Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Hunger in America’ Category

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

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

Okay, technically Labor Day is tomorrow.  But it is Labor Day weekend, the final big holiday of the “summer season.”  And what am I doing?  Laboring!!  I guess I can at least be grateful it isn’t the kind of labor that comes with a baby at the end – been there, done that.  But yes, I am hard at work for the past 2 days.  I will be tomorrow as well.

What am I doing to take up all this time?  As usual, I am calling the rez.  Specifically, I am calling as many of the 44 households who were to receive food orders last weekend in the 2 areas I serve to determine whether the food was delivered or not, whether it was in good condition when it arrived and if there were any other problems with the delivery.

I had tried to meet with the food delivery volunteers for my areas when I was out visiting my Lakota friends a couple of weeks ago.  We were never able to connect (phone tag, even on the rez!).

You would think this would be an easy task.  You would be wrong.

I have not be able to reach 25% of the people on the list because their phones have been disconnected or are “no longer a working number.”  Do 25% of the folks you try to call lose their phone numbers because they can’t pay their bills?  I doubt it.

Another 25% are not reachable for a variety of reasons:  no one is home; they have never set up the voicemail box; the box is full; they don’t have a voice mail box; they are “not available” which can be code for “they have no signal where they are” or “they’ve turned off the phone to save power.”

There is a small percent, perhaps 10%, in which someone answers the phone but the person I ask for is not there.  So I try to check anyway, “Do you know if the food was delivered last Sunday?”  Nope, no idea.  It always puzzles me.  You are obviously at home enough to answer the phone for someone else but you don’t know if they got food.  (Pausing to shrug my shoulders – I know how loose home life can be on Pine Ridge).

Now we come to the rest, the calls where I actually reach the person I am trying to call.  It should be a simple task, a few quick questions.

If you’ve been reading my posts for a while, you will know there is no such thing as a “simple task” when it comes to the rez.  There are the people who want to know when they will get a sponsor.  Answer:  I don’t know.  The economy is bad, there a more natural disasters than we can keep up with and more people are torn among many places to be philanthropic.

Next question:  Can you give my sponsor a message?  Answer:  Absolutely!  A related question:  Do you know why I haven’t heard from my sponsor in “x” number of days, weeks, months?  Answer:  No, but I will try to find out.

Most people do not respond to the East Coast direct manner of completing this task.  They want to chat a bit, tell you about their lives and what’s been happening around the rez.  It takes time.  It’s probably something of a blessing in disguise that I can’t reach everyone.  If I did, with the average call lasting at least 20 minutes, I would have been on the phone for at least 15 hours!  Talk about labor!!

There are occasionally calls that take longer than the 20 minute average.  Like the call I made yesterday when I connected with a grandmother who had not received her food delivery.  Not a good thing, in and of itself.  But she proceeded to tell me about her 5 year old grandson who is just starting kindergarten.  He had no shoes that fit.  He needed school clothes.

She told me she had just been diagnosed with diabetes on top of her problems with asthma.  She thinks (and I suspect she is right) that the black mold in her home is responsible for the asthma problems.

She went on to tell me more about the house.  The heating vents are not in the holes where the heat comes out.  When the housing authority folks came over to fix them, the “fix” they proposed was to duct tape them in.  Okay.  She has so much trouble heating the home in the winter that she uses her oven for heat.

She moved on to her finances.  She is on Social Security and receives about $600 per month.  She must pay for everything out of that money.  She gets no support except for food stamps for her grandson.  That means she must pay for electricity, heat, clothing, cleaning supplies, phone, cable and the inevitable food and personal hygiene supplies not covered by the food stamps.  She told me her electric bill is around $250 per month and the cable is $50 per month.  She confided that the bundle – cable, internet and phone – was $113 per month, way more than she could afford.

With half her income used up by just 2 items, you can see how a food delivery that did not appear would be a disaster.  She is very worried.

I have one more day to complete this task.  Then I will send a report to the persons who direct the food program with the information I have gleaned.

But there will be no rest from my labors.  There is always something to be done for the rez.

 

Read Full Post »

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BUT . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Read Full Post »

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.

 

Read Full Post »

What do you suppose are the items that I get the most emergency calls for from the reservation?

In the winter, you might guess heating fuel.  Actually that would not lead the list.

You might guess food or payment of utility bills (electricity, phone).  You’d be wrong again.

What about clothing?  Nope!

Okay, before you get too upset, I’ll tell you.  The greatest number of requests are for the necessities of life that cannot be paid for with food stamps or WIC vouchers.  Those items include:

  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Body soap
  • Toothpaste/toothbrushes
  • Feminine hygiene pads
  • Diapers
  • Dish soap
  • Laundry soap
  • Toilet paper
  • Trash bags
  • Housecleaning products

How many of you cannot afford to buy toothpaste or shampoo after you pay your rent and utilities and buy food?  I suspect not many.

ONE Spirit has a program for folks who don’t yet have sponsors (in my areas alone there are hundreds!) to help supply these kind of emergency needs.  We don’t have programs for utilities.  But the necessities are the kinds of things one time donors can help with.

OKINI is a Lakota word meaning to share material things.  That is the name of the program where these needs are listed.  We list clothing too, because that is the other thing requested — especially for children.  The most requested clothing item?  Shoes.  I’ll bet you can afford shoes.  Can you imagine not being able to buy shoes for yourself or your children?

So how do I handle all these requests?  I pass the buck . . . actually, I pass on the information to the OKINI manager.  It goes all the way to Norway — thank goodness for the internet!  Kari, the OKINI coordinator, puts the items on the list, discretely omitting last names and identifying information.  It is a private list, not open to the general public.  You wouldn’t want the fact that you needed sanitary pads and couldn’t afford to buy them advertised to the whole world via the internet, would you?!

People who are interested in helping improve living conditions on the Pine Ridge Reservation but who do not feel able to become a direct sponsor for a child or elder can contact Kari to become part of the OKINI family.  In essence, donors via OKINI are indirect sponsors.  They improve the lives of those who want a sponsor but do not yet have one.

So what do you say?  Can you afford to buy shampoo or dish detergent or laundry detergent?  Can you afford to buy a child a pair or shoes or school supplies?  Can you afford to send a book or some yarn to an elder?

If you truly cannot, then I am very sad for you and I hope your circumstances improve soon.

If you said you can afford one of those things, I will give you the information you need to contact Kari and get started in the OKINI program.  It will be rewarding.  You might even get a thank you note, though there are no promises there.

Worried about shipping costs?  It can get expensive to send things off.  But the flat rate boxes the US Postal Service offers are great!  And many online retailers, like Amazon, offer free shipping directly to the recipient if you meet order requirements.  There are ways to keep those costs down.

If you’re still with me, you can contact Kari at her ONE Spirit email address:  koevensen@nativeprogress.org .  She will contact you to fill you in.

Kari tells me donations have been slowing down.  It may be the economy or the season . . . but I can tell you the requests don’t slow down.  The need for these items never slows down for those with such limited resources.

OKINI . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . it’s pronounced Oh-key-knee

Read Full Post »

One of the best things for us to eat is fresh fruit.  Yet it is one of the hardest things to come by on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

You and I know that fresh produce is costly enough.  But on the reservation, where it needs to be trucked over large distances, the cost is higher.  There are no chain markets and the smaller stores can’t buy in the quantities needed to reduce the price.  So most reservation children don’t get a lot of fresh fruit.

ONE Spirit has a food program which, through sponsors and direct purchases by rezidents, supplies some families with fresh produce and meat on a monthly basis.  This is helpful.

But imagine an orchard growing right on the reservation.  Not only would there be fruit, there would be jobs available, skills to be learned.  What a brilliant idea!

Village Earth affiliate, Sustainable Homestead Designs, based on the Pine Ridge Reservation has entered a contest to win an orchard from Dreyer’s Fruit Bars brand and the Fruit Tree Planting Foundation. In order to win, they need the most votes for their project.

All you have to do is go to the site via the link I’m providing and vote.  It’s just a few clicks.  You can vote once a day until May 31, when the first round of the program ends.  If you’re really a caring and concerned person, you’ll also pass this link to your friends and ask them to vote too.

As I write this, the project, which is listed as located in Manderson, SD, is in third place.  They are about 200 votes shy of second place and about 1800 votes short of first.  I know my readers can help propel them to the top.

Help Win an Orchard for Pine Ridgehttp://t.co/MTIdpzT

I voted today — won’t you?

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »