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Archive for the ‘Excuses’ 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 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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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 have often urged people to consider sponsoring a child or elder on Pine Ridge Reservation.  I will continue to do that.

When I assign a sponsor to someone on the reservation, I urge them to start slowly and not be overwhelmed by their own feelings of generosity or by the need of the Pine Ridge residents.  There is a reason for that.

ONE Spirit has no rules written in stone regarding the amount that a sponsor should spend on the child, elder or family that is being sponsored.  However, there are guidelines and a strong suggestion.  The guidelines – 4 gifts a year minimum at obvious times like birthdays, holidays, the beginning of school – do not mean a sponsor needs to spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars.  A pair of jeans and a couple of shirts or a pair of shoes is plenty.  As a sponsor gets to know a family, they may decide, based on their own budget, that they can do a bit more.  But it should always be within their own comfort zone in their own budget.

The basic point of sponsoring is to make sure a child or an elder has the NECESSITIES for daily life – clothing, food, hygiene products, diapers, cleaning products, toilet paper, books or small toys.  Most of us cannot resist sending something that would be considered more of a luxury as well – a larger toy, some make-up, sweets for the children.

The point of sponsoring in not to give a child everything they ask for or want.  All children need to learn the difference between what they NEED and what they WANT.

The children of Pine Ridge are no different from children everywhere in this country.  They see all the gadgets and goodies on TV.  They want an iPod or computer or flat screen TV or furniture or car.  They think they ought to be given these things.  They need clothes and toilet paper.  We, as sponsors, do them no true good if we give them the expensive toys that cannot be kept up and that may be easily stolen.

Sponsors need to use their judgment both with the guideline for gifts but also with strong suggestion to never send money to the family on the reservation.  I think that this suggestion is very sensible due to the rates of alcoholism and other problems that result in cash being ill-used.  It is so easily stolen, as well.  But when you become better acquainted with the family, you may, as a sponsor, decide that in one certain case sending cash is okay.  It should never be done without due deliberation.

I spoke with several sponsors this week that have had some experiences with these issues, which is why I am writing about it today.

But there is unfortunately two other issues that are not limited to Pine Ridge nor are they pretty.  Those issues are greed and ingratitude. Greed is everywhere.  In some respects, it is almost understandable in a place where poverty rivals the poverty of Haiti.  But it is not acceptable in Lakota culture.  Lakota culture honors generosity and humility, sharing and taking care of the less able (children, elders).  Greed is not a part of Lakota culture but it is part of human nature. Ingratitude is not part of Lakota culture either.  It is, sadly, a large part of American society.  Too many today feel they are entitled to the good things in life without work.  Therefore they don’t need to be grateful for those things.  They are “owed” them!  Children on Pine Ridge watch a lot of TV – there are few other forms of entertainment available – so they see the attitudes of American society in general.  If you’ve ever really thought about what you see on TV, whether comedy or drama, “reality” or not, you will have noticed that the values displayed are not the values many of us “of a certain age” were raised by.  But they are the values many of our kids are being raised by.  Sadly!

One of the sponsors I spoke with had encountered greed and ingratitude in the persona of a pre-teen girl.  This girl did not ask for NEEDS, she asked for wants.  She did not just ask for jeans – not even designer jeans.  She asked for a computer.  She asked for a iPod.  She asked for expensive running shoes.  She asked for a cell phone “to call her grandmother.”  (Her grandmother lives with the family.)  This sponsor has decided to terminate her sponsorship of this child and I am looking for a family who will be a better experience for her.

As the person who matches sponsors with families, I try so hard to try to avoid this type of experience.  But short of clairvoyance, there is no way for me to know the characters of either sponsors or recipients absolutely.  It comes to trust, which I wrote about not that long ago.  But it saddens me deeply when either sponsors or recipients have negative experiences.

I have been blessed with a wonderful family that we began by sponsoring but who have become our friends.  They have never asked for too much.  They have accepted any refusals due to our budget with grace.  They have been grateful for whatever we have been able to send.  I know many other sponsors who have had similar experiences.  I am grateful that the number of negative experiences I personally know of can be numbered on one hand.

But I think that it is important for sponsors to remember that the people on Pine Ridge are no better or worse than people anywhere else.  There are good and bad, generous and greedy, honest and dishonest, both on the reservation and in the people you meet every day.  The only difference is that the people on Pine Ridge are extremely poor – just about the poorest people in this nation.

So sponsoring is not all sweetness and light.  There are negatives and hard times as well as positives and joys.  Sponsors should not expect that the people on the reservation will be saintly any more than they would expect all their own neighbors or co-workers to be saintly.

My perspective on my own sponsoring:  I give what I can afford to give.  I do it because I want to improve the daily life of someone I have come to love.  I started it because I felt it was wrong for anyone to live in the conditions that exist on Pine Ridge Reservation.  I know I cannot “fix” everything for the ones I sponsor.  I cannot give them a life that is “just like” the life I lead.  But I can do small things to make the life they do live more pleasant, more healthy, less painful.

I guess for me, that is sweetness and light.

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I feel I am fairly well versed on the seasons of the church year as well as the holiday celebration traditions that have developed in contemporary society.

It would seem to be a bit late to be writing about Christmas decorations, particularly outdoor Christmas lighting.  The general tradition has developed to put up outdoor Christmas decorations right after Thanksgiving.  The day after the turkey is put away, the switch can be thrown for the Christmas lights – often before Advent has begun (that is, the 4 weeks before Christmas that Christians are supposed to use to prepare themselves for the coming of their savior).  If we were to be strict and rigid about this, the lights would not come on until Christmas Eve.

The lights and festival atmosphere are truly appropriate on Christmas Day.  And since they have already been lit for the month of preparation, shouldn’t they be extinguished Christmas night?

In reality, no!  Christmas, as we all know thanks to a rather tedious Christmas song, extends for 12 days of celebration.  The “first day of Christmas” is Christmas Day.  The “second day of Christmas” is the day after Christmas (Boxing Day, if you are in Canada).

Those 12 days of Christmas, 12 days when celebration should be happening, when lights are quite appropriate, lead up to the Feast of the Epiphany in the Christian year.  January 6 is the day appointed to celebrate the arrival of the Wise Men or Magi.  This is when the non-Jewish world is brought into the circle of light, so to speak.  This is when Christ is manifested to the rest of the world.  The star was followed, the light shines for all the world.

This is the end of the Christmas season.  The season of Epiphany (or manifestation) has arrived.  While this is also a season of light, it is not tradition to decorate with lights or other items in our society (nor has it been to my knowledge).

SO WHY ARE PEOPLE STILL ILLUMINATING THEIR CHRISTMAS LIGHTS ON JANUARY 19TH?

I personally think this is occurring for one of a number of reason.  My personal favorite, which I will list first — laziness.  These are the people who can’t be bothered to take the lights down now that it is colder and there is bad weather, perhaps even snow on the ground.  So they just leave them there.  Some even leave the lights up year round.

But why keep turning them on.  That is a different reason — ineptitude.  These folks have rigged up their lights to go on whenever their exterior lights are illuminated.  They can’t figure out how to disconnect the Christmas lights without disabling their exterior lights as well.  This is sad but forgivable.

There is a subset of people, however, who keep the lights lit because “they’re so pretty” they want to enjoy them longer.  That’s sweet sentiment but my opinion is the it cheapens the reason for putting them on at Christmas!  It is no longer a way to show one’s joy at the Christmas season, one’s participation in a celebration of selflessness and giving.

Instead, it becomes self-centered (“I’ll enjoy my lights as long as I want!”) and meaningless (the lights are for me to enjoy, not to share the joy of the season with the community).  And that is the antithesis of Christmas spirit.

That’s why I am annoyed as I drive in the evening, as I did last night to attend my class, and see the Christmas lights still shining at these homes.  I know, some of you are thinking I’m really upset about nothing.  What’s the harm in having the lights lit on January 19?

Don’t you see — when something is done or used regularly, it becomes the norm?  It is no longer special.  It has no more significance than anything else.  It doesn’t matter whether we talk Christmas lights or cuss words.  The more they are used, the less they mean; the more they are used, the less impact they have.  It isn’t that people aren’t doing what they’re “supposed to,” it’s that they are doing it with no thought.  If they don’t get what the point of the lights is, they shouldn’t put them up at all!

Okay, I’m going to climb down from the soapbox for now.  But I’m warning you . . . if those lights are still lit next week (January 26), I may well stop at those homes and ask why.  In which case, I may be writing to you about police behavior in those towns and my husband’s embarrassment at my behavior.   I leave you to speculate which will occur . . .

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Imagine having to tell a child you love that Santa will not be coming.  Santa, the guy who can make it across the whole world delivering gifts for good little boys and girls, will not be coming to your house.

“But I’ve been good!”

And you have to say, yes, the child has been good but Santa will not be able to stop there – WHY?  Can you come up with an answer that a 3 or 4 year old will be able to understand?

How about

  • because we’re too poor and can’t pay him?
  • because we live on the reservation?
  • because he ran out of gifts?
  • because . . . ?

My guess is that you haven’t chosen any of the options.  I know why – it’s the reason I help Santa out, personally.  You don’t want a child to think that they aren’t good enough to merit a gift from the preeminent giver of all time.  Santa, the guy who makes billions of gifts every year, must be rich if he can afford all those gifts every year.  How could he possibly run out?

Poverty hurts in many ways.  It snuffs out hope.  It causes people to feel worthless themselves.  It brings hunger and cold.

I am not asking you for Christmas gifts today.  It’s too late for you to arrange for Santa to deliver those gifts to Pine Ridge Reservation in time for Christmas (unless you happen to live in Rapid City, SD).

I am asking you to remember that when “Christmas is done“, the need continues. People still have no food or heat or electricity.  People still live with no running water or indoor bathrooms.  People still have no beds and must sleep on the floor.  People still have no homes.

I’m going to make you a promise.

I will not stop reminding you of conditions on Pine Ridge Reservation until there are no more people suffering from those conditions.

So it’s up to you – would you prefer me to shut up sooner . . .  or later?

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I spoke to my friend on the Pine Ridge Reservation yesterday.  You know, the friend whose daughter got pregnant while in state custody.  I don’t recall when I have heard her so angry.

If you aren’t aware of the circumstances I’m referring to, the short version is:  Her daughter was placed in state custody at 15 years old for being a chronic runaway.  She is currently in placement in a “secure” home for girls in Mitchell, SD.  A few weeks ago, my friend got a call from a nurse at a hospital out there.  The nurse told her that her daughter had suffered a “spontaneous abortion”.  My friend assumed her daughter must have been at least 4 months pregnant since she had been in custody since July.  The nurse told her no, it was about 6 weeks and it had been confirmed by her blood work.

My friend realized that, if that were true, her daughter had gotten pregnant while in state custody.  So she notified Child Protective Services, the US Attorney (because the child is a Native American, the federal government has jurisdiction over major crimes) and the tribe.

Suddenly, things are changing.  The woman she had been working with at Child Protective Services is doing something else now and a new woman has been assigned to the case.  This new woman told my friend that the doctor now says “perhaps he made a mistake.”

SAY WHAT??

A mistake?  Blood work doesn’t lie – especially when the tech doing the test has no idea of the details of the case.  Pregnancy is clearly detected by blood test.  This isn’t a home pregnancy test.  This isn’t a case of someone claiming to be pregnant.  This is a blood test that was done because a child was having problems and taken to the doctor by the state.

The new woman at CPS then had the gall to ask my friend when she had last visited her daughter.  She was treating her as a “bad mother” – you know the tone people take when they are trying to make you feel small and humiliated.  Of course, my friend told her just 2 weeks ago and called her on her attitude.  (Be advised that bureaucrats do not take kindly to having their faults pointed out.  It creates even worse attitudes.)

My friend feels badly enough that her daughter has gotten herself into this place.  She has done everything short of putting the child in shackles to keep her home and prevent her from getting into trouble.  But now she has run up against the “blame the mother” attitude.  She will not take that from anyone.  I can see a storm brewing.

The bigger problems I see are many.

First, the state took a child away from both her family and her culture (albeit for good reasons).  Initially she was in Rapid City – “only” an hour away from family and they could visit her regularly.  It was definitely a hardship, since they have an unreliable vehicle and no money for gas.  Indeed, I gave them gas money several times.  They drove the hour each way for each short visit they were allowed.

Then the state found this “permanent” placement – and the child is now 4 hours away from home and family.  That means that, in order to visit her daughter, my friend has to travel 4 hours just to get there, spending a much larger sum of money to do it, then travel 4 hours to return home to the reservation.  With no job, having to somehow pay “child support” to the state anyway, having a car most people wouldn’t own that burns gas and oil like most of us drink water – with all those obstacles, my friend has still managed to visit her daughter periodically.

Second, I smell a rat when it comes to the “mistake” claim.  Of course the state and the facility don’t want anyone to hear about this.  A child became pregnant in state protective custody.  The medical facility called the child’s mother to advise her of the medical facts.  I know this is true because my friend had to ask what a “spontaneous abortion” was – it isn’t a term she would use.  She would use the term most laypersons use – miscarriage.

Suddenly the doctor recants?  Says there was a mistake?  Then why did the nurse tell my friend that the blood pregnancy test had been positive.  Suddenly the sympathetic case worker is removed and replaced by one with a negative attitude toward my friend? That’s a remarkable coincidence.  Suddenly no one knows anything and no one will give my friend any information about her daughter?  Yet they ask how often she visits in accusing tones?

The phrase that comes to mind is “cover up.”  It is less negative to say the doctor made a mistake (will the malpractice insurance carrier see it that way?) than to say that the state was negligent in the care of this young woman.  But that kind of thing doesn’t really happen, does it?

I might think that perhaps I was being a bit paranoid about the whole thing if we were relying solely on the word of the child.  But we are basing our views on the words of a medical professional.

I might think that perhaps I was being a bit paranoid if this were a young white girl from the suburbs.  But it is not.  It is a young Lakota girl from the reservation.  In South Dakota.

I have seen the prejudice and bias toward Indians in South Dakota first hand, with my own eyes.  I have seen looks and attitudes that I thought long gone.  I am not a young woman.  I grew up in the 50’s and 60’s.  I saw the attitudes of the South and the work for civil rights.  The South may be changing.  The country may have elected a president “of color” (I am trying to be as politically correct as I can here).  I have also seen and heard the attitudes of South Dakota in the past 5 years.

In 2005, a group told us the family of the child we sponsor could not know our address or phone number “for our protection.”  Otherwise, they might just show up on our doorstep, looking for handouts.  (I find that rather funny, since I live MANY miles away and know how difficult it can be for folks on the rez to even get to Rapid City, an hour or so away.)  We stayed with the family (who are now our friends) and left the group.  I now work with a different group which works to foster the friendship and personal connection.  We have shopped and dined out with our friends in places where we had done those same things without them as well.  We have seen the way they (and we, as their friends) were treated differently.

So is it a far stretch to think that someone in the system decided that the best way to cover up this blatant negligence was to say someone “made a mistake”?  Better a mistake than a law suit, right?  Everyone makes a mistake now and then.

I say there has been negligence either way.  Either a young woman was not protected in state custody or a mother has been stressed to her limits by a “mistake” made by the professionals charged with caring for her daughter.

Either way – a wrong has been done!

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