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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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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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I may make some enemies saying this, however in my humble but educated opinion John Stossel, “reporter and consumer crusader extraordinaire” has gone over to the dark side.  That is a wordy and pretentious way to say I think he’s full of BS.  I believe Stossel is more interested in self-promotion than a deep analysis of the truth at this point in his career.

There was a day, I must admit, when I admired John Stossel.  I thought his consumer reporting was helpful.  But in those days I was not taking the time to check the veracity of his statements.  Had I read FAIR reports earlier in my life, perhaps I would have known that his “facts” were not always really truthful facts.  You can check FAIR concerns yourself at http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=1887 .

I will also tell you that, had I attempted to write this last night, when I first read his blog post of March 25, 2011 entitles Freeloading Doesn’t Help the Freeloaders, it would have turned into an angry diatribe.  I would have attacked Mr Stossel personally which would not have been worthwhile.  However, I will say I was really steamed!

I refuse to give a link to take more people to his blog post.  I will tell you he posted it on that date at 4:57 in Entrepreneurs, Fox News Appearances, Free Market, Freeloaders and Government. I will analyze it for you, though.  So don’t give him more views unless you plan to add to his already large quantity of negative comments.  I don’t claim to be an expert, like Stossel does, but I do think I am fairly well-informed.

Stossel’s opening statement was “No group has been more ‘helped’ by the American government than American Indians.  Yet no group in America does worse.”

Right here I have to split a few hairs with Mr Stossel.  “No group has been ‘helped’ more …than … Indians.”  Mr Stossel, please tell us the definition of the word “help” that you used.  In my dictionary, help means “to give what is necessary to accomplish a task”, “to save or rescue”, “to make easier/less difficult” and “to relieve in pain, sickness or distress.”

Let us consider how the American government has “helped” the Indians of this country.

American Indians are the original inhabitants of this continent.  They had flourishing cultures, strong family structures, languages of their own and their own forms of government and justice.  In those cultures, the poor were taken care of by sharing – no one went hungry when others ate.  A chief wasn’t the most popular person in the group but the person chosen as having proved him or herself as most wise.  Chiefs didn’t seek the office; it was usually thrust upon him/her.  It wasn’t even a real office, as such.

There was variety among the cultures.  Some were more centralized, where game was plentiful or perhaps the soil was good enough to grow crops.  Other tribes were nomadic – without a permanent home although they did have “permanent” territories.  They followed the migration of animals that were their own life blood.  Indians used every single part of the buffalo, for example, not just the meat or hide.

Although there were certainly disagreements and conflicts between families (clans) and amongst tribes, most were also generous and hospitable.

Enter the Europeans.  Yes, those who are the ancestors of most of you readers, definitely me and assuredly Mr Stossel.  Those Europeans step on the soil of this continent and “claim it.”  CLAIM IT!  Oh yes, there are already people living on this land.  But there don’t seem to be that many of them.  We think there is room for all.  We will claim some of this land as our own.  Yes, we will OWN it.  What?  You, the original inhabitants don’t believe you can own land?  Well, we do and we have stronger weapons, so it will be our way.  Besides, we don’t need that much land.

The success of those first European interlopers would not have been a problem for the Indians if their group did not grow.  But grow it did!  They had huge families and they interested more Europeans in moving to this land of promise.  Then they needed MORE ROOM.  MORE LAND.  Oh, so sorry, we’re going to take more land from you.  Sure, we’ll give you a few trinkets and shells for it.  Trust us.

Woe to those who trust the untrustworthy.

The first Indians to encounter the Europeans had smaller tribes and were more settled (which is NOT to say they were permanently settled in towns, etc).  As happens everywhere, some fell into interracial love affairs.  So begins assimilation.  Others were truly converted to the European life style.  Many were either forcibly “converted” or died trying to preserve their own way of life.

But we need MORE LAND.  MORE SPACE.

So the push westward was begun.  Indians who were already displaced from the east were pushed further away from their homelands if they did not assimilate.

The government began to make treaties with the tribes.   In exchange for the land you are “giving” us we PROMISE to take care of you, make sure you have enough to eat, good places to live.  We PROMISE to punish any bad person who hurts, steals from or otherwise harms a member of your tribe.  We PROMISE no one will bother you on the land we are giving you.

People today like to think that these treaties are quaint documents in which the government meant well but which don’t have much meaning in this day and age.  WRONG!  Treaties are legal documents between sovereign nations. Would we think of saying, “Sure, we have treaties limiting nuclear arms with Russia, but that’s for them, not us.  We can do what we want to.”  That wouldn’t fly, would it?  Treaties are binding on all signing parties.  That includes the US government.

So our government agreed to give the Indians certain things and do certain things for them.  Did the government follow through on everything it PROMISED?  NOT EVEN CLOSE!

Treaties were broken by the government.  There was more land taken (stolen).  There were cultures destroyed and languages lost.  Sacred places were defiled.  And did I mention more land was taken?  Reservations began to shrink as precious minerals were found and mines begun.  Cattle and other grazing herds competed with the native animals that formed the Indian diet.  The government condoned the wholesale slaughter of buffalo to get them out of the way for the railroad to cross the country and to free up grazing land for stock.  The government condoned genocide, too.

The remaining Indians were left on reservations with fairly useless land.  They had no access to food, especially the food they were all accustomed to.  There were no jobs on the reservations.  The children were taken from their families to be “civilized and educated.”  These are the Indians whom Stossel calls FREELOADERS. These are the ones surviving on the benefits the US government promised to them in “exchange” for all their land and their culture.

Let’s go back to the dictionary.  Freeloader is defined as “slang: a person who habitually depends on the charity of others for food, shelter, etc”.  And freeload the verb is defined as “to take advantage of others for free food, entertainment, etc”.

Okay, based on what we’ve discussed, it is obvious that Indians are freeloaders, right?  The are taking advantage of those who stole their land and culture by expecting to be given the things that treaties have promised.  I’m sure they are entertained by the broken promises, hungry children, substandard living conditions and prejudice they have.  It must be an advantage to experience hopelessness and despair to such a degree that there is an epidemic of youth suicide on reservations.

Mr Stossel blithely notes, “They have short life spans.” That is the understatement of a lifetime! The life expectancy for a male on Pine Ridge Reservation is 48 years and for women it is 52 years!  Those are life expectancies comparable to Burundi, not anywhere in the USA.  Do you really think, Mr Stossel, that these “freeloaders” are getting a benefit here?  Do you think they greedily and lazily think that losing 30 years of expected life is a good deal?

Do I disagree with Mr Stossel’s premise that people who are given everything prosper less than those who must work to get ahead?  Not entirely.  I look at the youth of this nation, a group who have come to believe they are entitled to things, education, jobs because their parents gave them everything they asked for.  Talk about a group of freeloaders (in general; there are certainly exceptions).

However, do I believe that American Indians are freeloaders, as Stossel claims?  ABSOLUTELY NOT!

I wonder if Mr Stossel has ever spent any time visiting a reservation or talking to those who live there.  I doubt it.  I have done both.  I have seen with my own eyes what passes for housing on the reservations of South Dakota.  I have seen how hard it is to succeed even with an education – that it often means leaving home, family, culture and friends.

So, Mr Stossel (I’m sure you read your own press and hope you have been able to read to the end), I urge you to read any of my blog entries in the Lakota category.  Watch the videos I’ve made from photos I’ve taken on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

My Passion is Pine Ridge  http://youtu.be/t8UYGSBl4yU?a

Third World Conditions in the USA  http://youtu.be/-gHXmlUpVvs

Look carefully at the pictures of my friend’s house, Mr Stossel.  Tell me if you really believe that someone would live in those conditions willingly in order to take advantage of charity or “government handouts.”  If you really believe that, you don’t deserve the BA in Psychology that you got at Princeton University.  You obviously didn’t learn enough to merit it.

Yes, there are prosperous American Indian individuals and tribes who don’t need the benefits they are entitled to from the US government.  But there are many, many more who, for whatever reasons, absolutely need them and would not be able to survive without them.  You should know better than to compare apples to oranges, Mr Stossel!

American Indians, especially in the Dakotas, endure prejudice and bias akin to that experienced by African-Americans in the deep South in the days before the Civil Rights movement.  Where is the American media when that occurs?  Absent.  It is abominable that you add to this with the commentary you wrote equating all American Indians with freeloaders.  Shame on you!

Mr Stossel, you should not write about what you don’t know, even if you have a wonderful staff to feed you statistics.

And you owe American Indians an apology at the very least.

g a person who habitually depends on the charity of others for food, shelter, etc
slang a person who habitually depends on the charity of others for food, shelter, etc
slang a person who habitually depends on the charity of others for food, shelter, etc

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I called a young woman on Pine Ridge Reservation today because she and her family had just moved from another part of the reservation to one of the areas I serve.  I needed to get a few pieces of additional information in order to add them to my list.

She was a pleasant 23 year old woman who had 4 sons, aged 8, 5, 2 and 1.  The family (the young woman, her 32 year old partner and the 4 children) had moved in with her mother and adult sister.  I discovered later that they had been asked to move out of the house they had been living in due to allegations that her partner had been dealing drugs.  I did not find this out from the young woman but from the person who does my job in the area in which they used to live.  Oh dear!  The pressure to support your family where job opportunities are very limited pushes you to do unfortunate things, I guess.  I made a note of the potential problem.  The family already has a sponsor, who knows of the problem, so I will not have the question of whether or not to assign a sponsor there.

I paused for a moment to think about the young lady’s mother, who has accepted this man in her home along with her daughter and grandsons.  Was it a difficult thing to do?

I asked about the living accommodations, as I normally do.  That’s when I started to be concerned.  The home is a double-wide trailer.  They used to heat with propane before the furnace gave out.  They did call to have someone repair it but the maintenance people never sent anyone.  The electricity only works in half of the trailer now, so they run extension cords to the other rooms and connect space heaters they have bought at yard sales to heat the trailer.

I know you do what you have to in order to survive, but all I can see is the fire hazard.  The frightening thing is that I am certain this is not the only home on the reservation with jury-rigged heat and electricity.  I have been told there are no building codes on the rez.  It’s one of the questions I hope to ask when I visit there in early June.

To finish up, I asked if they had transportation.  Her mom, who does have a job, has a car.  They have to drive her to work and pick her up if they need the car for errands, doctor appointments, etc..  So they are luckier than some, not as lucky as most of us.

It bothers me that there are so many homes on the reservation with poor heating or no heating.  It really bothers me that there are so many I’ve heard about that are fire risks.  I keep thinking that the tribe ought to be more concerned about the welfare of the people.  I know money is tight.  But if you can pay the Tribal Council members as well as they are paid, surely you can do maintenance to prevent fire losses – material and human!  I know, I’m on the outside but still . . .

As an aside, I read an article by John Stossel of FOX News a couple of days ago that really got me steamed.  He was calling Native Americans freeloaders.  I plan to reread it and write about it in the near future.  But for the time being I will tell you that I have lost any respect I ever had for this man and his work.  He did no homework on this at all.  I doubt he has ever been on the reservation or done more than superficial thinking on the topic.  He is just one more pompous, arrogant windbag to me now!

I’m brushing off my soapbox as I get ready to write that one!

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“Why Pine Ridge?” is a question I am frequently asked.  I have been pondering the answer to that question since Christmas time, especially, because it was posed to me by Dana, a woman from the Pine Ridge Reservation to whom I write while she is incarcerated in federal prison in Minnesota.

She replied to  my Christmas note.  She was looking forward to watching the “My Passion is Pine Ridge” video ( http://youtu.be/t8UYGSBl4yU?a ) that I had recently posted on YouTube.  She wrote that she looked forward to it “although [she] would like to know why?  Why such the passion?  So many people love where [she’s] from but all moving home did for [her] was get [her] in trouble.”

I have been musing and pondering over those questions for several months now.  I really owe her a response.  But for me to say that my love for the Lakota people who live on Pine Ridge Reservation is due to their culture, their strength and their needs sounds so cerebral.  My passion and crusade to inform the nation about the living conditions on the rez come from a different place than my head.

My passion stems from my heart and soul.  My heart feels a loving connection with each person I meet from the reservation – even the ones who try to “pull a bit of wool over my eyes.”  I understand a bit of human nature.  My soul feels torn apart when I see the beautiful, kind, gentle people – especially the elders and children, those sacred ones – living in conditions that many people in the country would not expect their animals to live in.

I feel it is a “sin” (in the generic sense of that word, not a particular religion’s interpretation) to a group of people in the United States to live in conditions that no one else would tolerate.  These are conditions that are like those in the Third World – in Haiti or Burundi.  Life expectancies on Pine Ridge are similar to those places as well.  It is wrong that, if Pine Ridge residents lived a hundred miles away, their live expectancies would increase by 30 years – just by being born and living a couple of hours away.  Those are the things that give me my passion and drive.  The unfairness.  The losses.  The hardships.  The national news media doesn’t tell you thinks like that – not ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN or FOX.  So I do it.

Those are some of the things that make me keep plugging away even on those days (or weeks) that I get discouraged.  I am so impressed by those on Pine Ridge Reservation who make it.  Or who work to give the elders and youth hope for the future.  My work allows me to help one at a time.  That is a good thing.  But the numbers who still need help are overwhelming.  I do it for all the strong Lakota women I have met who inspire me to never quit using my own talents and abilities until I have achieved my goal.  These are women who live in the direst of conditions yet they still laugh and give to others.  They are my inspirations.  I guess that is, in the end, why I am driven by such passion to promote the welfare of the people of Pine Ridge Reservation.

I read another letter addressed to Facebook friends and written by a young Lakota mother and musician.  I think she would be pleased that, even though she is a professional musician and that is her occupation, I introduced her as a mother first.  She is devoted to her family above all things except Tunaksila (God).  She was raised off rez and has come back to help her people.  She has a plan and goals, which you can read about in my prior post about the youth project for native music.  She has given me permission to share her letter with you here.

Its hard to be Lakota but its worth it. Sharing my thoughts.

by Davidica Littlespottedhorse on Tuesday, March 22, 2011 at 6:54am

Its easy to say,”Fix it. Take a stand. Make some noise.” but its harder to actually do it. Im one of the strong people on the rez whos not afraid to stand against injustice or speak the truth, but I know why most of my people wont speak up.

When you live in a place where corruption is the norm, you dont have much faith in the power of justice. I still believe, I have faith and Im proud of my Lakota people for enduring the living conditions here on my rez. Because through it all we kept what was more important than material things. We have our culture, our spirituality, our history, and our knowledge of our ancestors. These are things that are lost to most tribes so I know how blessed we are.

Most people in the outside world dont understand the life we lead and get frustrated wondering why it is the way it is. Yes we are treated badly but the majority of us are busy surviving. We dont have the time to be ambitious we are too busy trying to get food on the table, keep warm, or keep our electricity on. I dont know of any other town that 90% of the population can live off of $3000 a year, yes a year. Any other town would be in total chaos. People would be stuggling, have no homes, and fighting for what little resources there are. Oh wait that is what we do, but we are not in TOTAL chaos for all that the media and everyone else plays up.

For all our struggles, still we are strong. We are compassionate. We are generous. We are welcoming. When a family member needs help we all help them. When we are hurting our families come together to pray with us. We are proud of our ancestors who kept us from being wiped out. Our youth is talented. Our elders teach us.

And, if you look past the negativity out in front, you’ll see the beauty in the ones who are quiet and strong. The ones who just live their lives being good to those around them. Like my grandpa who takes his guitar to sing at funerals and doesnt ask for money. Or my cousin down the street who fixes peoples cars for free. Or my aunt who runs a small business and still sponsors lil league teams. Or the boys at the basketball game who all came outside to help push some guy they didnt even know out of the snow. Or the teenage girls that would come over and ask to take my girls for a walk so I could mop my house. Or when my baby died, all my relatives that I didnt even know very well who helped me with everything from cooking to burying my daughter. Then a year later they all came together again to pray with me even though I hadnt seen most of them all year.

When bad things happen or times are hard its easy to complain and get mad, but the true Lakota way is to look forward and gather courage to make things better in a good way.

I was upset yesterday but I lit some sage, took a deep breath, and said a prayer. Then I remembered my moms words,”Its hard to be Lakota. You have to forgive when no one else will. You have help everyone, even your enemies. You have to pray for yourself to let go of anger. Once you do this you will learn from your experiences and then you can help your people.” I stand humbled and strengthened by my experience because now I have a new direction to help my people.

Pilamiya Tunaksila for direction.

So, why do I have such passion for Pine Ridge?  It is, of course, my sense of what is right and what is wrong.

But it is the women about whom I frequently write.  It is because of Dana, a talented women who succumbed to temptation in her desire to support her family.  It is because of Davidica, a talented women whose strength and spirituality has helped her resist the temptations of the reservation.  It is Michelle, who has endured more than any mother should have to endure with her daughters (rape, illness, death).  It is Emma who takes in foster children when she has ten children of her own to care for.  It is Nadine who single-parents her children and grandson, takes college courses, maintains her culture through her crafts and hopes to show other rez women that it is possible to succeed. There are too many others to single out each one.

How could I possibly not have this passion after the inspiration of so many!?

I hope you are inspired to spread the word about the poverty and hopelessness that too many have on Pine Ridge.  Just tell people you know, if that is what you are most comfortable doing.  Send them to the YouTube videos so they can see for themselves.

Pretty soon I won’t be a single match trying to shed light on these lives, but we will have a huge bonfire of caring and love to catch the country’s eyes.

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I got to thinking in the past few days – I know, a dangerous thing for me to do – about how so many of the things I’ve been writing about recently are more like marathon events than sprints.

A marathon is a 26 mile 385 yard (42.195 km) race.  The best runners can do it in a little over 2 hours; average runners may take 4 to 5 hours.  I would probably take 2 – months, that is.  Unless I had a coronary event before that.

Sprints are short, quick races – 60 m (indoors), 100 m, 200 m, never more than 500 m.  The elite runners for the 100 m, for example, can complete the race in about 10 seconds – a brief flash in the pan.  I, on the other hand, would be left in their dust, gaping at the speed while unmoved myself.

In my life, there have been many more marathon events than sprints.  Not actual races, of course, but life events that play out over a longer time rather than events that are done in that flash.

As I noted, marathon events seem to be really predominating lately.

The first would be the commitment I have made to follow and write about Dan Ross, the young musician who is walking from Illinois to the Pacific Ocean in Oregon.  That will be a marathon times 100 – yes, he’s actually going to be walking approximately 2600 miles in his journey.  That journey is sure to bring self-discovery in addition to his goals of drawing attention to the conditions on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota and raising funds for the non-profit ONE Spirit who work to improve the lives of those who live on the reservation.

Another marathon will be the clean-up following the flooding on Pine Ridge Reservation.  I know, some will read this today and wonder “What flooding?”  If they did not see my original posting or many Tweets, they surely will not have seen it in the national news media.  That’s because the national news media hardly ever notices what happens in the middle of this country.  When the problem is in the poorest county in the country, it is not going to attract national media attention unless it involves violence.

The marathon that will result from the flooding is not just the drying up of creeks and homes.  It is the rebuilding of lives by people who have very few resources with which to do it.  There will be no insurance to cover the damages.  Homes will be patched as best they can be.  Waterlogged contents which, in insured suburban homes would have been collected and disposed of, will be dried out to see if they can still be used.  There is no money to replace them.  That is not a good thing in a place where many homes already have problems with black mold.  Wet furniture, clothing and bedding will be terrific breeders of mold as the weather improves.  There may be pollutants and toxins in the water that flooded the homes.  They will remain when the water evaporates.  Some things will simply be gone with the water.  It will take a long, long time for most to recover.  Talk about a marathon!

Relationships are marathons, if they last.  Whether it is the relationship of spouse, lover, friend, sibling – they all take work and they don’t survive without a commitment to being an active participant in the life of the other persons.  Gratefully I have a good number of these marathons going already and some new relationships that I hope will develop into marathons.  There is nothing wrong with a sprint, of course.  The acquaintance who is a joy for a time, then moves out of your life has merit.  But it is the marathon relationships which, while certainly entailing work, bring the greatest joy and benefit.

I have been running a health marathon for over 45 years, coping with fibromyalgia.  While some have claimed their fibromyalgia was cured, I do not personally believe that to be true.  I believe they did not truly have fibromyalgia in the first place.  Otherwise, more of us would be taking advantage of that cure.  Instead, most with fibromyalgia run the same marathon that I am running – to make the best life they can with the fewest number of flare-ups.  It is challenging, but so are most marathons.

My final marathon is my personal crusade to bring awareness of the living conditions on the Pine Ridge Reservation to a nation that is uninformed and poorly educated.  The people in this country have come to depend on a small number of commercial news outlets to tell them what is happening in their world, their nation and their lives.  If it isn’t on television, they don’t know about it.

Mind you, I am not passing judgment here.  I was no different at one time.  But I do have a couple of assets – a healthy curiosity and desire for life-long learning.  When I learned about the reservation by first sponsoring a child there, then doing research and finally traveling there, I vowed that I would not let the beautiful, proud, generous Lakota people go unnoticed any longer.  As I have taught myself about technology and social media, I have moved further and further along the path of this marathon.  I am no expert at either the technology or social media outlets.

But I am passionate about this journey.  I believe that, if the people of this nation knew about the conditions and loss of hope that have become the norm in these sovereign first nation communities, they would do something.  They would demand change!  I believe this because I have seen it happen with other disasters, both here and abroad.  Americans do not care who is in need; they respond from their hearts and wallets.

It should be an embarrassment to this nation that we allow Third World conditions to exist in the center of our nation.  I am committed to the marathon that will bring this to light and help bring about change.  It can be exhausting as any marathon is.  But it is, for me, the most important marathon in my life.

 

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Today I received an email from the folks at ONE Spirit (http://nativeprogress.org) about a young musician who will be walking across the country – yes, I said walking – to raise awareness of the conditions on Pine Ridge Reservation and to raise funds for ONE Spirit’s work there.  You know how dear to my heart the Lakota people of Pine Ridge Reservation are.  So you shouldn’t be surprised that I have offered to provide information about this event and write periodic updates on Dan’s progress as part of my blog.

Dan Ross is a young Illinois-based musician who can be found on YouTube.com under the guise of “goofyguitarist.”  More information on the Dan and the walk can be found at ONE Spirit’s website:

http://nativeprogress.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=201:spring-awareness-walk-for-pine-ridge-youth&catid=34&Itemid=153
Dan has a Facebook page going to garner support for the walk (from Rockford, IL to the Pacific Ocean in Florence, OR!).  The link is:  http://www.facebook.com/#!/home.php?sk=group_125643704165866&notif_t=group_activity

This is the description of the Facebook group that he gives:

“In 2011, Dan Ross (that’s me) will walk from his hometown of Rockford, IL all the way to the Pacific coast in Oregon. For 5-6 months I will walk every day, rain or shine until I reach the ocean. Why? Well…I watched Forrest Gump recently and…..err….I mean I like to walk, and…I like the the ocean too, so i figured ….uuum… I guess right now I don’t quite know why I’m doing it, however I do know that once I’ve done it I’ll surely know why I did it….. Anyway, I’ll also be bringing publicity to a non-profit organization called “One Spirit”. This organization brings aid to the impoverished Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. The reservation contains in it, the poorest county in the United States. Living conditions on the reservation are unacceptable by most American standards, and the children growing up there have little opportunity. As I traverse the land on my epic trek, I plan to encourage people across the country to donate to One Spirit in an effort to help them raise enough money to build and maintain a youth center on the reservation, which will provide new opportunities for the children and teens on the reservation. TOWNS I WILL WALK THROUGH/BY: ILLINOIS- Freeport, Elizabeth, Galena, East Dubuque. IOWA- Dubuque, Colesburg, Edgewood, Strawberry Point, Oelwein, Readlyn, Waverly, Shell Rock, Allison, Dumont, Hampton, Clarion, Humboldt, Pocahontas, Storm Lake, Alta, Aurelia, Cherokee, Marcus, Remsen, Le Mars. SOUTH DAKOTA- Vermillion, Yankton, Tyndall, Wagner, Pickstown, Bonesteel, Gregory, Winner, Mission, Martin, Pine Ridge, Oelrichs, Hot Springs, Custer. WYOMING- Newcastle, Moorcroft, Gillette, Buffalo, Ten Sleep, Greybull, Cody, Yellowstone National Park, IDAHO- Tendoy, Challis, Clayton, Stanley, Lowman, Banks, Horseshoe Bend, Emmett. OREGON- Vale, Brogan, Unity, John Day, Mitchell, Prineville, Redmond, Sisters, Springfield, Eugene, Veneta, Walton, Florence, OCEAN!!!!!!!! “

 

I recently read the interview Dan gave investorideas.com and would like to share a couple of his responses with you.

Question: Can you tell us what motivated and inspired you to take on such a challenging endeavor?

Dan’s response: Honestly, I was watching “Forrest Gump” one night during the fall of 2010 when I was first struck with the idea to walk across 2/3 of the country. For those of you who are unfortunate enough not to have seen the movie (because it’s a good one!), the main character spontaneously decides to run across the entire country, and it is certainly an inspiring moment in the film. Before that night, I had already planned on moving out of my hometown in 2011, in an effort to broaden my horizons and gain a new clarity of mind so that I might discover what I’d like to pursue in life; I just wasn’t sure exactly where I would go or how I’d get there. So I would say that I was primed, ready, and waiting for a good idea to come along. All I needed was a spark of inspiration.  What motivates me to take on such a challenging endeavor is the fact that it IS a challenge. I enjoy pushing myself, if for no other reason than to test my own potential. Also, I believe traveling is one of the wisest things a person can do with their time and money – it allows you to learn things which cannot be taught. The possibilities of what I can learn from this journey are more than enough to motivate me to do it.

Question: You have chosen the youth of the Pine Ridge Reservation and the building of the Safe House and youth center as your non-profit to dedicate this to. A white youth from Illinois dedicating his walk to the native youth at Pine Ridge is an unexpected storyline; can you tell us how that came to be?

Dan’s response: Once I was certain that I would walk to the ocean in 2011, I began to think that maybe someone besides myself could benefit from this whole thing. After quite a bit of brainstorming, I was still unable to decide what cause I would walk for. Then, amidst the planning of my route, I noticed I would be walking right through the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, a place which I knew nothing about at the time. So I did a little research, and the information I found was startling and overwhelming unemployment estimated at 87%, life expectancy of about 50 years, 90% living below the federal poverty level, and teenage suicide rates 3 1/2 times the national average. I couldn’t believe that this place was located practically right in the middle of the United States. The fact that I was unaware of the situation at Pine Ridge makes me think that most others living in this country are unaware, as well. From this point on, I was sure that I had found a just cause.  After notifying One Spirit that I would like to help, we decided I should dedicate the walk primarily to the youth on the reservation. If you provide the younger generation with a safer childhood, and more opportunities to learn and grow, it becomes likely that they will want to take action to help the next generation in the same way. If all a child knows growing up is poverty, it’s easier to turn to drugs and/or gangs as a way out. I want to help show them something better.

 

Can you imagine doing what this young man is doing for people you don’t know?

Okay, if you’ve read any of my earlier blog entries, you’ll know I, personally, can’t imagine walking any farther than absolutely necessary, except on a treadmill – and that is an act of will.

I could get all spiritual on you (pun, get it?) and quote Christian scripture:  “For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die.” Rom 5:7  All right, don’t moan, I can hear it from here.  I know Dan is not planning to die.  But you get my point.  This is a really big thing for a person to do for someone else.  It shows a generous heart.  I am impressed and inspired.  I hope everyone who reads my blog will support Dan in this walk – if only by sending him good wishes or checking out his music.

I think it will be very interesting to follow this trek and see what Dan learns about himself as he tries to educate the nation about Pine Ridge Reservation and ONE Spirit.

This is a copy of the information I received today about Dan’s initial plans for his walk.  If you are on his route and can support his effort in any of the ways noted, you should contact ONE Spirit directly (if you send offers to me, it will only delay things).

If you aren’t on the route, you can still support the effort by forwarding a link to this blog entry or the ONE Spirit website or Dan’s Facebook page to friends and acquaintances.  The more who know about this effort, the better.

As we gear up for Dan Ross’s walk from Rockford, IL to the Oregon Coast to raise awareness for the youth of Pine Ridge, we are again relying on the help of our generous One Spirit supporters.

We are planning out the Illinois, Iowa and South Dakota legs of the walk and need the help of local supporters to provide a place for Dan to stay, help arrange for media coverage, and facilitate awareness gatherings if at all possible.

Don’t be afraid to think outside the box on ideas for this. Any and all suggestions are welcome. Even if you have a contact or a lead that you would like to share with us so that we can follow-up, we are grateful for your help.

Below is a list of dates and times Dan will be passing through Illinois and South Dakota. If you are able to assist in any capacity with these stops, please contact One Spirit. If you know of a friend or relative in that area who might be interested, please forward on this email.

Chicago area volunteers are needed for publicity and awareness campaigns. If you know of a media outlet that will be able to spread the word, or if you are able to set up a benefit concert or donation drive, please contact One Spirit.

IOWA STOPS
4/20/11 – Dubuque
4/24/11 – Oelwin (we have a grateful volunteer who is willing to cover this stop
4/26/11 – Wavery
4/28/11 – Hampton (we have another volunteer who is taking care of this stop)
5/11/11 – Humboldt
5/5/11 – Storm Lake (we have a volunteer taking care of this area)
5/8/11 – Le Mars

SOUTH DAKOTA STOPS
5/10/11 – Vermillion
5/12/11 – Yankton
5/16/11 – Wagner
5/21/11 – Winner
5/28/11 – Martin (We have accommodations arranged for this area)
6/7/11 – Hot Springs
6/9/11 – Custer

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