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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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I know what you’re thinking — wait, I shouldn’t say that.  My mother used to say that to me when I was a teenager and I hated it!  She would always use that phrase when she was assuming that I was having stereotypical teenager thoughts — which I was never having because I was either too docile or too lame.  Probably the latter.  But I hated being told that I was thinking something I really wasn’t!

So, let’s start again.  It’s true, I haven’t been writing as faithfully as I usually do and now suddenly I’m inundating you with posts.  Sorry, that’s the way writing happens sometimes, especially when you’re doing it for free and your life is in a lull.

But some things have been happening lately that have stirred my interest.  You probably already read about my “godchild” on the rez and her good news.  Now I want to tell you about a family that really needs some good news.

I received an email from a young woman who lives in one of the areas I serve on the Pine Ridge Reservation (southwest SD, for any newcomers).  She asked if I would contact Carrie [made up name to make the story easier to follow], a friend of hers who lived in another area but was in need of assistance.  I let her know that I would.  She told me the family’s trailer had burned, a far too common occurrence.

I called Carrie.  I learned that she is a single mom with 3 children – a 19 year old son, an 11 year old daughter and a 5 year old daughter.  They had been living in the trailer prior to the fire and Carrie’s sister and child had lived with them.

Now they were homeless.

Her sister and niece/nephew (my bad – I don’t recall which) were living with other family now.

Carrie and her family had tried living with her former in-laws.  But the people in that home were drinkers.  She is not.  She did not want her children constantly exposed to that.  She did not want to worry that the few things they had after the fire might be stolen by a family member to sell/trade for alcohol.  It was not a peaceful home.

As you may be aware, there is a severe housing shortage on the reservation.  So finding another place to live is difficult at the best of times and nearly impossible in an emergency.

Carrie decided to borrow a tipi (English spelling: teepee) and set it up in a different district (for reasons I’ll explain in a bit – patience, please).  Allow me to describe the current living conditions and her requests when I called her.

She and the 3 children are living in the tipi which is set up in a grassy area.  They are sleeping on mats on the ground.  They have no bedding or blankets to speak of.  No running water, of course.  There is a hydrant nearby from which they can fetch water.  I suspect they will be building an outhouse.  No shower or bath, either.  They have no electricity and will not be able to get it for some time.  When the trailer burned, Carrie was behind about $300 on her electric bill.  The electricity had to be turned off due to the fire, of course.  So now, in order to get the electricity turned on anywhere else, there will be a $200 reconnect fee as well as the back bill which must be paid.  Carrie will have to find a little over $500 in order to get electricity for the tipi.  She says she does beadwork and has been given some beading supplies by a friend.  She will try to make some earrings to sell for the electric money and to buy more bead supplies.  You see, her supplies were in the trailer when it burned.  So basically, her income went up in smoke!

What do you think was the first thing Carrie asked for?  . . . . .{Jeopardy music} . . . . . Whatever you guessed was probably wrong – sorry about that.  The first thing she asked for was something to cut the grass around the tipi because it’s getting long and the snakes are out.  Yeah, my very thought – I’d want the lawn mower or whatever too!  Then she said, maybe rakes or a shovel.

After the lawn mower came the requests you would expect:  mattresses, bedding, towels, plates and utensils, pots and pans, clothing.  Lastly, in a kind of apologetic tone, perhaps some art supplies for beading.

I placed the family on the OKINI list (in case you are thinking of offering assistance).  Kari, the OKINI coordinator for ONE Spirit, was surprised by the lawn mower request, too.  It was a first for her.  (You can reach Kari at keovensen@nativeprogress.org).  Then I forwarded the family’s information to the area coordinator for the district she is in.

Now, back to the reason for moving to a different area.  Carrie and her family had been participating in a peaceful civil protest at the time that her trailer was burned.  I used those words intentionally, because it is believed that the fire may have been arson.  She thinks that it may have been related to the protest in some way.  She wanted to be away from that area when she set up a new home.

I do not get into politics on this blog if I can avoid it, so I’m not going to comment on the merits of that belief.  I can say that, once a fire is started on the rez, the distances from fire trucks and personnel, the prairie winds and the poor condition of the substandard housing usually results in a total loss of the property — both home and personal belongings.

This kind of thing doesn’t get attention from the national media because it is a single occurrence, not an entire town wiped out by a tornado.  Yet it is still as traumatic for the people involved.  I have done what I could officially to help by putting them on the OKINI list and getting them signed up for sponsors.  But I wanted to do more.  So I am writing this for you to read and think about.

And maybe pass along.

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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 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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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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I got a friend request on Facebook today.  It was from a young women on Pine Ridge Reservation.  She lives in one of the areas I serve and we had spoken before – so I recognized her name and accepted.

She had sent me two messages.  The first thanked me for the card I had mailed to her when her step-dad died.  This was the second

I was wondering about were you able to find my 3 children a sponser also i would like you too know our trailor house had burnt down?

I had not found them sponsors yet . . . wait a minute . . . did I read that right?  Their trailer burned?!

I immediately found the phone number I had for this young mother and called it.  I got the frequent message one gets when calling the rez:  I’m sorry, the number you dialed is not a working  number.  Please check the number … .  Oh wonderful!  She had at one time said that if I needed to reach her I could leave a message with her area CAP (Community Action Program) office and they would get it to her.

I got out the CAP office phone number and called.  She had been there, using the computer, but she’d left a little while ago.  I told them I would try back later.

Apparently they were quite diligent at the CAP office, because I got a call from the young, single mom a few hours later.  She cried as she told me the story.

On December 23, 2009 she had been awakened by coughing.  There was smoke throughout the trailer.  She was able to get her 3 children, then aged 8, 5 and 4, out safely.  However, since the reservation is huge and the fire department is all volunteer, it took a while for the fire trucks to arrive.  She noted that she and the children watched the trailer and all their things burn up while they waited for the fire trucks. (This is an all too common occurrence on the rez.)  Talk about something to cause PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).

I asked her where she and the children have been living.  “Here and there”, she said.  I knew what she meant – they had been living with one friend or relative until their welcome was worn out, then moving on to the next.  I asked her where she was living right now.  She said they were living with her grandmother, then began crying again.

She said, “All my relatives have a problem with alcohol.  All of them.  I don’t want that for my kids.  I don’t want them around them when they drink.”  Sadly, another problem for parents who want to set the right example but do not have housing of their own.

Housing is a desperate need on Pine Ridge Reservation.  I know people who have been on the waiting list for housing for 10 years!  I know homes that house a dozen people or more!  If you look at the statistics for homelessness on the rez, they won’t be accurate.  The reason is that many who are truly homeless have a roof over their heads thanks to the sharing of family – though it may be extremely overcrowded and some may sleep on the floor.  I always ask myself if that is really a home – is it any way to have to live?

I told her I wished I could help her with a home, but that is beyond the scope of the organization I work for.  She understood that.  I asked her what she and the children could use right now.  She told me she wanted nothing for herself.  She just wanted to take care of her children.  They needed shoes and some school clothes, even underwear and socks.

When was the last time you had to worry about buying your children underwear and sock?

I told her I would place her children on the OKINI (Lakota for sharing) list that we have for people who want to donate but not become sponsors.  She was grateful.  She gave me the address of a cousin for anything that could not be shipped to a post office box.  I asked if she could get there to pick it up.  She said she could probably walk.  My next question, obviously, was whether or not they had a vehicle.  No, she said they had no transportation.

She thanked me for calling her.

Do you know what struck me most about this conversation?  I’m sure you don’t.  But you can be sure I’m going to tell you!

What struck me most about my conversation with this young, single mom?  When I asked her how she was doing at the beginning of the conversation, she said, “Well, we’ve been kinda having hard times here.” Although she had 3 children to clothe, feed and find a home for, although she and her children suffered the trauma of watching their home and possessions burn, although she is homeless, unemployed and has no transportation, there were no histrionics.  Just kinda hard times.  The Lakota women I know are the strongest and most humble women I have ever met.

I know folks who pop a cork over not getting their favorite brand of coffee or their favorite designer jeans.

What would they say if they were in this young woman’s shoes.

Better question:  What would you say in this young woman’s shoes?

Most important question of all: What are YOU going to do about the many like this young woman on the Pine Ridge Reservation?

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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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