.Letkemann@billboard.com

ABC TV:  http://abc.go.com/site/contact-us

Federal Communications Commission commissioners:                      

Chairman Julius Genachowski: Julius.Genachowski@fcc.gov
Commissioner Michael J. Copps: Michael.Copps@fcc.gov
Commissioner Robert McDowell: Robert.McDowell@fcc.gov
Commissioner Mignon Clyburn: Mignon.Clyburn@fcc.gov        Commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker: Meredith.Baker@fcc.gov
Go to it people!  I will!!

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“Why Pine Ridge?” is a question I am frequently asked.  I have been pondering the answer to that question since Christmas time, especially, because it was posed to me by Dana, a woman from the Pine Ridge Reservation to whom I write while she is incarcerated in federal prison in Minnesota.

She replied to  my Christmas note.  She was looking forward to watching the “My Passion is Pine Ridge” video ( http://youtu.be/t8UYGSBl4yU?a ) that I had recently posted on YouTube.  She wrote that she looked forward to it “although [she] would like to know why?  Why such the passion?  So many people love where [she’s] from but all moving home did for [her] was get [her] in trouble.”

I have been musing and pondering over those questions for several months now.  I really owe her a response.  But for me to say that my love for the Lakota people who live on Pine Ridge Reservation is due to their culture, their strength and their needs sounds so cerebral.  My passion and crusade to inform the nation about the living conditions on the rez come from a different place than my head.

My passion stems from my heart and soul.  My heart feels a loving connection with each person I meet from the reservation – even the ones who try to “pull a bit of wool over my eyes.”  I understand a bit of human nature.  My soul feels torn apart when I see the beautiful, kind, gentle people – especially the elders and children, those sacred ones – living in conditions that many people in the country would not expect their animals to live in.

I feel it is a “sin” (in the generic sense of that word, not a particular religion’s interpretation) to a group of people in the United States to live in conditions that no one else would tolerate.  These are conditions that are like those in the Third World – in Haiti or Burundi.  Life expectancies on Pine Ridge are similar to those places as well.  It is wrong that, if Pine Ridge residents lived a hundred miles away, their live expectancies would increase by 30 years – just by being born and living a couple of hours away.  Those are the things that give me my passion and drive.  The unfairness.  The losses.  The hardships.  The national news media doesn’t tell you thinks like that – not ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN or FOX.  So I do it.

Those are some of the things that make me keep plugging away even on those days (or weeks) that I get discouraged.  I am so impressed by those on Pine Ridge Reservation who make it.  Or who work to give the elders and youth hope for the future.  My work allows me to help one at a time.  That is a good thing.  But the numbers who still need help are overwhelming.  I do it for all the strong Lakota women I have met who inspire me to never quit using my own talents and abilities until I have achieved my goal.  These are women who live in the direst of conditions yet they still laugh and give to others.  They are my inspirations.  I guess that is, in the end, why I am driven by such passion to promote the welfare of the people of Pine Ridge Reservation.

I read another letter addressed to Facebook friends and written by a young Lakota mother and musician.  I think she would be pleased that, even though she is a professional musician and that is her occupation, I introduced her as a mother first.  She is devoted to her family above all things except Tunaksila (God).  She was raised off rez and has come back to help her people.  She has a plan and goals, which you can read about in my prior post about the youth project for native music.  She has given me permission to share her letter with you here.

Its hard to be Lakota but its worth it. Sharing my thoughts.

by Davidica Littlespottedhorse on Tuesday, March 22, 2011 at 6:54am

Its easy to say,”Fix it. Take a stand. Make some noise.” but its harder to actually do it. Im one of the strong people on the rez whos not afraid to stand against injustice or speak the truth, but I know why most of my people wont speak up.

When you live in a place where corruption is the norm, you dont have much faith in the power of justice. I still believe, I have faith and Im proud of my Lakota people for enduring the living conditions here on my rez. Because through it all we kept what was more important than material things. We have our culture, our spirituality, our history, and our knowledge of our ancestors. These are things that are lost to most tribes so I know how blessed we are.

Most people in the outside world dont understand the life we lead and get frustrated wondering why it is the way it is. Yes we are treated badly but the majority of us are busy surviving. We dont have the time to be ambitious we are too busy trying to get food on the table, keep warm, or keep our electricity on. I dont know of any other town that 90% of the population can live off of $3000 a year, yes a year. Any other town would be in total chaos. People would be stuggling, have no homes, and fighting for what little resources there are. Oh wait that is what we do, but we are not in TOTAL chaos for all that the media and everyone else plays up.

For all our struggles, still we are strong. We are compassionate. We are generous. We are welcoming. When a family member needs help we all help them. When we are hurting our families come together to pray with us. We are proud of our ancestors who kept us from being wiped out. Our youth is talented. Our elders teach us.

And, if you look past the negativity out in front, you’ll see the beauty in the ones who are quiet and strong. The ones who just live their lives being good to those around them. Like my grandpa who takes his guitar to sing at funerals and doesnt ask for money. Or my cousin down the street who fixes peoples cars for free. Or my aunt who runs a small business and still sponsors lil league teams. Or the boys at the basketball game who all came outside to help push some guy they didnt even know out of the snow. Or the teenage girls that would come over and ask to take my girls for a walk so I could mop my house. Or when my baby died, all my relatives that I didnt even know very well who helped me with everything from cooking to burying my daughter. Then a year later they all came together again to pray with me even though I hadnt seen most of them all year.

When bad things happen or times are hard its easy to complain and get mad, but the true Lakota way is to look forward and gather courage to make things better in a good way.

I was upset yesterday but I lit some sage, took a deep breath, and said a prayer. Then I remembered my moms words,”Its hard to be Lakota. You have to forgive when no one else will. You have help everyone, even your enemies. You have to pray for yourself to let go of anger. Once you do this you will learn from your experiences and then you can help your people.” I stand humbled and strengthened by my experience because now I have a new direction to help my people.

Pilamiya Tunaksila for direction.

So, why do I have such passion for Pine Ridge?  It is, of course, my sense of what is right and what is wrong.

But it is the women about whom I frequently write.  It is because of Dana, a talented women who succumbed to temptation in her desire to support her family.  It is because of Davidica, a talented women whose strength and spirituality has helped her resist the temptations of the reservation.  It is Michelle, who has endured more than any mother should have to endure with her daughters (rape, illness, death).  It is Emma who takes in foster children when she has ten children of her own to care for.  It is Nadine who single-parents her children and grandson, takes college courses, maintains her culture through her crafts and hopes to show other rez women that it is possible to succeed. There are too many others to single out each one.

How could I possibly not have this passion after the inspiration of so many!?

I hope you are inspired to spread the word about the poverty and hopelessness that too many have on Pine Ridge.  Just tell people you know, if that is what you are most comfortable doing.  Send them to the YouTube videos so they can see for themselves.

Pretty soon I won’t be a single match trying to shed light on these lives, but we will have a huge bonfire of caring and love to catch the country’s eyes.

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I got to thinking in the past few days – I know, a dangerous thing for me to do – about how so many of the things I’ve been writing about recently are more like marathon events than sprints.

A marathon is a 26 mile 385 yard (42.195 km) race.  The best runners can do it in a little over 2 hours; average runners may take 4 to 5 hours.  I would probably take 2 – months, that is.  Unless I had a coronary event before that.

Sprints are short, quick races – 60 m (indoors), 100 m, 200 m, never more than 500 m.  The elite runners for the 100 m, for example, can complete the race in about 10 seconds – a brief flash in the pan.  I, on the other hand, would be left in their dust, gaping at the speed while unmoved myself.

In my life, there have been many more marathon events than sprints.  Not actual races, of course, but life events that play out over a longer time rather than events that are done in that flash.

As I noted, marathon events seem to be really predominating lately.

The first would be the commitment I have made to follow and write about Dan Ross, the young musician who is walking from Illinois to the Pacific Ocean in Oregon.  That will be a marathon times 100 – yes, he’s actually going to be walking approximately 2600 miles in his journey.  That journey is sure to bring self-discovery in addition to his goals of drawing attention to the conditions on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota and raising funds for the non-profit ONE Spirit who work to improve the lives of those who live on the reservation.

Another marathon will be the clean-up following the flooding on Pine Ridge Reservation.  I know, some will read this today and wonder “What flooding?”  If they did not see my original posting or many Tweets, they surely will not have seen it in the national news media.  That’s because the national news media hardly ever notices what happens in the middle of this country.  When the problem is in the poorest county in the country, it is not going to attract national media attention unless it involves violence.

The marathon that will result from the flooding is not just the drying up of creeks and homes.  It is the rebuilding of lives by people who have very few resources with which to do it.  There will be no insurance to cover the damages.  Homes will be patched as best they can be.  Waterlogged contents which, in insured suburban homes would have been collected and disposed of, will be dried out to see if they can still be used.  There is no money to replace them.  That is not a good thing in a place where many homes already have problems with black mold.  Wet furniture, clothing and bedding will be terrific breeders of mold as the weather improves.  There may be pollutants and toxins in the water that flooded the homes.  They will remain when the water evaporates.  Some things will simply be gone with the water.  It will take a long, long time for most to recover.  Talk about a marathon!

Relationships are marathons, if they last.  Whether it is the relationship of spouse, lover, friend, sibling – they all take work and they don’t survive without a commitment to being an active participant in the life of the other persons.  Gratefully I have a good number of these marathons going already and some new relationships that I hope will develop into marathons.  There is nothing wrong with a sprint, of course.  The acquaintance who is a joy for a time, then moves out of your life has merit.  But it is the marathon relationships which, while certainly entailing work, bring the greatest joy and benefit.

I have been running a health marathon for over 45 years, coping with fibromyalgia.  While some have claimed their fibromyalgia was cured, I do not personally believe that to be true.  I believe they did not truly have fibromyalgia in the first place.  Otherwise, more of us would be taking advantage of that cure.  Instead, most with fibromyalgia run the same marathon that I am running – to make the best life they can with the fewest number of flare-ups.  It is challenging, but so are most marathons.

My final marathon is my personal crusade to bring awareness of the living conditions on the Pine Ridge Reservation to a nation that is uninformed and poorly educated.  The people in this country have come to depend on a small number of commercial news outlets to tell them what is happening in their world, their nation and their lives.  If it isn’t on television, they don’t know about it.

Mind you, I am not passing judgment here.  I was no different at one time.  But I do have a couple of assets – a healthy curiosity and desire for life-long learning.  When I learned about the reservation by first sponsoring a child there, then doing research and finally traveling there, I vowed that I would not let the beautiful, proud, generous Lakota people go unnoticed any longer.  As I have taught myself about technology and social media, I have moved further and further along the path of this marathon.  I am no expert at either the technology or social media outlets.

But I am passionate about this journey.  I believe that, if the people of this nation knew about the conditions and loss of hope that have become the norm in these sovereign first nation communities, they would do something.  They would demand change!  I believe this because I have seen it happen with other disasters, both here and abroad.  Americans do not care who is in need; they respond from their hearts and wallets.

It should be an embarrassment to this nation that we allow Third World conditions to exist in the center of our nation.  I am committed to the marathon that will bring this to light and help bring about change.  It can be exhausting as any marathon is.  But it is, for me, the most important marathon in my life.

 

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Today I received an email from the folks at ONE Spirit (http://nativeprogress.org) about a young musician who will be walking across the country – yes, I said walking – to raise awareness of the conditions on Pine Ridge Reservation and to raise funds for ONE Spirit’s work there.  You know how dear to my heart the Lakota people of Pine Ridge Reservation are.  So you shouldn’t be surprised that I have offered to provide information about this event and write periodic updates on Dan’s progress as part of my blog.

Dan Ross is a young Illinois-based musician who can be found on YouTube.com under the guise of “goofyguitarist.”  More information on the Dan and the walk can be found at ONE Spirit’s website:

http://nativeprogress.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=201:spring-awareness-walk-for-pine-ridge-youth&catid=34&Itemid=153
Dan has a Facebook page going to garner support for the walk (from Rockford, IL to the Pacific Ocean in Florence, OR!).  The link is:  http://www.facebook.com/#!/home.php?sk=group_125643704165866&notif_t=group_activity

This is the description of the Facebook group that he gives:

“In 2011, Dan Ross (that’s me) will walk from his hometown of Rockford, IL all the way to the Pacific coast in Oregon. For 5-6 months I will walk every day, rain or shine until I reach the ocean. Why? Well…I watched Forrest Gump recently and…..err….I mean I like to walk, and…I like the the ocean too, so i figured ….uuum… I guess right now I don’t quite know why I’m doing it, however I do know that once I’ve done it I’ll surely know why I did it….. Anyway, I’ll also be bringing publicity to a non-profit organization called “One Spirit”. This organization brings aid to the impoverished Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. The reservation contains in it, the poorest county in the United States. Living conditions on the reservation are unacceptable by most American standards, and the children growing up there have little opportunity. As I traverse the land on my epic trek, I plan to encourage people across the country to donate to One Spirit in an effort to help them raise enough money to build and maintain a youth center on the reservation, which will provide new opportunities for the children and teens on the reservation. TOWNS I WILL WALK THROUGH/BY: ILLINOIS- Freeport, Elizabeth, Galena, East Dubuque. IOWA- Dubuque, Colesburg, Edgewood, Strawberry Point, Oelwein, Readlyn, Waverly, Shell Rock, Allison, Dumont, Hampton, Clarion, Humboldt, Pocahontas, Storm Lake, Alta, Aurelia, Cherokee, Marcus, Remsen, Le Mars. SOUTH DAKOTA- Vermillion, Yankton, Tyndall, Wagner, Pickstown, Bonesteel, Gregory, Winner, Mission, Martin, Pine Ridge, Oelrichs, Hot Springs, Custer. WYOMING- Newcastle, Moorcroft, Gillette, Buffalo, Ten Sleep, Greybull, Cody, Yellowstone National Park, IDAHO- Tendoy, Challis, Clayton, Stanley, Lowman, Banks, Horseshoe Bend, Emmett. OREGON- Vale, Brogan, Unity, John Day, Mitchell, Prineville, Redmond, Sisters, Springfield, Eugene, Veneta, Walton, Florence, OCEAN!!!!!!!! “

 

I recently read the interview Dan gave investorideas.com and would like to share a couple of his responses with you.

Question: Can you tell us what motivated and inspired you to take on such a challenging endeavor?

Dan’s response: Honestly, I was watching “Forrest Gump” one night during the fall of 2010 when I was first struck with the idea to walk across 2/3 of the country. For those of you who are unfortunate enough not to have seen the movie (because it’s a good one!), the main character spontaneously decides to run across the entire country, and it is certainly an inspiring moment in the film. Before that night, I had already planned on moving out of my hometown in 2011, in an effort to broaden my horizons and gain a new clarity of mind so that I might discover what I’d like to pursue in life; I just wasn’t sure exactly where I would go or how I’d get there. So I would say that I was primed, ready, and waiting for a good idea to come along. All I needed was a spark of inspiration.  What motivates me to take on such a challenging endeavor is the fact that it IS a challenge. I enjoy pushing myself, if for no other reason than to test my own potential. Also, I believe traveling is one of the wisest things a person can do with their time and money – it allows you to learn things which cannot be taught. The possibilities of what I can learn from this journey are more than enough to motivate me to do it.

Question: You have chosen the youth of the Pine Ridge Reservation and the building of the Safe House and youth center as your non-profit to dedicate this to. A white youth from Illinois dedicating his walk to the native youth at Pine Ridge is an unexpected storyline; can you tell us how that came to be?

Dan’s response: Once I was certain that I would walk to the ocean in 2011, I began to think that maybe someone besides myself could benefit from this whole thing. After quite a bit of brainstorming, I was still unable to decide what cause I would walk for. Then, amidst the planning of my route, I noticed I would be walking right through the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, a place which I knew nothing about at the time. So I did a little research, and the information I found was startling and overwhelming unemployment estimated at 87%, life expectancy of about 50 years, 90% living below the federal poverty level, and teenage suicide rates 3 1/2 times the national average. I couldn’t believe that this place was located practically right in the middle of the United States. The fact that I was unaware of the situation at Pine Ridge makes me think that most others living in this country are unaware, as well. From this point on, I was sure that I had found a just cause.  After notifying One Spirit that I would like to help, we decided I should dedicate the walk primarily to the youth on the reservation. If you provide the younger generation with a safer childhood, and more opportunities to learn and grow, it becomes likely that they will want to take action to help the next generation in the same way. If all a child knows growing up is poverty, it’s easier to turn to drugs and/or gangs as a way out. I want to help show them something better.

 

Can you imagine doing what this young man is doing for people you don’t know?

Okay, if you’ve read any of my earlier blog entries, you’ll know I, personally, can’t imagine walking any farther than absolutely necessary, except on a treadmill – and that is an act of will.

I could get all spiritual on you (pun, get it?) and quote Christian scripture:  “For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die.” Rom 5:7  All right, don’t moan, I can hear it from here.  I know Dan is not planning to die.  But you get my point.  This is a really big thing for a person to do for someone else.  It shows a generous heart.  I am impressed and inspired.  I hope everyone who reads my blog will support Dan in this walk – if only by sending him good wishes or checking out his music.

I think it will be very interesting to follow this trek and see what Dan learns about himself as he tries to educate the nation about Pine Ridge Reservation and ONE Spirit.

This is a copy of the information I received today about Dan’s initial plans for his walk.  If you are on his route and can support his effort in any of the ways noted, you should contact ONE Spirit directly (if you send offers to me, it will only delay things).

If you aren’t on the route, you can still support the effort by forwarding a link to this blog entry or the ONE Spirit website or Dan’s Facebook page to friends and acquaintances.  The more who know about this effort, the better.

As we gear up for Dan Ross’s walk from Rockford, IL to the Oregon Coast to raise awareness for the youth of Pine Ridge, we are again relying on the help of our generous One Spirit supporters.

We are planning out the Illinois, Iowa and South Dakota legs of the walk and need the help of local supporters to provide a place for Dan to stay, help arrange for media coverage, and facilitate awareness gatherings if at all possible.

Don’t be afraid to think outside the box on ideas for this. Any and all suggestions are welcome. Even if you have a contact or a lead that you would like to share with us so that we can follow-up, we are grateful for your help.

Below is a list of dates and times Dan will be passing through Illinois and South Dakota. If you are able to assist in any capacity with these stops, please contact One Spirit. If you know of a friend or relative in that area who might be interested, please forward on this email.

Chicago area volunteers are needed for publicity and awareness campaigns. If you know of a media outlet that will be able to spread the word, or if you are able to set up a benefit concert or donation drive, please contact One Spirit.

IOWA STOPS
4/20/11 – Dubuque
4/24/11 – Oelwin (we have a grateful volunteer who is willing to cover this stop
4/26/11 – Wavery
4/28/11 – Hampton (we have another volunteer who is taking care of this stop)
5/11/11 – Humboldt
5/5/11 – Storm Lake (we have a volunteer taking care of this area)
5/8/11 – Le Mars

SOUTH DAKOTA STOPS
5/10/11 – Vermillion
5/12/11 – Yankton
5/16/11 – Wagner
5/21/11 – Winner
5/28/11 – Martin (We have accommodations arranged for this area)
6/7/11 – Hot Springs
6/9/11 – Custer

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Have you heard?  There is flooding in Pine Ridge due to the snow melt (caused by some brief, unseasonably warm weather), ice jams, clogged culverts and bridges.

You haven’t heard?  Why I am not surprised?!

There are 11 creeks flooding with White Clay Creek presently being the worst.  One man said he hadn’t seen anything like it in the past 50 years.

The reason I know about this is that I follow KILI radio (90.1 FM, the Voice of the Lakota Nation on Pine Ridge Reservation) via internet and Facebook.  I also subscribe to the Lakota Country Times (based locally near the reservation) via internet and follow their postings to Facebook and Twitter.

I read the Rapid City Journal online.  That is where I found an AP News article about the flooding and evacuation of residents in some areas.  The AP article states it is based on information obtained from the RC Journal.

So I decided to cast the net a bit wider.  I did a web search for information on the flooding in Pine Ridge 2011.  What did I find?

ABC News or an affiliate?  Nowhere to be found!

CBS News or affiliate?  Yes, a 1:40 clip on KELO TV – helpful.  Be sure to watch the clip!  There will be a quiz later.

CNN?  I’ll write again when I stop laughing.

FOX News?  Sorry, still laughing!

NBC News or affiliate?  Well, yes, if posting the AP article on their website counts; KXMB did that.

Here is what little I did find.  I’ll let you check it out if you want, before I continue . . . . . .

Rapid City Journal: AP Article http://rapidcityjournal.com/news/state-and-regional/article_e119e9e3-4060-5d41-93ef-4257649ffbeb.html

AP News http://www.kcautv.com/Global/story.asp?S=14062038

Indianz.com http://64.38.12.138/News/2011/000489.asp

KELO TV News  http://keloland.tv/NewsDetail6162.cfm?Id=111005

KXMB TV CBS affiliate Bismark/Mandan http://www.kxnet.com/getArticle.asp?ArticleId=728059 (AP article)

The AP article was also printed in GoWatertown.net (Watertown, SD), IndyStar.com (Indianapolis, IN) and KTIV.com (Sioux City, IA).

Facebook page of Trees, Water, People with photos of flood:  http://www.facebook.com/#!/album.php?aid=276007&id=11071758786

So again, the poorest people in this nation are experiencing a disaster and the national news media are nowhere to be found.

Is anyone going to declare the area a disaster zone so the residents are eligible for FEMA aid?  When?  By the time they get aid, it might be too late for some.  Is Oprah going to set up a charity for these folks?  I don’t think their in her radar.  Are there going to be celebrities vying to have a fund-raising telethon to help these residents replace what shabby homes they may have had?  Not holding my breath!

If you think that people on the reservation have homeowner’s insurance, think again.  A few maybe; the majority no.  Too expensive when you already can’t pay for the necessities in life (you know, food, heat, electricity).  Even KILI radio didn’t have building insurance when their roof caved during the past year!

What do you think will happen to poor people who have lost what little they have?  They will get leftovers, handouts, second-hand donations and start all over again trying to get back on their feet.

Mother Nature has decided to throw a curve ball to these residents who are trying to pick up the pieces.  She has pulled back the pleasant, relatively warm weather and replaced it with a reason for the National Weather Service to issue a Winter Storm Warning.

That’s right, in the midst of all the flooding, the temperatures are plummeting as we speak.  Right now it is about 18 degrees in Pine Ridge.  The wind will be blowing at 15-20 mph with about 6 inches of snow expected.  The wind chill temperatures will range from 3 degrees above zero to 7 degrees below zero!  Isn’t that a kick in the teeth from Mother Nature after this flooding which still exists?

I guess it’s time for the quiz.  Here you go:

What was the name of the man interviewed in the KELO TV piece?

(Jeopardy music plays . . . da da da da …da da da …)

Okay, time’s up.  His name is Henry Red Cloud.

Why is he important enough for me to ask you that question?  It is another piece of irony, if you will, in this disaster.

You see, Henry Red Cloud is head of Lakota Solar Enterprises, which is what you see in the TV clip.  Lakota Solar Enterprises (LSE), located on the Pine Ridge Reservation, is one of the nation’s first 100% Native American owned and operated renewable energy companies. LSE  provides training to enable tribal members to become Solar Technicians.  LSE also manufactures solar panels and installs them.  This is a budding company on the reservation that has hit a serious set back.  To learn more about LSE, you can go to the website of the not-for-profit organization Trees, Water, People (http://www.treeswaterpeople.org/tribal/info/tribal_lse.htm).  To help in the current crisis, you can go directly to the link that follows:

To donate to the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center relief effort please visit http://treeswaterpeople.wordpress.com/2011/02/16/emergency-flood-relief-fund-created-for-red-cloud-renewable-energy-center/. We need to get people back to work!  To see a video of the flooding in this area, go to http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=1247074937634&oid=21578805928&comments

So, back to the original question.  Have you heard about the flooding in Pine Ridge, SD?

Yes, you have, no thanks to the national news media who are busy telling us about a lot of other nonsense.

Your job?  To pass the information on.  It appears that the only way there will be any help for these people who live in 2 of the 8 poorest counties in the United States (all in SD) is for those of us who care to pass it on until someone has to notice.

Are you willing to help?

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