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Archive for the ‘Emotions’ Category

As I began my vacation in the Canadian Rockies, thrilled that for 2 weeks I would be unreachable by phone, I received an email message from a friend that was utterly disturbing.  Suddenly being thousands of miles from home in a country where I had no phone to contact my friend was not quite as wonderful as it had been moments before I read the email.

My friend had to go away on business for a few days.  Her husband and teenaged daughter drove her to the airport.  That trip was perhaps the last “normal” moment she will have for a while.

I should interject that her teenaged daughter is one of the most beautiful girls I have ever seen in person, with long dark hair, piercing dark eyes and a figure “to die for” as the saying goes.  She has been approached to work as a model and I think she could make real money doing just that.

On the way home, after they dropped off my friend, her husband stopped and bought alcohol (the drinking kind not the rubbing kind) for his underaged daughter.  I suspect he had some himself.  He then proceeded to make sexual advances to his daughter!!  Yes, you read that right!!  His daughter was able to fight off the advances, so there was no physical damage;  however, the psychological trauma was devastating.

This incident is what led to my title.  I discussed the whole thing with my husband, since he is a man (big surprise there, I know), and he was as puzzled as I was.  How could a man do something like that to his own child?

Yes, the alcohol provided some fuel, to be sure.  But the alcohol did not put the idea into this man’s head.  What is it with men?

If you think about the sexual abuse of children (at any age), the offenders are most often men.  Women (sane ones, at least) do not damage children – especially their own.  Women protect their children.  In the culture of the Native Americans I work with, children (and women) are considered sacred.  They are the ones who carry life into the future.  I’m sure it has occurred, but I have never personally heard about or read about a mother who has sexually molested her child.  I have heard about many men who have done such things!

Again I ask, what is it with men?

Yes, I’ve read the clichés about men thinking with their penises rather than their brains.  I can see how teenaged boys can get carried away, when the strength of those urges are new and unfamiliar.  But a man who is old enough to have a 17 year old daughter is a man who is old enough to have learned how to control his sexual urges.  A man who is a father ought to be the protector of his family, not the one who damages his family!

My friend is a strong woman who is very protective of her children and her family.  She would often speak of how much she loved her husband and her children.  She is such a positive person and a role model for those around her.  Now she is trying to figure out how to explain these things to her teenaged children — and to herself.

I am so angry for her.  I’d like to slap this man upside the head and ask him  what on God’s good earth could have made him think this was okay to do, alcohol or not!  But I know I’d get the typical answers:  I didn’t know what I was doing; the alcohol made me do it; I just couldn’t control myself.

Baloney!

You all know what I’d really like to do to him – I don’t have to spell it out, I’m sure. . .

Maybe I should put the soapbox away for the time being, before I get carried away.  After all, I’m a woman – I know how to maintain self-control.

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I spoke with a young mother last night to try to assist her.  She had moved from Oklahoma to Pine Ridge, SD to help care for her mother after her mom had some surgery.  Her mom has other medical conditions in addition to the one that required surgery, had been life-flighted off the reservation previously and certainly needed the extra help.  Her mom, however, has gone back to work early because of the dire need for income.

I said this was a young mother who moved back to Pine Ridge.  She did not come alone.  She brought her 4 children with her.  Her children range in age from 11 to 18.

It has been a culture shock moving from the Cherokee Nation, where her children are enrolled members, to the Lakota Nation, to which she has transferred her enrollment when she moved back there.

In Oklahoma, she was enrolled in a college program majoring in Criminal Justice.  Back in Pine Ridge, she is enrolled at the Oglala Lakota College, which does not have that major.  So she will have to choose something else to complete her degree.

When she and the children moved back, they were given her grandfather’s trailer to live in.  However, because neither he nor other family had a job, the electricity was shut off for lack of payment.  They were not the only ones, of course, so candles and generators in the neighborhood were the norm.  But generators take fuel, too, so they are run intermittently, as hot water is needed – not solely for TV or lights.  Apparently while she was at her mother’s home, the children had candle lit so they could see.  A neighbor had turned on a generator and did have the TV on while the water was heating.  So her children we to the neighbor’s house to watch TV . . . forgetting the candle.  Unfortunately, unattended candles can be a fire hazard and this one was no exception.  The trailer caught fire and burned down, taking all their possessions as well.  Even worse, they had some historic documents and items in the trailer which have now been lost to both the family and the tribe.  She is so saddened by that loss.

I explained to this mom that the family had been referred to us and explained both the sponsorship and OKINI programs.  I told her I would put them on both, with an emphasis on the OKINI due to their urgent needs.  She began to cry.  She apologized for the tears and said that it has been very difficult to get help through the tribe.  It seems that the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing, that no one communicates with anyone else and that there is “no money left” in any program.

She said that would never occur with the Cherokee Nation.  They are organized and it is easy to navigate their systems.  They are honoring and trying to maintain their culture while at the same time fitting in with the current day.  Moving back to Pine Ridge, from one Indian nation to another, has been a Native American culture shock!

She and her four children went to the tribe for assistance with housing after the trailer burned.  They were told that they qualified for assistance but it would take some time.  This young woman, who is strong and articulate, was not about to let her children be homeless.  They have moved into her great-grandmother’s “old house” that was built sometime around the 1900’s.  It is a house, but it is small!  It contains a kitchen and one other room.  The only furniture they have is a full-sized bed.  Since there are 5 family members, the 2 older children are going at night to sleep on their grandmother’s couch.  They have no appliances, no table or chairs, no food storage (no food for that matter) and very little clothing.  They do have someone who is willing to build another room onto the place if they can materials from they tribe (they are not holding their breath on that).

After we talked about all the hardships she and her children have been enduring, she proceeded to tell me the story of her pre-teen nephew.  Her brother, who still lives in Oklahoma, is the boy’s biological dad.  However, when the mother was pregnant with the boy, she left the biological dad and moved to Pine Ridge to live with another man.  She listed that man as the father on the boy’s birth certificate.  After a short time, she left that man . . . and left the boy with his non-biological father as well.

Apparently this boy has been abused since he was quite small — physically, mentally, emotionally (being told his biological father was dead after he found out about him) and perhaps sexually.  The boy finally called the police to try to find safety.  After a court hearing, they placed him back with the abuser.  The young woman fears for her nephew’s life and wants to help the boy.  But again she is frustrated by the lack of organization and lack of urgency she finds in the Oglala Sioux Tribe.  I have connected her to my Lakota friend, who has had a lot of experience with the juvenile system on the rez, as you know if you read my accounts on this blog.  I will try to give her other connections as I can.

This young woman is passionate, articulate, intelligent and driven to make a difference for her people.  I hope and pray that she will find a way to do that.

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I love my work with ONE Spirit, the organization which provides sponsors for persons who request them on Pine Ridge Reservation.

But as in any job, paid or not, there are parts of the job and parts of the “company’s” structure that I find problematic.  Perhaps I see a better way to get something done.  Or maybe I think that a program should be completely revamped.  Sometimes I question the feedback I’m getting from program participants.  Sometimes I question the information I am getting from those who are higher than me on the totem pole of responsibility.

This has happened in just about every job I’ve held and every organization with which I have interacted.  I suspect I am not alone in that.  We all have varying perspectives when we are in a group.  We have different backgrounds and experiences.  We may not voice all our opinions – at least if we are smart, we won’t – but we definitely have them.

That’s the dilemma in which I find myself right now.  I have some definite opinions about work flow and program issues.  Typically I would use this forum to rant about problems.  But there are people from both sides of them who read this and I do not want to burn any bridges or alienate any who might be hurt by my opinions.

So I am finding stress where I don’t want it (Now that sounds stupid, doesn’t it?  Do we ever find stress where we want it?)  But I think maybe you know what I mean.  I don’t want the things I do that bring pleasure to also be bringing stress.

So I am between the proverbial rock and hard place.  Do I voice my opinions and rock the boat?  Or do I keep my mouth shut, which will keep the outer peace though I will feel increased stress, which is a hard place for me to be?

I’m not really asking you for the answer.  In the end, I’ll do what will be the most good.

I’m just reminding you that it is important to consider the results and unintended repercussions of your decisions.

Nothing is ever as simple as it first appears.

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I got back from my recent trip to Pine Ridge Reservation last Wednesday and have spent the past couple of days recovering from travel fatigue and a pesky stomach virus that I must have picked up on the trip home.  I think I was also recovering from some of the stories I heard while I was visiting with my dear Lakota friends.

The occasion for the trip was a happy one – after 10 years of waiting, they had finally obtained a house of their own and had decided to have it blessed.  When I think about the hard times and sadness they have endured over the past 6 years that we’ve known each other (search the category “Lakota friends” for past stories), I think having the house blessed was a really good idea.  I had gone expecting a Lakota holy man to bless the house, but apparently summer, with its powwows and other gatherings, was not a good time to “book” one.  The task and privilege fell to one of the local Episcopal priests, who had also conducted the funeral for my friend’s daughter a couple of years ago.

As an Episcopalian who had also had my own house blessed (some 30+ years ago), I was familiar with the ritual.  I was also pleased to see that the priest, with his Lakota beaded stole, had made slight adaptations in the rite to align it a bit more with Lakota culture.

Much of the rest of the time I was on the reservation was spent sharing stories.  I have often thought that a book should be written about my Lakota friend’s life.  Although it may be somewhat common to the lives of many on the reservation, it is the story of a woman who has already, in her 30’s, overcome more obstacles in her life than most of us will face in a lifetime.  I tell her that if she gives me the stories, I will put them together in a book and the money will be hers since the story is hers.  She laughs, but I think she has been considering it more seriously of late.

While we were sitting at her dining room table sharing coffee and conversation, I asked her what her earliest memory was.  Personally, the early memories I have center around holidays and playing with my younger sister.  So I was not prepared for the story she told me.  As you read her story, I ask you to ask yourself:  What does it do to a person to have this as his/her earliest memory?  Can you put yourself in this picture?

Her earliest memory is an event that occurred when she was about 3 and her sister about 5.  They were at home in their mother’s trailer.  The extended family had gathered there – aunts, uncles and some she does not recall.  Her mother was 8 months pregnant with her next sister.

The adults were all drinking heavily.  Apparently that was typical at that time in her mother’s life.  Suddenly, and for no reason that a 3 year old could recall, her uncle picked up a huge, old-fashioned butcher knife and stabbed her mother in the back.  The knife, which had about a 10 inch blade, had been “slammed about halfway” into the left side of her mother’s back as she and her sister watched.

An aunt quickly pushed the 2 girls into a closet to protect them and locked the door from the outside.  However, since the trailer was in poor condition as are many rez homes, the closet door was not a snug fit.  There was plenty of space between the door and the frame to allow the 2 children to watch what was unfolding in the hallway outside the closet.

The girls could see the knife still protruding from their mother’s back as she lay on the floor only feet away.  They could see the huge pool of blood forming around their mother.  She turned her head and looked straight at them, forming the words “help me” as best she could.  My friend clearly remembers her eyes connecting with her mother’s eyes.

She also recalls that all of the adults who had been there left, without helping her mother or calling for help.  The 2 little girls, who were terrified, threw themselves at the closet door.  The door, which was not well made or in good condition, as I noted before, gave way.  My friend’s older sister ran and tried to pull the knife out of her mother’s back – but she was too small and the knife was too deep.  The girls ran to get a neighbor to help.

The neighbor pulled out the knife and called for help.  When the police arrived, they arrested the neighbor for the stabbing, in spite of the stories told by both the girls.  Although the neighbor was eventually cleared, the uncle was never arrested.  The police refused to believe the girls’ story.

My friend’s mother was taken to the hospital, where they delivered her baby a month early and worked to save both lives.  The baby survived.  So did her mother, although it took a long time for her to recover.

My friend has had a stressful, tumultuous relationship with her mother over the years, for reasons that still remain unclear to me.  However, part of the difficulty seems to stem from the fact that her mother has never accepted and validated the trauma that it was for her 3 year old daughter to observe the stabbing.

My friend told me that she once asked her mother to stop wearing tops with thin straps so much.  Her mother told her she would wear whatever she wanted to.  She didn’t understand that my friend had a reason for asking that of her mother.  You see, every time she saw her mother in a tank top or camisole, she could clearly see the huge scar on her mother’s back when her mother turned away.  The sight of that scar would tear open the scar on her psyche every time, bringing her back to the night she was a terrified 3 year old.

When I think about this story – the alcohol driven chaos, the violent violation of a child’s mother, the abandonment by relatives who were meant to care for family, the adults who would not believe a child’s story and the emotional scars left on an innocent little girl – I can understand much of the rest of my friend’s life.

It makes me feel so protective of that child and so angry at the adults when I think about this story.  It makes me sad beyond words that this is my friend’s first memory.

So let’s go back to my questions now.

What does it do to a person to have this as his/her earliest memory?  I suspect a psychologist could write a book on that.  In all likelihood, in layman’s terms, it would scar the person for life.

Can you put yourself in this picture?  In all honesty, I cannot.  I gratefully grew up in a home where peace was the rule and verbal arguments the infrequent exception.  There was no physical violence.  Some of you may have had more experiences with violence as a child.  I pray that your first childhood memory is not something this traumatic.

But that was rezlife as a child for my friend.  I sadly suspect she was not the only one.

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I wish I could have been here to get the call!  But I was out with a friend. I’m going to tell you what the message said but I do wish you could hear it as I did.  There was SO much emotion behind those words.

The message was from my Lakota friend and she said,

Beeee, guess whaaatt!!!  We got a house!!!!!!!!!  Oh my God!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Call me back!!!!!!!!!!

That’s right!  My Lakota friends, who have been on the housing list for a home of their own for longer than I’ve known them (that’s 6 years), have finally and officially gotten a house.  A home of their own.

I called her back right away.  They were in the car on the way back from signing the papers.  I have never, in the 6 years I’ve known her, heard so much joy and excitement in her voice.  We talked about where the house is and what her new address will be.  She was going to be going through a cell phone “dead zone” (the rez has many!) so we agreed to talk later.

This is what I know:

The house is half of a duplex in one of the tribal housing areas.  They will have 3 bedrooms and space and heat.  Not like the house they rented before – that little blue house on the hill I wrote about and showed you pictures of before.  Now I don’t want you to think this one will be brand new or even in tip-top shape.  I’m sure it will need work.  But it will have running water and an indoor bathroom!  They’ll be able to shower at home rather than at a relative’s house.  They will have some privacy.  They will not need to rely on relatives for a roof over their heads.

She did say one thing that puzzled me then and puzzles me still.  She said, “Bee, what did you do?”  I asked her to repeat it because I thought I heard it wrong.  But she repeated the same thing.  I don’t know why she thought I had anything to do with it (I didn’t actively do anything that I’m aware of.) but she seemed to think I had done something to help.  I told her it must be all those prayers I’ve sent up over the years finally paying off.

They get the keys in a few days.  Then they can move in.  Right now it’s time to pack what little they have and collect some of the things we gave them when they were in the little blue house from those who had been storing them for the past year or so.

They plan to have a big dinner and have the house blessed when they move in.  I think that blessing part is an especially good idea given all the problems and heartache this family has gone through.

I don’t want you to think that this family is now on easy street.  They are still unemployed and living under the poverty level.  But not being technically homeless is an incredible step that they have long awaited — mostly patiently.

I think I’m going to see if there’s time to get an order in to the ONE Spirit food program so they will have some extras for the dinner.  I wish I could be there to celebrate with them!!

There is one lesson I learned with this wonderful call.  It is just as hard to be 2,000 miles away when you get a happy call like this as it is when you get a sad call telling you there has been a death in the family.

Hugging from a distance of 2,000 miles just doesn’t work!

 

 

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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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Yes, we kicked off our visit to the rez with a road trip.  After all, we wouldn’t be doing much driving on the rez, right?  Not!

For the uninitiated, the rez is Pine Ridge Reservation in the southwestern corner of South Dakota.  As they say in real estate, it all comes down to location and that is true in this story because the rez is located near nothing.  That’s right, really, nothing is close to the rez . . .  and of course, nothing on the rez is close to anything else on the rez either.  With 2 million acres to spread out, I wouldn’t necessarily want close neighbors myself.

Our trip actually began in Hartford, CT the morning of Friday, June 3 when we boarded an early, non-stop (yes, a miracle) flight from Hartford to Denver, CO.  I continue to be pleasantly surprised by Southwest Airlines.  They do need more newer planes, as we discovered on our return flight, but this plane was new, clean and comfy.

We arrived in Denver much earlier than you’d expect — oh that’s right, there was that thing with the time changes.  Gaining 2 hours in your day can be helpful.  After gathering the baggage, we went to choose a rental car.  My husband, the rental car genius, had reserved an SUV that was going to cost us the exorbitant price of $20 and change per day.  You are not seeing a typo – we had a 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee for that price.  Genius, right?

The drive to the reservation was going to take us about 7 hours, so it was good that we had gained those 2 hours crossing the country.  It was a pleasant drive for the most part.

On one of our stretch breaks, we happened to be passing Carhenge.  I did not misspell Stonehenge.  Carhenge is a quirky, arty adaptation of the “henge” idea.  Located right along County Road 59 in Alliance, NE (http://www.carhenge.com/), there is no charge to view the art – there is, however, a shop for snacks and souvenirs, aptly named the “Pit Stop.”  It was a good place for a break.

We entered the Pine Ridge Reservation from the south, which necessitated passing through White Clay, NE (of which I have written before), that bastion of sobriety and icon to American greed.  That last is sarcasm for those not familiar with White Clay, NE.

It took nearly an hour to reach our motel, the Lakota Prairie Lodge Resort in Kyle.  This is in the northeastern part of the reservation.  We checked in and settled in, then called our Lakota friends to let them know we had arrived.  They are now living in Allen and invited us over.  We drove to Allen (about half an hour) where we had a wonderful reunion.  They are the kind of friends you can pick right up with, even if you haven’t seen them in a year.  We finally left about 10 pm, realizing that our bodies thought it was midnight.  Since we had to pick them up in the morning to start driving to Salt Lake City, some sleep might be a good idea.

Of course, we had gotten one surprise when we arrived that evening.  Our original plan had been to take my friend and her husband to visit her daughter who is currently in a treatment facility near Salt Lake City.  She had not seen her daughter since Christmas.  Salt Lake City is a long way from home for a young Lakota woman.  We love my “goddaughter” and know how much she misses her family.  She has been through so much in her years, much of which I have written about and won’t repeat here.  Suffice to say here that her anger has real roots.

We knew our Lakota friends did not have a working car and could not afford to pay someone to borrow a car to drive there or pay for the gas.  So we had thought it would be something we could give them, what with the almost free rental car that, by the way, had unlimited mileage.  It would be like the honeymoon they never had, room and board paid for as well.  So we had thought.

Our surprise was that, in addition to our friends, we would be taking her 20 year old daughter and another daughter’s 5 year old son.  We had 3 adults and a 5 year old in the back seat.  Talk about tight quarters – especially since my friend’s husband is over 6 feet tall and wears 3X shirts.  Enough said?  I was particularly concerned over the lack of seat belt use and sort-of held my breath on this whole trip.  So grateful my husband is a careful and wary driver.

We stayed at Hampton Inns on this part of the journey.  Good prices and good accommodations.  They 5 year old particularly enjoyed the pool every evening – a rare treat for a rez kid.  Our first stop was Casper, WY.  Some might dare to drive the 12 hours in one long ride, but this gal, having fibromyalgia, knows her limits.  6 hours sitting in one place in a car or twisting around to converse with the folks in the back seat is plenty for this body.

We arrived at South Jordan, UT on Sunday, June 5, in time for a visit with my “goddaughter.”  It was a tearful reunion for mother and daughter.  I stood back and observed, not wanting to insert myself into what was an intimate and private moment.  I looked at my “goddaughter” – she’d grown since I’d seen her last.  She will be 16 years old in July and is starting to look like a young woman.  She looked healthy and beautiful.  Some of the stories she told were less than pretty, though.  When you are living in a center for troubled youth, many things can occur – fights, bullying, etc – that the staff cannot always control.  But she is working hard to learn what she needs to and hopes to be home soon.  I pray she succeeds.

Monday morning, June 6, we returned to the center for a final visit.  Then midday, we had to leave to return to the rez.  Although the initial reunion had been tearful, the leave-taking was stoic.  Not easy, to be sure!  But strong in a way I have seen many Lakota people endure difficulty.

We stayed in Rawlins, WY on the way back to the rez, then completed the trip back to Allen, SD  on Tuesday, June 7.  The return trip always seems to pass by faster, regardless of where we travel.  That certainly was the case here.

After we dropped our friends off in Allen, we still had about an hour to drive to get back to the hotel we would stay in for the remainder of our vacation.  Allen, as I said, is in the northeastern part of the rez and our hotel at the Prairie Wind Casino and Resort is just west of Oglala, in the southwestern corner of the rez.  If you could drive directly from one to the other, it would be a diagonal – the hypotenuse of the triangle, which we former math teachers know is the shortest distance.  But there is no road that does that.  As they say in Maine, “You can’t get they-ah from he-ah.”  At least not directly.

We finally checked in to the hotel.  People who want to travel to the rez often ask me about accommodations.  Choices are minimal.  There are a couple of bed and breakfasts – which I have not tried yet.  There is the motel in Kyle and the hotel at the Casino.  I have written about the motel in Kyle before.  This was our first stay at the Casino.

The decor and bed were excellent.  The bathroom was . . . well, amusing.  The plumbing in the shower had been installed upside down and backwards somehow.  Typically, to turn on the shower, the lever arm is attached at the top of the regulator and is lifted to turn on the water.  In this shower, it was attached at the bottom of the regulator, was already in the lifted position and had to be pushed in to turn on the water.  It was a bit like learning a foreign language.  Amusing.  The water is very soft and it takes quite a while to feel that you’ve rinsed off the soap or shampoo properly.  Of course, that is only in part due to the soft water.  It is also due to the very low water pressure from the showerhead.  Between the soft water and low pressure, I’m sure it took me 3 times longer to shower than it usually does – which sort of defeats the purpose of water conservation, don’t you think?

It was a good night’s sleep that night, however.  After I stopped feeling like I was still rolling down the road in the car.  Strange feeling to be stopped after so many miles on the road.

Denver to Kyle                 371 miles

Kyle to Salt Lake City       717 miles

SLC to Kyle                      717 miles

Kyle to Casino                  79 miles

TOTAL for 5 Days          1884 miles   (approximately)

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