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In all the chaos and hurry of trying to get everything cleaned up on my desk and in my inbox, I was stopped in my tracks a couple of days ago.  I was reminded of why I do the “work” I do.

I received a call from a Jane Doe, woman on Pine Ridge Reservation.  Okay, that’s nothing new for me.  I talk to a lot of folks there.  Jane is a woman I have actually visited and with whom I have spoken quite a few times.  She is a pleasant, soft-spoken woman who is  a wheelchair bound paraplegic, the result of being rearended in an auto accident by a drunk driver.

You would think Jane would be worried about herself and the fact that she lives in a small, non-ADA compliant apartment.  But several months ago, she told me the story of her two nieces.

Both her nieces are adults.  Both of them are mentally handicapped.  The two women had lived with and been cared for by their parents until the parents passed away.  At that time, one of their adult siblings was given guardianship over the two women.  The guardian decided to put the two women into a home of some sort, many miles away from the reservation and from all that was familiar to them.  No one from their immediate family visited them and, in fact, the guardian moved away to the East Coast and left them alone.

Jane Doe was the only one who visited her nieces, in spite of the fact that her car was constantly breaking down.  The women cried when she left and called her crying when she was at home because they were so lonely.

Jane, though disabled herself, was so concerned about her nieces that she went to the tribal court and sought guardianship of the two women.  They have been allowed to come to visit her — sleeping on the floor of her living room on top of sleeping bags and quilts.

Jane recently received guardianship!  However, they cannot come to stay with her permanently until she has a place for them to sleep that is not the floor. 

The living room is the only place in the apartment that they can stay.  Truly, Jane and her nieces need a proper place to live — one where a wheelchair will fit through the doorways.  But that is not likely to occur any time soon.

Jane would like to have her nieces home by the holidays, she told me when she called to ask if I could help her find a pull-out sofa bed or bunk beds for her nieces.  It’s so hard to say no to someone as generous and kind-hearted as Jane.  But it isn’t what we usually do, since a sofa bed, the best option, can be quite expensive.  I, personally, would hate to ask 38 and 40 year old women to be climbing into bunk beds, however.

We have actually located a sofa bed for $1000 that can be delivered to their home.  I’m not sure if that included tax — probably not, right?  But we don’t have a spare $1000 at this time.

I’m hoping that there will be a donor (or donors) who thinks that these 2 mentally handicapped women deserve to live with their aunt, who is so loving and giving in spite of her own needs.

If you know anyone who would like to help, direct them to ONE Spirit at http://nativeprogress.org to make the donation.

I, personally, am going to keep Jane Doe in my mind as I prepare for the holidays of giving thanks and giving gifts.  She is willing to give of what little she has out of love for her family.  She is a true inspiration to me!

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I have been pretty “quiet” lately thanks to the work volume all of the wonderful folks who have been stepping up to become sponsors for children and elders on Pine Ridge Reservation since the 20/20 episode aired.  I literally have not had time to write.

That is about to change!

This evening I called an elder to give her a sponsor for the 5 year old granddaughter she cares for.  The longer we spoke, the more I knew I had to share this story.  I’m sharing it because I am so far past angry I can’t keep this to myself.  It is difficult to type when all you can see is red, but I will give it my best effort.

[scrape … scrape … scrape … sorry, the soapbox makes a bit of noise]

I asked Grandmother how her granddaughter, who is in first grade, was doing.  She told me that the girl was happy but having some difficulty in school.  She was told the child may be dyslexic.  That will mean a struggle for her.

I told her I had a sponsor for the girl and she was very happy with the news.  We continued to talk as I confirmed the address information.  It was then that I began to steam.

This little girl’s family had moved away and left Grandmother with a trailer to live in with the girl.  If you could hear me, I would tell you to close your eyes and picture it as I describe it.  Instead I will try to paint you the picture with my words on this page.

The trailer is in a group of trailers.  It is very old.  Grandmother worries that the roof will come off in the wind that comes with storms – and in South Dakota that is often.  It seems that the wind is always blowing on Pine Ridge Rez.

The trailer has no running water or sewer connection.  They were using a nearby outdoor faucet for water, carting several jugs a day.  Some of the neighboring men “rigged” up the sewer pipe so they could use the toilet, flushing by pouring some of the water they had carried into the tank of the toilet.  HOWEVER . . . there was some kind of water line break in the area and the tribal water department had to shut off the water.  Yes, the outdoor faucet that they were using to obtain water is now dry!  The tribe has not made the repair that would allow the faucet to be turned back on.  Now they have to go to someone else’s home to obtain the water they need and carry it home.

Following the dotted line . . . or broken water line, let’s see the additional results of the lack of water and sewer connections. 

The most striking consequence is that Grandmother cannot get a propane tank without the water and sewer connected.  Is that important?  It depends on your perspective, I guess.  Do you think eating is important?  Do you think it’s important to have heat in the South Dakota winters?  Personally I think they are both things none of us would want to go without.  So how does Grandmother cook?  She uses a hot plate or electric skillet.  How does she keep herself and her young granddaughter warm in the poorly insulated trailer?  She uses several small electric space heaters.  The pair sleep in the living room.  Grandmother has hung a blanket in the hall doorway to keep as much of the heat as possible in their small living area.

Picture two old-fashioned thermometers, the kind with the bulb of mercury on the bottom.  One of the thermometers is measuring the temperature outside the trailer.  The second thermometer is measuring the electric bill.  As the mercury in the first thermometer drops (actually plummets at night) during the winter, the second thermometer’s mercury is exploding through the top of the stem like a volcanic eruption!  By spring, the electric bill will be too high to pay – causing the electric to be cut off and a $250 reconnect fee to be added to the next bill.  This is what will happen this winter as Grandmother tries to feed and warm herself and her granddaughter.

Are you beginning to get upset yet?  No?!  Okay then, it’s time for the clincher.

Do you remember that flimsy roof I referred to above?  That roof has another serious problem – it leaks badly!  When it rains, the water comes in through the light fixtures.  It comes down the walls.  Grandmother’s mattress in the bedroom can’t be used – it’s wet.  Even if they had running water, the bathroom would be unusable – the flooring and carpet is wet.  Besides, after her granddaughter got a small electrical shock when turning on the bathroom light to brush her teeth, Grandmother decided it was better not to use the bathroom at all.  So all bathing and tooth brushing and laundry is done in the kitchen.

I asked Grandmother whether she had sought any assistance to get the problems resolved.  She told me that she had.  She told the folks at housing.  A man came out and made one small repair.  He never returned, in spite of her calls.  Her district representative to the tribal council has tried to help her out but he has had as much success as she has had.

[okay, breathe . . . in . . . in . . . in very slowly, then out . . . out . . . out slowly, control the breath to control the rising anger . . . again . . . okay]

 

Is this how elders of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, the wise people of the Lakota, should be living?  Is this how they should be treated when they ask for help?

We ALL know the OST has no money, though why they don’t is harder to figure out.  But the fact is they have people.  They need to be training more people to do the very repairs that elders need and can no longer do for themselves.  The tribe needs to invest in their own vocational school to train plumbers, electricians, construction workers, carpenters, etc.  These trained workers could be licensed.  They could form companies and do work for an income.  They could also, in exchange for their education, give back to their communities by performing the repairs for elders for free, as a sign of the respect due to the elders.  The tribe needs to work at making it easier to do business on the reservation — especially for registered tribal members.

Lakota culture and values state that elders are to be respected; that women and children are sacred.  But it is only lip service that the tribe gives.  They spend more time with politics and nepotism guiding their decisions than the truth of their ancestors.

So I am left with the question of how I can help this particular Grandmother.  But I am also left with the bigger question.  There are many more grandmothers on Pine Ridge Reservation.  Many do not have the energy or ability to lobby constantly for the repairs they need.  I am trying to use the steam I am still feeling about this to brainstorm ideas on what would help.

If you have any ideas, I would love to hear them.  It doesn’t matter whether they are feasible or not at this point.  I just want to know that you think this situation is abominable and how you think it could be changed.

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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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You might be wondering what aspect of “Back to School” time I’m referring to when I talk about the blues.  Is it the perspective of the kids — summer’s gone and so is my freedom?  Or perhaps it’s parents — there goes relaxation and here we go with all the activities to which kids need to be chauffeured.  Summer’s gone and so is my freedom.

What I’m actually thinking about is the shopping that needs to be done.  My children are adults now, but I still recall having to buy new school clothes and supplies.  Heck, I recall when I was a child, there were new clothes every year when school began.  It was a rite of passage.

Yet things were different in my day.  I didn’t grow up in a well-to-do family.  Sometimes, especially when I was younger and didn’t have much “say” in what I wore, my mother would sew my clothes.  My grandfather worked in a cloth mill and brought my mother many remnants that would have been tossed out.  Free material and my mother’s skill kept me relatively fashionable.

There isn’t as much of that happening today.  Most kids shop, with or without parents, for all of their clothing.  They get to wear clothing that may be their size but is styled in adult fashions.  We wonder why they grow up too fast.  Brands become important — peer pressure and the media certainly help there.  Cost vs value for your money seems to be ignored as credit card balances rise.

School supplies (pencils, pens, paper, notebooks, crayons, etc, etc) are chosen far differently than when I was in school.  In fact, when I was in school, you didn’t have to buy much.  The school supplied most of your needs.  The first day of school, you were given pencils, crayons, a ruler and perhaps some other items.  The only things you needed to buy were what you might need at home to do your homework.

Today, we see parents and children with carts loaded with school supplies because schools no longer have the funds to supply those items.  Today it is parents who must find the cash (or raise their credit card balances again) to give their children the basic items they need for school.  Of course, it is no longer just the basics.  We now have designer back packs, a seemingly infinite choice of pencils and pens (and everything else) and a lot of “cutesy” items which only serve the purpose of making kids “cool.”

Most parents dive into this “back to school” preparation with abandon — either the abandon of joy because they are as addicted to the process as their children or the abandon of resignation because they have to get it done and over with.

There are some parents who cannot do this for their children.  I think of them every year now, when the “back to school” ads start appearing on TV and in print.  I am the one who watches for the “super deals” and heads to the stores for school supplies.  No not for my grandchildren; I don’t have any grandchildren.  I head to the stores to shop for the children of parents who dread the cost of “back to school” supplies.

They dread it because they have no money.  Now come on, you didn’t think I was going to just write a bit of drivel about going back to school in the “good old days,” did you?

I think especially about the parents on Pine Ridge Reservation.  Most are unemployed and subsist on tribal aid, government aid and the kindness of others (like you).  They have trouble paying for the basics in life — a roof over their family’s heads, food to put on the table, heat in winter, electricity.  Some have auto expenses, some have no auto because they can’t afford it.

But they want their children to get an education.  So they need to send school supplies to school with the children.  Where does the money to purchase school supplies come from?  I’ve been there and I know people there and your guess is still as good as mine.

For a lucky few, there is the OKINI list or a sponsor through ONE Spirit.  For a few others, there are other groups that will send some supplies out to one of the schools on the reservation.

I have sent things to individuals and through school supply drives (such as the one Friends of Pine Ridge Reservation has every year).  I watch the sales so I can get as much as possible for my money.  Otherwise, I won’t be able to afford to ship the supplies to the rez.  Thanks to whomever it was at the US Postal Service that came up with the idea for flat-rate boxes.  School supplies tend to be heavy!

So as you watch the “back to school” frenzy, think about the parents who are experiencing the true “back to school” blues.  Maybe you’ll be inclined to help them this year . . . maybe longer.  I know the economy  stinks right now but it is still stinks more for some than for others!

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You know who you are.  Your animals are your children.  You abhor any kind of cruelty or abuse of animals.  Some think animals have rights, some do not.  But all believe that animals have intelligence and feelings.

I fit in there somewhere.  I have a cat who is 16 years old and just now has started to “act old.”  It has made me suddenly aware of his mortality – he has always been such a healthy, strong little guy.  It also has given me a reawakened awareness of what big part of my life he is.  No, I can’t say I will spend thousands of dollars to keep him alive should he fall ill.  Nor can I say I would spend more to keep him alive than I would to help humans in need.  But I do love him and will mourn if he dies.  And I would never let anyone harm him.

I can see you now, either nodding in agreement or rolling your eyes.  If you’re rolling your eyes, it might be because you think I fall short of deserving to be called an “animal lover.”  You might be right.  You might also be rolling your eyes because you’re thinking I’ve been self-serving, inviting all of you animal lovers to me melancholy musings.  You would be wrong.

I doubt any of you who have read my posts regularly would think to call me self-serving – at least I hope not.

I was recently told about a 66 year old elder on the Pine Ridge Reservation who is an animal lover.  I was speaking to her daughter, who told me about her mother.  The daughter was concerned because her mother takes in strays and cares for them, providing a kind of shelter in a place where no shelter exists.  Her mother is often given pregnant animals, so she ends up taking care of the mother and babies until homes are found for the puppies or kittens.  I use the word “given” very loosely here because sometimes people do actually give her mother the animals directly but more often the pregnant animals are just dropped off in front of her house because of her reputation.

I understand that very well.  My parents lived out in the country and people would often drop off pregnant cats near their land.  During one time period, my mother had 22 cats/kittens that she was caring for and feeding because of other people’s irresponsibility and “generosity.”  I have never understood why some people think it is okay to drop what they perceive as their problem on someone else’s doorstep.

My mother had the means to care for the animals that came her way.  The woman on Pine Ridge Reservation does not.  She receives her Social Security benefits.  With that money, she feeds and attempts to provide health care for the cats and dogs that come her way.  Her daughter is concerned because her mother often does not have enough left to get the things she needs for herself.

This is where you come in.  I’m hoping for 2 things as a result of this post.  I would like to find a sponsor for this elder who will supply animal needs so she can use her fixed, small income to get what she needs for herself.  I’m talking pet food and items like that.

The other thing I’m hoping for is bigger – I am hoping that an animal aid group of some sort, perhaps right in South Dakota, would be interested in working with the tribe to establish a humane shelter and a way for those who own pets on the rez to have their animals neutered and vaccinated at little or no cost.  The best thing would be a “roving” clinic – an RV set up for veterinary care.  The distances are so great on the reservation and many people do not have transportation, so even if there was a veterinarian on the rez, it would be difficult for people to get there.

There are many pet owners on the reservation.  And just like anywhere else, some are more responsible than others.  Some keep their pets indoors, take good care of them and enjoy their company.  Others, however, allow their pets to roam – there are packs of dogs as well as individual strays.  The tribe does not have the money to “police” that problem.  Some people realize they cannot afford to feed and care for the animal, so they set the animal “free” to fend for itself.  Many do not make it.

In the whole scheme of the problems faced on the reservation, the plight of stray animals may not seem like it is high on the priority list.  But I know that, to a certain group of you who are reading this post (and hopefully passing it on to kindred spirits), that means that the kind of thing you find very important is being given no attention or funds.

If you care about these animals that no one else cares about or if you care about the woman who, like you, hates to see animals treated like worn-out shoes, you can help!

There are several ways to help.

–Sponsor the woman for pet needs.  To do this, contact ONE Spirit’s Sponsor Coordinator Regina Hay at rhay@nativeprogress.org and ask to be connected with the Area Service Coordinator for the Pine Ridge settlement.

–Sponsor the woman for her own needs (food, clothing, cleaning products).  You can do this in the same manner as above.

–Make one time donations of pet food through the OKINI program of ONE Spirit.  To do this, go to the ONE Spirit website http://nativeprogress.org and contact the OKINI program director.

–Find an organization that would like to take on the challenges of the bigger problems regarding the animal population on the reservation.  There are surely people with more expertise in this area than I claim to have.

Whatever you do, let other people know.  You may not be the one with a solution, but the next connection . . . or the next . . . or . . . you know what I mean.

 

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One of the things I made sure to do while I was visiting Pine Ridge rez in June was to go grocery shopping.  No, I didn’t need groceries — okay, except for the crackers I bought because I needed a snack to hold me til dinner.  What I needed was information.

I’ve been in the convenience stores on the rez before.  The prices for items are generally a bit higher than you’d see elsewhere.  But that’s the case with most convenience stores, isn’t it?  You are paying for the convenience for which they are so aptly named.

This time I went grocery shopping at the “supermarket” or “supercenter” on the rez, Sioux Nation Shopping Center in Pine Ridge, SD.  I would ask you not to confuse this with a market that you would find in a more urban setting, such a Wegman’s that I’ve seen on the east coast.  This is more like a rural “mom & pop” type market with a general store attached.  It doesn’t even come close to a Wal-Mart Supercenter.

Sioux Nation is the only grocery store on the reservation and I have been told often that their prices are much higher than in a “real” grocery store — that is, a chain market.  I decided that it was a good idea to verify it for myself.  After all, it isn’t unheard of for people to exaggerate a bit, right?

Thursday, before the Crazy Horse riders returned, my husband and I parked and went into the store.  The first difference I noticed was that the front entrance was set up in a less that attractive manner — it was set up for security primarily.  There was a turnstile to enter the store and the doors were the only glass at the front of the store.  There were no windows to let in light and attract the shopper from the exterior.

Once inside, it was clear that this store had not been remodeled since it was built.  For us, it was a bit like stepping back in time to our childhood, before the big chain stores were in competition for your family dollars.

Sioux Nation carries Shurfine products as their “store brand.”  I remember that brand from when I was a child, in some of my local markets.  Sure can’t find it at home anymore.

I had brought my husband with me on this adventure because he is something of a “human calculator.”  He remembers numbers the way you and I remember song lyrics or family birthdays.  I knew he would recall the prices we pay at our market for the food items we looked at.  He did not fail me on this assignment.

The first fact about the prices was that, except for the sales, most prices were indeed higher than home.  Most sales were on processed foods and snack foods — but that isn’t much different from grocery stores everywhere.

We headed to the produce section to check out the fresh food.  The variety that was available was extremely limited, the quality was so-so.  The prices were definitely higher.  I am not talking a few cents higher here — I wouldn’t even bother to tell you about a few pennies.  I’m talking about 50 cents to a dollar per pound higher for fresh fruit and vegetables.

Next up, dairy — higher.  Let’s check meat — higher prices, with less variety and poorer quality than we are used to seeing.  There were very few lean meat choices available but there were plenty with high fat and sodium content.  (I’m starting to understand the local diet and the reason for the raging epidemic of diabetes on the rez.)

Interestingly, the generic soda/pop prices were about the same or lower than in our area.  Since the juice and milk prices were significantly higher than we pay, it made that gap in cost larger than usual and explained why so many children are raised on soda/pop rather than milk and juice.

Overall, prices averaged 20% higher than off-rez prices.  I understand the reasons for this from a business perspective.  Sioux Nation Shopping Center is run by the Oglala Sioux Tribe.  They cannot buy in bulk the way the big supermarket chains do.  They also must truck everything in to a rather remote location.  Just like “mom & pop” stores, you would expect their prices to be a bit higher (though if the tribe were run more soundly and in better fiscal shape, I would hope they would subsidize the costs for their people since they know well about the 80-90% unemployment . . . just sayin’).

What does this translate to in real life?  If you spend $100 for groceries to feed your family shopping off the rez, it will cost you $120 for the same groceries on the rez.  If that is a week’s worth of groceries, the $20 per week difference would add up to a whopping $1040 per year.  It already sounds like a lot, but when you consider that the average per capita income on the rez is in the $3000 range, you can see that it is a significant portion of your income.

Thus the fact is that those who can afford it least are paying most.

It is a fact that many, if not most, residents on the reservation receive Food Stamps.  Food Stamps (also known as SNAP benefits under the “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program”, although I think that is a misnomer) are part of a Federal government aid program to provide those who meet certain poverty requirements with “help” to be able to afford food.

I looked up the requirements (US citizen, less than $2000 in resources unless you are over 60 or disabled, if so then under $3000 in resources).  Resources don’t include your home or the land it’s on, SSI or TANF benefits.  A vehicle depends on its use and value (not typically a problem on the rez).  Income limits vary based on household size and can change each year.

There was a tool to see if you might be eligible.  I put in information as if I was a young couple on the rez with a couple of hundred dollars in cash and 4 children (ages 6, 5, 3 & 1) to feed.  This imaginary couple rented, had to pay for heat and electricity, were both unemployed and did not get any SSI or TANF benefits.  They had a car valued at $500 (basic transportation).

The family qualified for $942-$952 per month as an estimated benefit.  That would be $947 per month if averaged or $157.83 per month per person or $5.26 per day per person.  That’s $1.75 per meal per person — wow, that’s gone up from the $1 per meal per person was a little while ago.  Personally, I’m not sure it’s gone up as much as food prices have in the same time frame.

If I were to feed a family of 6 like that imaginary family a nutritious diet where I live, I would estimate that it would cost about $250 per week or $1000 per month.  By nutritious, I mean a healthy diet with fruit and vegetables, milk or formula for the children and lean meat.  So that would actually put the government in the ball park — for a person living in an urban or suburban neighborhood with access to chain grocery markets.

BUT . . .

Let’s recall that we are on Pine Ridge Reservation.  We must shop at Sioux Nation Shopping Center or we must travel over an hour to reach a chain market.  If we shop at Sioux Nation, with the average of 20% higher prices, our cost for this family will be $1200 for the same healthy diet.  If we travel off the rez to shop, the savings in food costs must justify the gas used at a cost of perhaps $3.75 per gallon — in a car that definitely doesn’t get good gas mileage!

Another negative — we can’t carpool to the off-rez market.  I asked someone about that once and she laughed.  When you are shopping for a month for 6 people, there is no room in the car for extra families and their groceries too.  So you can’t defray the cost of the travel by car pooling.

All of the markets, Sioux Nation and off-rez alike, stay open very late on the day that Food Stamp benefits are placed in the EBT accounts.  But I am told that whichever you shop at, you need to shop early if you hope to get what you want.  Since everyone gets their benefits on the same day, nearly everyone shops on the same day.  Stores run out of staples, I’m told.  They can’t restock shelves quickly enough, if at all.  It sounds like a good way to make shopping even more stressful than it already is, especially on a limited budget.  I’m no expert, but it would seem that issuing benefits on a rotating schedule alphabetically (e.g., A-G week 1, H-M week 2, etc) would ease that problem.

As an aside, we need to remember that Food Stamps (and WIC, for that matter) covers only what can be eaten.  So food stamps do not cover: cleaning products for the home; personal hygiene products like soap, shampoo, conditioner or toothpaste; feminine hygiene pads or tampons; diapers.

My shopping excursion at Sioux Nation proved that prices on the rez are definitely higher than in off-rez stores.

All of this explains why I get so many calls from families who are running out or have run out of food for the month.  This is especially true when you recall that my imaginary family had 4 toddlers.  If you changed that to 4 teen or preteen children (especially boys, who have been known to eat you out of house and home as they grow), how much faster would you run out of food without the ability to “run to the market for a gallon of milk” whenever you need it.

It also explains why families are very pleased when their sponsors can order them food through the ONE Spirit food program.  The program, working with a South Dakota farmer, provides fresh produce and meat as well as a few other items, delivered to the door.  What a wonderful way for a sponsor to supplement the food the family can afford.  I have heard that ONE Spirit is working on a way to allow families to use their EBT cards to purchase food for themselves (they can already do this with cash, if they have any).  That would be an interesting development.

In the meantime, the choices remain the same:  higher prices locally or lower prices at a distance.

It’s a lot like being between a rock and a hard place.

 

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If you’re in IA and have passed a young man walking down the road with a golf club cart . . . without the clubs . . . you have had the honor of passing Dan Ross.  Dan is the young musician who has decided to “find himself” in a most unique manner.  He will be walking from IA to the OR coast to raise awareness of the needs of young people on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

Dan experienced one learning experience before he set out.  He suffered what he believed to be a knee injury.  In reality, it was a hip problem that caused his gait to be faulty, which then injured the knee.  The result is several life lessons:  preparation is important in any endeavor, even the most exciting; life will always throw us curve balls – adaptability is essential (hence the club cart for his backpack rather than his back); nature is even more capricious than life – things like hail can fall from the sky so having a shelter to wait out the storm safely can be a life saver.

You see, this endeavor has taken me along a philosophical route.  But I will update you a bit in the particulars of this walk as well.

As Dan walks through IA, he is fortunate to have the hospitality of the Rodemeyer home.  Lu’Ella Rodemeyer has picked Dan up from his stopping place for the night then returned him to that spot the next day to continue his walk.  Another lesson:  Friends are essential in life.  They can mean the difference between success and failure.  They can nurse us through our injuries and pain.  Rather than the isolation of a solo journey, Dan is finding the companionship of friends (new and old) is a blessing on the road.

In Dan’s last Facebook post of June 15th, he said,

A BIG THANK YOU to Lu and Dan Rodemeyer, Dan Winkowitsch, and Kurt and Corky Wolf for giving me a place to stay, feeding me and making me feel at home as I journey westward through Iowa!  Without your help I would not have made it this far.

So Dan has about 250 miles under his belt thus far.  And already lessons have been learned — or at least been available for the learning.  Imagine what the next approximately 1750 miles will bring!

If you want to follow Dan’s progress on a more detailed basis, check out the Facebook group Dan Ross Walks to the Pacifichttp://www.facebook.com/home.php?sk=group_125643704165866&ap=1

If you prefer a brief synopsis, stick with this blog.  I will continue to follow Dan’s progress and well as provide my philosophical take on his experiences.

If you want to donate to the cause that Dan hopes to raise funds for as he raises awareness of the youth needs on Pine Ridge Reservation, go to the ONE Spirit website:  http://nativeprogress.org

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