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Archive for the ‘Cheyenne River Reservation’ Category

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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I may make some enemies saying this, however in my humble but educated opinion John Stossel, “reporter and consumer crusader extraordinaire” has gone over to the dark side.  That is a wordy and pretentious way to say I think he’s full of BS.  I believe Stossel is more interested in self-promotion than a deep analysis of the truth at this point in his career.

There was a day, I must admit, when I admired John Stossel.  I thought his consumer reporting was helpful.  But in those days I was not taking the time to check the veracity of his statements.  Had I read FAIR reports earlier in my life, perhaps I would have known that his “facts” were not always really truthful facts.  You can check FAIR concerns yourself at http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=1887 .

I will also tell you that, had I attempted to write this last night, when I first read his blog post of March 25, 2011 entitles Freeloading Doesn’t Help the Freeloaders, it would have turned into an angry diatribe.  I would have attacked Mr Stossel personally which would not have been worthwhile.  However, I will say I was really steamed!

I refuse to give a link to take more people to his blog post.  I will tell you he posted it on that date at 4:57 in Entrepreneurs, Fox News Appearances, Free Market, Freeloaders and Government. I will analyze it for you, though.  So don’t give him more views unless you plan to add to his already large quantity of negative comments.  I don’t claim to be an expert, like Stossel does, but I do think I am fairly well-informed.

Stossel’s opening statement was “No group has been more ‘helped’ by the American government than American Indians.  Yet no group in America does worse.”

Right here I have to split a few hairs with Mr Stossel.  “No group has been ‘helped’ more …than … Indians.”  Mr Stossel, please tell us the definition of the word “help” that you used.  In my dictionary, help means “to give what is necessary to accomplish a task”, “to save or rescue”, “to make easier/less difficult” and “to relieve in pain, sickness or distress.”

Let us consider how the American government has “helped” the Indians of this country.

American Indians are the original inhabitants of this continent.  They had flourishing cultures, strong family structures, languages of their own and their own forms of government and justice.  In those cultures, the poor were taken care of by sharing – no one went hungry when others ate.  A chief wasn’t the most popular person in the group but the person chosen as having proved him or herself as most wise.  Chiefs didn’t seek the office; it was usually thrust upon him/her.  It wasn’t even a real office, as such.

There was variety among the cultures.  Some were more centralized, where game was plentiful or perhaps the soil was good enough to grow crops.  Other tribes were nomadic – without a permanent home although they did have “permanent” territories.  They followed the migration of animals that were their own life blood.  Indians used every single part of the buffalo, for example, not just the meat or hide.

Although there were certainly disagreements and conflicts between families (clans) and amongst tribes, most were also generous and hospitable.

Enter the Europeans.  Yes, those who are the ancestors of most of you readers, definitely me and assuredly Mr Stossel.  Those Europeans step on the soil of this continent and “claim it.”  CLAIM IT!  Oh yes, there are already people living on this land.  But there don’t seem to be that many of them.  We think there is room for all.  We will claim some of this land as our own.  Yes, we will OWN it.  What?  You, the original inhabitants don’t believe you can own land?  Well, we do and we have stronger weapons, so it will be our way.  Besides, we don’t need that much land.

The success of those first European interlopers would not have been a problem for the Indians if their group did not grow.  But grow it did!  They had huge families and they interested more Europeans in moving to this land of promise.  Then they needed MORE ROOM.  MORE LAND.  Oh, so sorry, we’re going to take more land from you.  Sure, we’ll give you a few trinkets and shells for it.  Trust us.

Woe to those who trust the untrustworthy.

The first Indians to encounter the Europeans had smaller tribes and were more settled (which is NOT to say they were permanently settled in towns, etc).  As happens everywhere, some fell into interracial love affairs.  So begins assimilation.  Others were truly converted to the European life style.  Many were either forcibly “converted” or died trying to preserve their own way of life.

But we need MORE LAND.  MORE SPACE.

So the push westward was begun.  Indians who were already displaced from the east were pushed further away from their homelands if they did not assimilate.

The government began to make treaties with the tribes.   In exchange for the land you are “giving” us we PROMISE to take care of you, make sure you have enough to eat, good places to live.  We PROMISE to punish any bad person who hurts, steals from or otherwise harms a member of your tribe.  We PROMISE no one will bother you on the land we are giving you.

People today like to think that these treaties are quaint documents in which the government meant well but which don’t have much meaning in this day and age.  WRONG!  Treaties are legal documents between sovereign nations. Would we think of saying, “Sure, we have treaties limiting nuclear arms with Russia, but that’s for them, not us.  We can do what we want to.”  That wouldn’t fly, would it?  Treaties are binding on all signing parties.  That includes the US government.

So our government agreed to give the Indians certain things and do certain things for them.  Did the government follow through on everything it PROMISED?  NOT EVEN CLOSE!

Treaties were broken by the government.  There was more land taken (stolen).  There were cultures destroyed and languages lost.  Sacred places were defiled.  And did I mention more land was taken?  Reservations began to shrink as precious minerals were found and mines begun.  Cattle and other grazing herds competed with the native animals that formed the Indian diet.  The government condoned the wholesale slaughter of buffalo to get them out of the way for the railroad to cross the country and to free up grazing land for stock.  The government condoned genocide, too.

The remaining Indians were left on reservations with fairly useless land.  They had no access to food, especially the food they were all accustomed to.  There were no jobs on the reservations.  The children were taken from their families to be “civilized and educated.”  These are the Indians whom Stossel calls FREELOADERS. These are the ones surviving on the benefits the US government promised to them in “exchange” for all their land and their culture.

Let’s go back to the dictionary.  Freeloader is defined as “slang: a person who habitually depends on the charity of others for food, shelter, etc”.  And freeload the verb is defined as “to take advantage of others for free food, entertainment, etc”.

Okay, based on what we’ve discussed, it is obvious that Indians are freeloaders, right?  The are taking advantage of those who stole their land and culture by expecting to be given the things that treaties have promised.  I’m sure they are entertained by the broken promises, hungry children, substandard living conditions and prejudice they have.  It must be an advantage to experience hopelessness and despair to such a degree that there is an epidemic of youth suicide on reservations.

Mr Stossel blithely notes, “They have short life spans.” That is the understatement of a lifetime! The life expectancy for a male on Pine Ridge Reservation is 48 years and for women it is 52 years!  Those are life expectancies comparable to Burundi, not anywhere in the USA.  Do you really think, Mr Stossel, that these “freeloaders” are getting a benefit here?  Do you think they greedily and lazily think that losing 30 years of expected life is a good deal?

Do I disagree with Mr Stossel’s premise that people who are given everything prosper less than those who must work to get ahead?  Not entirely.  I look at the youth of this nation, a group who have come to believe they are entitled to things, education, jobs because their parents gave them everything they asked for.  Talk about a group of freeloaders (in general; there are certainly exceptions).

However, do I believe that American Indians are freeloaders, as Stossel claims?  ABSOLUTELY NOT!

I wonder if Mr Stossel has ever spent any time visiting a reservation or talking to those who live there.  I doubt it.  I have done both.  I have seen with my own eyes what passes for housing on the reservations of South Dakota.  I have seen how hard it is to succeed even with an education – that it often means leaving home, family, culture and friends.

So, Mr Stossel (I’m sure you read your own press and hope you have been able to read to the end), I urge you to read any of my blog entries in the Lakota category.  Watch the videos I’ve made from photos I’ve taken on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

My Passion is Pine Ridge  http://youtu.be/t8UYGSBl4yU?a

Third World Conditions in the USA  http://youtu.be/-gHXmlUpVvs

Look carefully at the pictures of my friend’s house, Mr Stossel.  Tell me if you really believe that someone would live in those conditions willingly in order to take advantage of charity or “government handouts.”  If you really believe that, you don’t deserve the BA in Psychology that you got at Princeton University.  You obviously didn’t learn enough to merit it.

Yes, there are prosperous American Indian individuals and tribes who don’t need the benefits they are entitled to from the US government.  But there are many, many more who, for whatever reasons, absolutely need them and would not be able to survive without them.  You should know better than to compare apples to oranges, Mr Stossel!

American Indians, especially in the Dakotas, endure prejudice and bias akin to that experienced by African-Americans in the deep South in the days before the Civil Rights movement.  Where is the American media when that occurs?  Absent.  It is abominable that you add to this with the commentary you wrote equating all American Indians with freeloaders.  Shame on you!

Mr Stossel, you should not write about what you don’t know, even if you have a wonderful staff to feed you statistics.

And you owe American Indians an apology at the very least.

g a person who habitually depends on the charity of others for food, shelter, etc
slang a person who habitually depends on the charity of others for food, shelter, etc
slang a person who habitually depends on the charity of others for food, shelter, etc

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I have  never known anyone who had a child abducted before yesterday – by his or her own parent or a stranger.  Now I can’t say that any more.

I was a single parent for 10 years.  In the early years I worried a little – not that the kids would be abducted by their father, but that he would try to take them away from me in court.  It was a foolish little fear fueled by insufficient sleep and poor health because the truth (which I knew most of the time) was that he would never have done that.  He wasn’t that interested in having the children with him.  But it was still a terrifying thought when it came!

However, as I said, abduction by the non-custodial parent never crossed my mind.  The only time I’ve thought about it is when it makes the news, which is gratefully infrequently.  So you can imagine my shock when I was told the following story.

I had a message from a grandmother on Pine Ridge Reservation.  She left the message Thursday, stating it was an “emergency”.  Unfortunately I was out most of Thursday (it was St Patrick’s Day) and did not get the message until Friday morning.  I called this grandmother back immediately.

She told me one of her grandchildren had been abducted from the Head Start program.  I asked when.  March 14th, she told me.  Four days ago.  Yikes!

I asked if they knew who did it.  Yes, they did.  It was her dad.  The little girl is 4 years old.  I asked if they had any leads on where she was.  Again, yes.  After 2 trips to Rapid City (2.5 hours one way) to be there when the police thought they had found her, but had not, they finally did find her in Eagle Butte on the Cheyenne River Reservation.  They were going to pick her up after she took down the missing child posters at the Head Start program and several other places.

I asked how I could help her.  She asked me to contact their new sponsor and ask her to call them after 5 PM, when they should finally be back home.  She told me that, with the cost of gas for all the running around, she had no money for diapers.  I assured her that I would contact her sponsor.  I asked her to let me know if there was anything else I could do.

After advising the sponsor about this, I could not stop thinking about the whole episode.

It is a frightening event for any parent to have a child abducted, even if it is by someone they are relatively sure will not harm the child.  But what is it like on the rez?  Is it any different?

Of course it is.

Why?  I know that’s the question you were going to ask.  It comes down to money.  No, not for ransom.  Money to do the running around to try to locate the child.  Hopefully you have a car and only need gas money.  But on the rez, you can’t assume that the custodial party has a car.  There are plenty of people on the rez who don’t have their own cars.  If the custodial party has no car — and I use the term “party” intentionally, because it is just as often a grandmother or aunt as it is mom —  he or she must find a car to borrow or “hire” to get around.  This is not always an easy task, though I would like to think it would be easier in a case like this.

Even “just” gas money is likely to add up when you consider the distances on the reservation.  Traveling from the settlement of Pine Ridge on the southern border of the reservation to Kyle in the northeast takes at least 40 minutes and to Red Shirt in the northwest takes nearly an hour.  To get to Rapid City, you need to add another hour from Red Shirt or one and a half hours from Kyle.  They say time is money, and in this case it is because more time in the car means more gas used.  I’m sure you are aware of the rising cost of gas!

Imagine being in this situation:  Your child, who was abducted, may have been located.  Of course, you want to be present when the authorities go in to get the child.  You find a car to borrow, fill the tank with gas and travel the 2.5 hours to get there.  But she is not there any longer.  You return home, another 2.5 hour drive.  You get another call telling you that you need to go to a different location to pick up the child.  You travel those same roads again and return on them empty-handed – another 10 hours of fruitless driving.  Finally, you find out where the child is . . . and you know the drill from here.  Except now you have to travel 216 miles (taking about 4.25 hours) — one way!! You also have four other children in the home you care for.  They are all younger than the abducted child.  Ages?  3,2,2,1.  Their primary needs?  Food, diapers and warmth.  You have food and heat – but no money left for diapers.

How does that feel? It doesn’t matter whether you use disposable diapers which need to be purchased frequently with that many young ones or cloth diapers which need to be washed frequently (which requires plenty of laundry detergent).  The fact is you can’t afford either.  How does it feel to not be able to provide adequately for the children in your care?

I hope you said it feels lousy.  If not, I am very sad for you.  You have no empathy, which is also lousy.

Gratefully, this grandmother has a good sponsor and I am certain the sponsor will do whatever she can to help out.  Not every grandmother or aunt or mother or dad or uncle or grandfather could say the same.  I wish they could.  You probably do too, because then I would write about lots of other things that are far less painful to read.

 

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I got a weather report from the Rapid City Journal earlier and have been trying to figure out which cliché I wanted to use to describe the cold there.  But I couldn’t think of anything cold enough to be fitting, so I’ve decided to let you fill in the blank after you read the post.

These are the facts:  the temperature is zero degrees F, the wind is blowing at 32 mph with gusts to 38 mph and it is snowing lightly.  The “feels like” temperature is -27 degrees F.  That’s right – minus 27.

That’s very likely the temperature measured at the Rapid City Airport, as many places use the airport to measure official weather statistics.  But let’s travel an hour and a half south, to the Pine Ridge Reservation.  Now we’re on the prairie and in the badlands.  The wind has fewer obstructions and is really howling.

How cold does it feel here?  Let’s factor in a few other pieces of information.  Most housing on the reservation is of substandard construction.  There are many wood frame houses and trailer homes.  Most are not insulated.  In fact, many have holes and drafts.  Homes here are heated in several ways – propane furnaces, wood stoves and electric space heaters.  With the coldness of winter there, the propane does not last very long.  Those who heat with wood may run out, especially in bad weather.  There are those who have resorted to burning whatever will burn in the stove to stay warm – clothing, books, furniture.  Electric space heaters are extremely costly – not to purchase but to run.  They need to be on continuously.  The electric bills by the end of heating season often end up too high to be paid, so the electricity is shut off.  The electric company is not supposed to shut off the power in the winter, but it has happened. Trying to heat with wood or electric has also resulted in some catastrophic, wind-driven fires that destroy homes before the fire department can arrive.

I am not going to debate the causes of these circumstances here and I refuse to make this a political discussion as well.  It is, to me, a moral issue.  No one in this country should have to burn their clothing or books to stay warm.  No child should have to be under piles of blankets or clothing to stay warm while he or she tries to sleep.

I am going to make an exception to my rule, though.  It’s my blog and I can do that if I want to.  I will do it because of another article I read in the Rapid City Journal this morning.  The article by Mary Garrigan of the Journal staff was actually posted Thursday, Dec 10, 2010 and is entitled “Energy assistance payments vary.”

In a place like Pine Ridge, where unemployment is 80%-90% and 90 % live under the federal poverty level, you can be sure that energy assistance is a winter lifeline – literally.  People have frozen to death there, including one man I had personally met.

So what did the article have to say about energy assistance?  The first thing I found interesting is that there is a different amount available to people depending on whether they qualify for aid through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) of the State of South Dakota or must rely on the LIHEAP of their tribal government.

LIHEAP helps income-eligible families pay for heating and insulating their homes in winter and cooling them in summer.  It is a federally funded program which begins in October.  South Dakota’s allotment last year totaled more than $29.3 million; the amount of that set aside for Native American tribes in the state was $5.2 million based on a federal formula that uses 1990 Census data to determine the amounts.

Tribes have the option of administering their own LIHEAP programs and in South Dakota 7 of the 9 tribes have opted to do so.  There is an agreement between the state of South Dakota and the tribes that the federally calculated amounts (2.3% of the total) will be doubled (to 4.6%) because it is commonly agreed upon that the Census undercounted tribal residents.

So, we have the 7 tribes, including the Oglala Sioux Tribe of Pine Ridge Reservation, receiving 4.6% of the total funding.  In a state with such a significant Native American population, this seems insufficient – but that is just my non-scientific opinion.

What kind of amounts of money are we talking about, anyway?  Does it really matter?

The article tells of a resident of the nearby Cheyenne River Reservation.  He is enrolled with his tribe; his wife is not a tribal member.  Therefore their household is able to qualify for the state-run LIHEAP funds.  If both were tribal members, they would have to qualify for the tribal LIHEAP instead.  How much of a difference can it make?

This year, this couple expects to receive about $1661 in aid.  His cousins, brothers and other relatives will receive about $400 on the same reservation.  $1661 vs $400!  If you don’t belong to the tribe, you can get 300% more!

The amount available to residents on the Pine Ridge Reservation was expected to be $300 for the winter.  I don’t know why it is less.  I do know that is how much people have been receiving.  They have told me that when I’ve spoken to them.

The people I have spoken to have also told me that the money has already run out and that people have been turned away because of that! How can that be?

The Journal article notes that South Dakota’s LIHEAP awards vary according to primary heating source and geographic region.  The poorest families could expect approximately $427 per year for coal and wood, $1245 for natural gas, up to $1096 for electricity, up to $2082 for propane and $2333 for fuel oil.

I have no information on how these programs are administered.  I do not know where the money goes or why tribal members receive less.

I DO KNOW THAT $300 OR $400 IS NOT ENOUGH TO HEAT A GOOD HOUSE IN SOUTH DAKOTA, LET ALONE A HOME LIKE MANY OF THOSE ON THE RESERVATIONS!!!

I also know that, while the politicians (state, federal and tribal) are bickering about the responsibilities and trying to assess blame, I will be talking to people who are COLD and are asking for help to keep themselves and their children warm.

It really ticks me off!!

You can read the original article at http://rapidcityjournal.com/news/article_8056e9b4-13c2-11e0-b813-001cc4c002e0.html

In the meantime, don’t forget to fill in the blank – either as a comment here or in a Twitter reply to the link.

Colder than … ______________________

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I have been sitting here trying to decide what to write about.  Nothing seemed to inspire me today.  I decided to “give it a rest” and check out something else for a while.

I went over to Twitter and one of the folks I follow had posted a link to a new Public Service Announcement (PSA) that has just been released to help get aid for the Cheyenne River Reservation, which appears to continue in a state of emergency.  I really liked the simple, direct approach of the PSA.  I also liked the fact that it was filled with youthful faces.  The youth on the reservations in South Dakota seem to have very little hope.  Perhaps this will provide them with some inspiration.

This is a link to the PSA.  I think you will like it too.  http://tinyurl.com/ye5bpaj

I then went to the home page of the organization that produced the PSA  “Shift the Power to the People”.  I wanted to learn more.  The link to their page, which includes a petition to sign and letters to send to your congressional delegation, is  http://shiftthepowertothepeople.org

Their Mission Statement is

MISSION STATEMENT

To Empower people to create sustainable, lasting change in their communities and countries through:

  • Creating Awareness of the current issues and conditions
  • Creating Alternatives that promote Dignity, Justice, Unity, and Accountability
  • Taking Action that supports the creation of these alternatives

They look to create awareness.  That is, of course, what I try to do in my own ways.  That is why I blog and Twitter my fingers off – to spread awareness of the issues on the reservations in South Dakota.

Read about life on Pine Ridge Reservation or Cheyenne River Reservation.  Then decide if you can go another day without sharing the information with someone else.

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The following is courtesy of Razoo.com for online giving:

Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Storm Relief – Emergency Assistance
A project of SOUTH DAKOTA COMMUNITY FOUNDATION
$35,000 in 1:1 matching funds from the Bush Foundation and the Northwest Area Foundation for the Cheyenne River ice storm relief efforts
Ice_storm_crst_sdcf

TOTAL FUNDS RAISED TO DATE INCLUDING OFFLINE GIFTS OVER $160,000 – THANKS TO ALL FOR YOUR GENEROSITY TO DATE!

The need for assistance on the Cheyenne River Reservation grows each day as the temperature continues to drop well below freezing. After suffering devastating ice-related storms over the weekend of January 22, 2010, electricity and water have been non-existent or scarce. Over 2,500 utility poles are currently on the ground in this remote, rural area. Power has been out in several communities and for thousands of residents for several days. Below zero temperatures and no electricity, heat, water or gasoline has created devastating results.

The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe is working to porivde emergency services and meet the needs of area residents. Through the establishment of shelters with emergency power generators, the most vunerable have options, but there are thousands of residents suffering through the cold and scarcity in substandard housing.

The South Dakota Community Foundation, with a generous 35,000 dollar-for-dollar match from the Bush Foundation and the Northwest Area Foundation, is accepting donations on behalf of the Cheyenne Rive Sioux Tribe. Now is the time to step up and help South Dakotans in need. We encourage you to consider a contribution while these matching funds are available to us.

To learn more about the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and their recovery efforts please visit their website at http://www.sioux.org/English/CRST_2010_Disaster_Relief.php

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They had a record-breaking snowstorm in Washington DC and the middle Atlantic states this past weekend.  I was in Tampa enjoying 60 degrees – cool by their standards but great compared to the 20’s in Massachusetts, which is home.  I didn’t watch much TV or read much news while I was away.  I did catch the word that I knew would become the newest catch phrase.  Snowpocalypse. After hearing that word, I knew we were in for mind-numbing stories of  Washingtonians woes.  So I ignored the news from then on.

When we got home though, I thought it prudent to see if anything was going on in the world of any significance to my life and our national interests.  So Monday night I watched the news again.  It was so sad.  The people in DC were still digging out from under an average of 2-2.5 feet of snow.  Plows were getting stuck in the snow on the roads.  There were people who had no power after 3 days.  I felt bad for them.  But the media kept going on and on about it.  Not just one story!  Several.  You’d think they had never seen a lot of snow before.  I know the amount was unusual but snowpocalypse?!!  Please!!!

The next story took us to the West Coast, where there were still threats of mud slides due to excessive rain.  Again, very sad for the folks involved.  But no one forced people to build in areas that are endangered by wildfires and mud slides.

I wondered what had happened in the middle of the country.  Was there any bad weather anywhere else?  Were there other people living in difficult conditions?  Of course, I knew the answer to the question because I read local newspapers for that area online.  I have friends who live in that area.  It brought to mind again a question that never is far away from me.  “Why does the national news media ignore the center of this country?” I have a secondary question that often raises my ire.  “Why does the national news media ignore the disasters that occur on the reservations in South Dakota, where Americans live in third world conditions?”

I had just received 4 more families on the Pine Ridge Reservation who were looking for sponsors to help them; asking for clothes, household necessities (cleaning products, toilet paper), shoes, food, blankets and heating assistance.  I knew of the emergency on the Cheyenne River Reservation caused by an ice storm – people without power and water for weeks.  I had spoken with the grandmother on Pine Ridge whose family had been housebound from December 24 to December 29 due to a blizzard that had created 8-10 foot drifts of snow across roads and driveways, burying cars and half-burying homes.  I knew that the homes on the reservations are substandard – few are insulated, many have drafts that blow through; people have no money for repairs or improvements.  If you’ve read any of my other posts about reservation life, you have an idea.  Why is it so few people know about the conditions there?  It’s because the national news media ignores them.

I was so angry I decided to email a comment to the ABC World News Tonight team to “express my sympathy for the poor folks in DC.”  That was when I saw it!!!  ABC News will be starting a new feature about things that Americans are “fed up” with.  I am certainly fed up with the way the national news media ignores the reservations in South Dakota.

You don’t need me to tell you that I jumped right in and wrote a long, detailed account of what I’ve told you here for almost 2 years.  If you’ve read any of my posts over the 2 years, you know I do not overlook an opportunity put in my path.

I will keep looking for opportunities and try to make some where none appear.  As I told ABC, it amazes me that the people of the US will respond to any emergency they hear about, anywhere in the world.  People in this country send money to aid those in many third world nations.  More interesting to me, however, is that people in other “developed” nations are sending money and aid to people living in third world nations right here in the USA!  That’s right!  I have recently given rez families sponsors from France, Belgium, Switzerland, Japan and Poland!!!  But I have not had half that number from the US.  Why not?  Because most don’t know or don’t believe that conditions can be that bad in this country.  Those who have been to reservations in South Dakota know differently.

I will continue to work (that’s volunteer work) for the all-volunteer non-profit organization One Spirit (nativeprogress.org) that tries to help children and elders on Pine Ridge.  I will continue to write to try to bring an awareness to this problem.

The reasons I do this are complex.  I love the Lakota people – in general and the specific people I have met.  I have dear friends who live in unimaginable conditions in this country.  I think it is a SIN that people live in those conditions in a country that has given so much to so many others. We must take care of the people who gave the most to this country.  They “gave” their homes and their lifestyles to our greed and our belief that we were superior and knew God’s will.  Surely we have enough gratitude to give something back.

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