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

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

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

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

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Call #1

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

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

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

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

***************

Call #2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***************

Call #3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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ABC NEWS Has Come Through For Pine Ridge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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A lot of people wait for me to write about the sadness and poverty that I find when I visit Pine Ridge Reservation.  But the truth is, while there is plenty of both to be found, there is also plenty that is positive about Pine Ridge.

The first thing that we saw positive this visit was the land itself.  All of our prior visits have been in the fall or winter.  This is the first time we have visited in the spring.  What a difference a few months can make!  It was green!  I know, it sounds rather simple, but the difference between a green reservation and a brown, dried up reservation is amazing.

The green vista was incredibly beautiful.  It breathed hope and new life.  After seeing the reservation green and blossoming, I understand on a new level why the people who live here would not want to leave.  The beauty may not be there on that level all the time, but when you are in tune with the land and the seasons, you know it will return.

The first two people we met with were as positive and refreshing as the new life that spring brought to the reservation.  They were two inspirational women who believe there is hope for the youth of the reservation and who are doing something to put that belief into action.

I encountered Davidica Little Spotted Horse the first time because she had heard of the ONE Spirit program and wanted to know more about it.  She cares very deeply about her people, the Lakota people, and wanted to find out if we really did help people on the rez or not.  Sadly, there are organizations that say they are helping (and may on some level mean it) but who turn out to be divisive in the community.

Davidica and her mother, both of whom we met on our visit to the rez,  consider themselves “traditional Lakota.”  They hold fast and practice the Lakota traditions and values.  They pass those ways to their children.  Talent and positivity runs through the family like the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon – strong and creative.

This is the bio that I found of Davidica on Facebook after I spoke with her the first time,

I am a singer/songwriter, artist, businesswoman and mother. Currently the opening act for The Women of the Four Winds featuring Martha Redbone, Tracy Bone, Wayquay, and Davidica-www.myspace.com/dlittlespottedhorse
For Booking info fourwindstour@hotmail.com

My name is Davidica Little Spotted Horse.
I am a singer/songwriter from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. If I had to describe my lyrics in three words it would be, “heartfelt, personal, and passionate.” My songs are about love, loss, hope, and happiness, I believe these are feelings all human beings deal with. My songs are my connection to my inner self. All of the songs I wrote are about my own life and the two I co-wrote with my brother Isnal-Wica Belt are about his struggles. The song “Aaron’s Song” my brother and I wrote together is for his best friend Aaron Lakota because we wanted to give him a gift for being such an important part of our family and to voice that we understand what he’s going through.
I am a singer/songwriter first and foremost I just happen to be native, but more than anything I am a human being. So I humbly give all my songs to humanity no matter what your race because we can all relate to the human condition… life. I’ve always had a dream I would leave something behind to make my mark in history for my future descendants. My music is my gift to them. My children are my biggest supporters and the reason I recorded this album. I cherish my children, my extended family and my friends everyday.

I am also an artist. My beadwork is another way for me to share my creativity. I put my heart and soul into my work to create the best quality beadwork possible. My traditional beadwork is only Lakota style beadwork and I take tremendous pride in knowing how to make traditional pieces.
I also make contemporary beadwork which includes many different beading techniques and I make sure these are also excellent quality work.
You are welcome to purchase any of my beadwork that is put up for sale in my “Beadwork” Album in the photo section of my profile. I also accept orders for specific projects. Just message me and I’ll contact you with more details.
Much Respect.

I had wanted to meet Davidica after our first conversation.  She is thoughtful and open to everyone.  She is an incredibly giving woman.  She has nurtured those same values in her own children.

Davidica is a recording artist.  That is a remarkable thing for someone living on Pine Ridge Reservation.  But she is more than that.  She is a strong Lakota woman.  She puts those Lakota values into actions — they are not just words for her.  She treasures the children — her own and all those on the reservation.  It is Davidica who is responsible for the Independence Through Music project becoming a reality.

Independence Through Music is a project to identify talented young people on the reservation, to teach them about recording and performing, to teach them about the recording industry and to give them opportunities to become self-sufficient — not only by being performers, but also producers, managers, booking agents, web designers, art designers, etc..  This is not a “The Rez has Talent” contest where talented performers place themselves into the hands of strangers.  This is a comprehensive educational experience and an opportunity for young people to grow into careers and futures.

We were grateful that Davidica took time out of her day to meet us on a day that was a busy one for her prior to the ITM Concert the next evening.  We met at her mother’s home and except for the many calls she received regarding the details of the concert, their attention was on getting to know us.  We did not feel like we were being a distraction to their day.  We talked about the program, life on the rez, raising children and many other things.  It was a very pleasant time.

I have not written as much about Davidica’s mother yet because she was not the center of attention.  Yet I think she is very much the center of strength in the family.  Her deep spirituality and love of her people was very evident.  Some lead by the actions rather than many words.  This is the way Davidica’s mother leads.  I came away feeling it had been a privilege to meet her and wishing we had more time to chat one on one.

After leaving these two amazing women, we went to the home of another woman who strength is different.  She is not a community leader.  She is not even out of her home much.  She is not healthy yet she is raising two teenaged daughters.  She is raising them well in spite of poverty that almost crushed me when I entered her home.

I don’t say that lightly.  I have been in many poor homes before on the reservation.  But this home weighed on my heart and mind — perhaps even my soul — as none have before.  I don’t have pictures to share with you of this home because there was no way I was going to ask this woman if I could photograph her home to share with the world.  I was probably not meant to be a news photographer.

But I can try to paint it with my words.  As we drove up the dirt driveway, which was a hill, we had to avoid a large number of deep ruts that had been formed earlier in the week when the ground had been mud.  Straight ahead was a wooden building with a couple of small windows.  To our left was a single-stall garage sized building that was or had been used as a shop of some type.  A small trailer was behind the shop.

We were uncertain which building to go to when we saw someone peek out the window of the building in front of us (which I will refer to as the house).  Then a teenaged girl came out to greet us and lead us into the house.  Her mother, who was the person I had come to visit, was sitting in a rather worn recliner.

But before I introduce you to her, let me describe entering this house.  As we entered, there was the smell of animal urine — not extremely strong but definitely there.  The interior was dark.  The two small windows were partially covered by blankets to help with insulation and privacy.  We entered through the kitchen.  There was a refrigerator and cook stove.  The lack of cabinets meant that the non-perishables they had were stacked on the counter and other available spaces.  The kitchen table was a metal table that certainly was made prior to the 1950’s.  The kitchen and living room were actually one space, perhaps 10’x20′, separated only by the arrangement of furniture.  In the living room were the small recliner, an orange plastic chair and a television.  In the corner was a pile of several blankets and it made us wonder if this woman slept in the recliner.  Her daughter brought the single metal kitchen chair into the living area so we could all sit.

In the center of the space was a small wood stove.  My parents used wood to supplement their heat and this stove was probably only half the size of my parents.  The wood would have to be cut small to fit and the stove would need to be filled often.  I recalled that, the first time I had called this woman, she had told me they had a stove but no pipes to vent it.  I could see there were pipes now.  The stove was so old that I imagined it might have been in use since the 1800’s.

Off this main kitchen/living room, there was one bedroom, which had a door with a padlock on it.  It was the room her daughters shared and was padlocked when they were gone so none of their things would be stolen.  I cannot say how big the room was, but based on the size of the building, it was probably not much bigger than a queen sized mattress.  There was an indoor bathroom.

This woman was pleasant but had a difficult time talking because she was on oxygen full time.  She had been to the doctor’s just the day before for breathing issues.  She was due to have a lung scan soon.  She also had a difficult time moving around and I will have to assume that the two teenaged daughters must do much of the cooking and cleaning in that home.

We did not visit there long because it was such a physical strain on this woman to have company.  Personally, I’m not sure I could have stayed much longer because of my own reaction to the poverty that weighed down on me like a ton of bricks.

We left Oglala and drove to Pine Ridge to meet a woman who works with ONE Spirit for dinner at Subway.  Of course, there is only one road to get there and it is clogged with road construction.  You have to wait for a pilot car to follow through the construction and that wait can be 15 to 20 minutes if your timing is bad.

The meeting at Subway, however, was wonderful.  We spent much longer than expected there discussing rez life, various programs and individuals and much more.

After we ate, we returned to our room for a good night’s sleep.  It amazes me how tired you can get just driving around the reservation and talking to people.

 

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I almost titled this without the word “good”.  But you’ll see in a moment why I added that adjective.

A couple of months back I wrote about a fantastic youth program on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.  (Native Music! A Youth Project! published 2-24-2011: http://wp.me/p57ZB-hR ).  The project has been renamed – Independence Through Music (you can find ITM on Facebook).  Davidica Little Spotted Horse is the driving force behind this project to find, promote and educate young musicians on the Pine Ridge Reservation.  She has a new web page as well:  http://www.davidica.com/  You can find a lot of information about the project in those places.

As I read through the “wall posts” of ITM on Facebook, I ran across this one that struck me as important.  The author is a DJ at KILI radio on the rez.  The point is important. The post stated:  Deejay Spinnerz: It wud be nice , if  someone can do sum PR for them and donate sum musical instruments for them, also 🙂 Schools, music stores ,etc.

When I read that, I thought, “Why not me?”  After all, I’m always writing about the rez these days, right?!  It also occurred to me, as I read the names of the young people who have been chosen so far to participate in the program along with their specialities, it makes a certain kind of sense that there are so many rappers.  Musical instruments cost money and there are many families that cannot afford the basics, let alone buy a child an instrument.

So if you have a “good” (that means good condition, working, all the parts attached, etc) instrument that you no longer use, consider shipping it out to the program to support not only these young musicians but also others who have not even had the chance to try to learn.  Why let something as important as a musical instrument collect dust?  Why let it deteriorate?  Why not give it to someone who might discover not only talent but hope for life?  Music touches your soul to listen to – I’m not a musician but I would imagine it touches your soul even more to create it.

If you have an instrument to give to a young person, please send me an email at bblodgett@nativeprogress with your name, the type of instrument and contact information.  I will then give you the information to send the instrument.

Please — NO TOYS OR JUNK.  We’re talking recording artists, not playschool at this time.

Here is an update on the project along with their non-profit fundraising partner’s information in case you don’t have an instrument but would like to support this worthwhile endeavor.

Independence Through Music- Project Summary
We are committed to empowering our Native Youth by sharing our knowledge of the music business and providing them with resources to promote their talents with the help of our Native brothers and sisters from Canada so the Native Youth can in turn give back to their communities. Our combined efforts will help to bring Native’s together from all corners of Turtle Island to show that Wolakota has no borders.With the suicide rate on the rise among our Native Youth, we adults look for answers on how to help our youth to escape the overwhelming hopelessness and despair that is in their everyday lives.
How can we convince them that there is a future to look forward to?
After many hours and lots of prayers we have come to realize that we need to empower our youth by encouraging their natural talents by providing them with resources that we as working musicians have already acquired. We want to help them succeed by being self sufficient.
A one time donation is a helpful temporary solution that only lasts until the donation runs out. But the youth want a way to provide for their families by
doing something that brings them pride and enjoyment while being part of a higher purpose.
So following our traditional ways that teaches us to look ahead, to make a difference for our future descendants. We have decided to give the gift of knowledge and resources to our youth to help lift the despair and to show them there is hope for their future.
To help our Native Youth reach their goal of being working recording artists we are bringing in Native Mentors from all aspects of the music business. This will get them that much closer to being self sufficient. The end result of a youth shelter being built because of the efforts of our youth will make that much needed impact in our communities an even better reason for them to share their talents with the world.

Talent Search -Final list of Native youth chosen for project

Kyle Mesteth- Hip Hop Artist/ Lyricist
Tianna Spotted Thunder- R&B Singer/ Songwriter
Robert Afraid of Bear- Rapper/ Lyricist
Santee Witt- Rock Singer/ Songwriter
Corey Bettleyoun- Drummer
Savage Afterlyfe- Rap Group
Ceasar Cross Dog, Rapper/ Lyricist
Edward Two Eagle, Rapper/ Lyricist
Edwin Two Eagle, Rapper/ Lyricist
George Two Eagle, Rapper/ Lyricist
Rocky Frasier, Lyricist
Nuclear Decadence- Heavy Metal Group
Daniel Hudspeth, Singer/ Songwriter
Cody Makes Him First, Musician/ Songwriter
Marlow Rouillard- Rapper/ Lyricist
Derek Looks Twice- Rapper/ Lyricist
Eric Peltier- Conscious Rapper/ Lyricist
Sheldon King- Rapper/ Lyricist
Mike Lays Bad- Producer/ Musician

Compilation CD
The goal of the talent search is to make a two disc CD featuring 18 Native Youth from across the Pine Ridge Reservation. One song from each musician will be chosen to be on the CD which we will be promoting using our radio and media contacts.

Recording Demo CD for the artists
We are going to bring in a professional producer to record, mix., and master the demo’s for the musicians that are chosen to be on the compilation CD as well as finding sponsors for each musician to get promo starter kits for each musician for their single EP CD.

Workshops
Will be held for one week out of the month in May, June, and July in which all aspects of the music business will be covered. Native recording artists from Canada and the U.S will be instructing in songwriting, stage presence, marketing, promotions, and on the importance of to staying true to traditional teachings to keep them from being pulled into the negative aspects of the music business.

Musicians Showcase
At the end of each week long workshop we along with KILI Radio will be putting on a concert to allow each musician to perform at the radio station which will be aired live to showcase their talents.

Documentary of Our Amazing Journey
A film crew made up of the some of the most talented people in the business will be on site to film the youth’s journey through the program. The documentary will also feature the chosen musicians individually and film their live performances at KILI Radio. Documenting our journey to share with the world will be our biggest asset to help reach our goal of bringing this program to other reservations.

A Higher Purpose – Youth Shelter
The sales from the Compilation CD will be as follows –  half of the proceeds will go back to the musicians themselves and the other half will be donated to a youth shelter to be built in each district. The youth shelter will be a 24-hr open door home for the youth to access at any time and will provide basic necessities such as food, sleeping quarters, activities, mentoring, tutors, and teachings in our traditional culture.

From the success of this project we are hoping to bring this to the reservations of our brothers and sisters in Canada where their youth are having the same struggles and to other reservations in the United States. We as Lakota’s will offer our hand of friendship to all our Native brothers and sisters. Together, united we can win this fight against hopelessness for our youth. Our next goal will be to build a youth shelter on the Keeseekoowenin Reservation in Manitoba, Canada. We as Native people must unite as one force to help our youth if we really want to make positive changes for them. I know once we succeed we can take this project everywhere that its needed. This is a big project but one that will be used by our future descendants and will lead to many more opportunities for all Native Youth across Turtle Island.

All of the individuals involved in this project believe in the projects ability to bring positive changes to our reservations.
Because of this unwavering belief they have all generously agreed to donate their time to help us reach our goal.

Anyone interested in helping us in our fundraising can make donations by following this link http://elaineadairmichalakfoundation.org/ and clicking the donate button.

Much Respect,
Jean Belt -The Boss
Davidica Little Spotted Horse -Recording Artist/Mentor
Davidica Young Man, II -Youth Correspondent
Santana Young Man -Youth Correspondent
Wendell Young Man, Jr -Youth Shelter Development
Tracy Bone -Recording Artist/Mentor
J.C. Campbell -Recording Artist/Mentor
Sugar -Recording Artist/Mentor
Holly Marchuk -Photography
Dion Telesky -Director for Music Videos

Angelia Baldwin -Non-profit (Elaine Adair Michalak Foundation)
Michael Michalak -Non-profit (Elaine Adair Michalak Foundation)
Elaine Adair Michalak Foundation
PO Box 191 Pierpont, SD 57468
605-325-3392

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Bad news was received before Dan Ross’ Walk for Awareness of the conditions and needs of the youth on Pine Ridge Reservation could begin.

Here is the latest entry from Dan’s journal:

This journey is off to a much more difficult start than expected. I have suffered an overuse injury in my right knee that requires some rest to heal. After seeing my doctor, I am convinced that I must postpone the start of the walk for 2 weeks, otherwise it will plague me for the entire walk, and could even make walking impossible at times. Once it heals, I will have to go nice and easy, walking slowly and controlled so it does not get aggravated. The injury was caused by me increasing my training too rapidly, and walking too hard and fast –  I think I was a little too motivated/excited for my own good. In the long run, I think it’s best that it happened before the walk, not during it. This has been incredibly frustrating, but I am just considering it all to be part of the journey – a very difficult part. Think positive thoughts everyone.

Dan is right – it is a minor set back.  I agree that it was probably caused by being “too motivated/excited”.  That’s the way it is with things sometimes.  They are so important to us and we want to do them so well that we overdo it initially.

Dan has a lot of support and I’m sure he will get this project off the ground after his knee heals with a more balanced and moderate pace.  I think that is what he was hoping for before all the hype began.

In the meantime, my friends, it gives us time to find more sponsors for Dan’s Awareness Walk.  This walk is not just a personal adventure for Dan anymore.  It is about raising awareness and funds to promote programs for the youth of Pine Ridge Reservation.  So get out there and share – by word of mouth and word of internet.  Ask your friends to share, re-tweet and talk about this gift of remarkable generosity and courage.  Encourage them to sponsor Dan’s fund-raising by going to ONE Spirit’s website:  http://nativeprogress.org to donate.  Both PayPal and checks by snail mail work.

Let’s see how much more support we can get for Dan in the next 2 weeks!!

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Well, I certainly didn’t get the number of comments on my post that Stossel did on his Fox Business Blog post.  But I got a couple that were interesting and I’d like to share them with you – as well as my thoughts on them.

First of all, I think that perhaps the original commenter, Mr Hack, should perhaps follow his own advice.  He said I should have watched Stossel’s whole show before I commented on it.  If I had been commenting on the show, that would indeed have been wise.  But since I was commenting on Stossel’s blog post, the advice should have told me to read it first — which of course, I did!  Perhaps Mr Hack should have followed his own advice and read my post completely and accurately.

Here is Mr Hack’s first comment:

How can you take Stossel out of context like that. If you really watched the show, you wouldn’t need a definition for the term ‘helped.’ It’s obvious what he means; there is no need to go into the history of how Americans and Christians screwed them over; we all know that. He’s talking about the here and now and how Gov assistance has destroyed these people while American Indians who did not take Gov assistance thrived and are doing great! They are doing great because THEY DID NOT TAKE GOV. ASSISTANCE! Had they relied on the Gov, they’d be in the same boat! There are tons of charities, churches, etc… that do a better job for the impoverished than the Gov has ever done or could ever do. There is NO LEGITIMATE REBUTTAL to Stossel’s information. He was censored by ABC hence why making you liked him back then. He couldn’t tell all of the truth; now that he can, you hate him. I spit at your bullshit comments. I’m not a libertarian, but it doesn’t take a genius to know it’s the best and most ethical system there is. Progressivism is tantamount to being drug dealers; give ‘em enough to survive, they’ll vote for you and they won’t pull themselves up with their own boot straps. I worked in environment where I saw how hundreds of people abused the social programs; phony law suits, etc.. #’s not captured by statistics because they have to be discovered to be reported as statistics.

My response to Mr Hack:

I did not take Mr Stossel out of context.  I took him at his word – or words – the ones he wrote in his blog, just as I am doing here.  So anything he defined in his show or anywhere else is irrelevant.  His word has to be what it is in the blog.

I disagree that there is no need to go into “the history of how Americans and Christians screwed them over.”  In spite of Mr Hack’s assertions, everyone does not know that.  Furthermore, history is important here because the treaties that were signed by duly elected officials of the United States of America are part of that history.  Those treaties are legally binding and should not be ignored because they are inconvenient.

Mr Hack, please do your homework.  What the Native Americans receive from the government are not “handouts,” but the fulfillment of treaty obligations.  Furthermore, if you read my post, you would see that I explained the difference between a small NC tribe that “refused” those “handouts” and the bulk of the Indians of the western region.  The tribe you reference is not necessarily doing well because they “refused” the government benefits.  You have some individuals of that tribe who are doing well because they have been assimilated into Western culture.  You have a land developer.  Certainly, if you were “in environment” as you stated, you know the difference between land in North Carolina and land in southwestern South Dakota.  Try to develop the SD land – oh wait, the government did that . . . with a bombing range and uranium mines.

You stated there is no “legitimate rebuttal” to Stossel’s information.  I believe there is no legitimacy to his statements. If you read my post, you would already know why.  I hate repeating myself!  You state I liked Stossel at ABC because he was censored there.  No, Mr Hack.  I liked Stossel because I agreed with some of his consumer protection/awareness pieces.  I judge a person’s work on what I see, not what I have no knowledge of.

You spoke of libertarianism and progressivism.  I could care less about any “ism” you would like to discuss.  I am not a political person.  I am interested in caring for people.  I care that everyone has enough to eat, heat when it is freezing and adequate clothing.

Your last comment was about seeing people abuse the system.  I have no doubt that occurs.  You were in environment.  I processed auto insurance injury claims.  You want fraud, you’ve got it there.  Yet I don’t claim that everyone who makes any injury claim is a fraud or faker.  We all, even Mr Stossel and you and me, deserve to be judged on the fruits of our labors and at our words.

So, for the record, Mr Hack, I do not “hate” Stossel now nor have I ever.  As for your statement, “I spit at your bullshit comments.”, I find it in poor taste and would never stoop to such a low in responding.

Here is Mr Hack’s second comment:

sorry for typo’s… John Stossel Keep Up The Great Work.. If it weren’t for people like you and even the tea party (which I am not a member), then Obama and the dems would have carte blanch to spend us into oblivion. What good is a social program when there’s no economy left to support it. Loving the stuff coming from John & Rand Paul… Loving the info. from [link removed], Heritage foundation (except more waste needs to be done away with in the military).

My response to Mr Hack:

Contrary to what you may believe, I am not for spending without attention to waste control.  I believe legislation should only be for what it is meant to be — no little “pet projects” put into bills that have nothing to do with them.  I believe that, if we as a nation taught responsibility and self-control to our children, we would have fewer problems and we would not have to legislate common sense.  However, I also believe that we must fulfill our legal obligations, whether we like them or not.

There was one other comment that was not from Mr Hack but in response to his comments.  It said:

Not wanting to drag politics into this but equating him [Stossel] to the tea party is hardly a way to endear him to …. oh, most of the country!

My reply:

Thank you for not wanting to drag politics in because I really try to steer clear of politics as much as I can.  My wish is to focus on human needs when I write about Pine Ridge Reservation.  However, I did chuckle at your point.  If not “most of the country,” certainly most of the people I personally know.

 

So where does that leave us?

It leaves me thinking John Stossel would be better off writing (or broadcasting, for that matter) about facts rather than using inflammatory name calling to get readers/viewers.

 

 

 

 

 

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