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Archive for the ‘Inspiration’ Category

I was reminded again today that I haven’t written in a while.  I can’t tell you why not.  I don’t mean that it is private.  I just don’t know why.  Anyway, here we go again.  Please – be patient and read to the end.  It really does tie together and it is important.

Life has a way of weaving separate strands together to make a beautiful cloth.  That’s what has been happening lately for me.  I wrote about feeling homeless because my kitchen was being remodeled.  It’s done now and beautiful.  So beautiful that it makes me feel a tad guilty when I mention it on Facebook.  Why?

A number of my friends on Facebook are folks who live on Pine Ridge Reservation.  If you’ve read any of my prior posts (and if you haven’t, why haven’t you?), you know that conditions on Pine Ridge are very difficult.  90% of the people there live below the poverty level.  I have been poor in my life but I have never faced that kind of poverty.  And now, when I have accomplished something so wonderful, I almost don’t want anyone to know.

The fact of the matter is that, while I may have felt homeless, I wasn’t.  I was staying in motels by choice to avoid the chaos of construction.  I had a choice.  And I had a home!

That was thread number one.  Thread number two is my “brother.”  He has begun to work at a shelter, counseling domestic abuse victims.  He saw abuse as a child.  He has a frame of reference and I am so proud of him for putting that knowledge to use in such an important way.  It is such an important thing for a victim of domestic violence to have a place to go where there is no violence.  Safety is so important – especially for the children!

You probably know that I “work” for an organization that tries to improve lives on Pine Ridge by providing sponsors, food, wood for heat, youth programs and whatever else we can manage.  I match folks on the rez with sponsors.  I get to talk to a lot of folks on the rez.

I’ve talked to plenty of women who have been abused — when they were children or by a man as an adult.  They have all touched me deeply.  But no story has touched me like the story I was told by a woman I am currently trying to help.

Thread number three started for me a couple of weeks ago when I got an email from our director.  She had been on the rez recently and was approached by a woman who asked for our help.  She gave me the woman’s telephone number and asked if I would call her.  I did.  This is her story.

I’m going to call the woman Jane – because I don’t think I have ever spoken to anyone on the rez whose name really was Jane.  Jane had recently left Dick (if you remember Dick and Jane, you learned to read when I did and you are probably my age) . . . because Dick was beating her and the 4 children.  You may think he is aptly named – I do.  She did not want the children to grow up seeing that and she would not accept it for herself.

If you’re standing up and cheering Jane right now, that’s great.  But wait.  After I tell you the rest of this story, you’ll have to come up with something better than that.

Jane left Dick.  Jane took the 4 children and not much else.  No clothing, toys or bedding.  She hoped to stay with a relative.  But all of the relatives had full houses already.  (I’ve written about the severe housing shortage on the reservation before.)  The best they could do for her was to lend her a tent.  So she is now living in a tent with her 4 children.  They sleep on the ground.  They eat bologna sandwiches.  She has no refrigeration so she must walk into town frequently for the perishables.  She is an insulin-dependent diabetic.  She is keeping her insulin and perishable food in a styrofoam cooler.  (Did I mention the temperatures have gone as low as 50 degrees and as high as almost 100 degrees?  Did I mention the severe thunderstorms with hail and high winds?) Everything was in the name of the abuser, including the food stamp claim.  Control is another form of abuse, don’t you think?

Jane has a cell phone but to charge it, she has to go to a tribal office and settle in with the children while she plugs in the phone.  Oh wait, I see what I have forgotten to tell you – the ages of the children.  The oldest just turned 5 years old.  Then there is a 3 year old and a 2 year old.  The youngest child is 4 months old.  The youngest 2 children are still in diapers.

Jane had no stroller.  So every walk for every task means taking along 1 child, 2 toddlers and an infant.  As Jane told me, “We travel very slowly.”  Jane told me she is trying to make it an adventure for the kids so they will not have bad memories of the experience as they get older.  She is sure she did the right thing by leaving.  Still … it is hard.

The wonderful people who support our organization have responded admirably to the needs of Jane and her children.  A stroller and many other things are on the way.  When I told her about the stroller, she was so grateful.  She said, “I’ve never had a stroller before.”  (Don’t forget – the stroller is for her fourth child.)  Still,  it will be hard.  There is still no home.

That brings me to thread number four.  Cangleska.  That is the domestic violence shelter on Pine Ridge that I wrote about early on in the life of this blog.  It was a fantastic place and the program there was a model for domestic abuse treatment and prevention across “Indian country.”  They built a large, homey shelter.  Many, including myself, contributed to its furnishings.  (If you must know, I sent a crib and mattress.)  There was treatment for the offenders as well as the victims.  It had the potential to change people’s lives.

If you are wondering why I am writing about Cangleska using the past tense, it is because it no longer exists.  The non-profit that ran the shelter was composed of folks who lived on the rez.  They received many grants and other donations.  As I’ve written before, when folks who have nothing have access to serious sums of money, the temptation to dip into the funds is always there.  Your own family has needs, too.  And greed is sadly an universal human flaw.  The shelter was closed down following a forensic financial audit.

This weekend I discovered that there will be an auction of all the assets of Cangleska next week.  Everything will go (even the crib I sent).  The auctioneer’s website listed “highlites (sic)” including like new office equipment, computer equipment, digital phone system, office furniture, home furnishings, flat screen TV’s, kids’ playground equipment, new chain link fence, tipis, pick-up trucks, cars, minivans, trailers, building materials, construction tools and shop equipment.  Everything will go.  It breaks my heart.

There is now nowhere for victims of domestic abuse to seek shelter and safety on Pine Ridge Reservation.  Nowhere in the 2 million acres that make up the reservation.

That is why Jane and her family are seeking shelter where they can – in a tent!

I don’t know what this cloth will look like when it is complete.  I don’t think all the threads are in place yet.  For many months I thought I was weaving a different pattern.  Now, I’m not so sure.  Perhaps it is all part of a larger design that I don’t recognize yet.  I’ll keep you posted.

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In all the chaos and hurry of trying to get everything cleaned up on my desk and in my inbox, I was stopped in my tracks a couple of days ago.  I was reminded of why I do the “work” I do.

I received a call from a Jane Doe, woman on Pine Ridge Reservation.  Okay, that’s nothing new for me.  I talk to a lot of folks there.  Jane is a woman I have actually visited and with whom I have spoken quite a few times.  She is a pleasant, soft-spoken woman who is  a wheelchair bound paraplegic, the result of being rearended in an auto accident by a drunk driver.

You would think Jane would be worried about herself and the fact that she lives in a small, non-ADA compliant apartment.  But several months ago, she told me the story of her two nieces.

Both her nieces are adults.  Both of them are mentally handicapped.  The two women had lived with and been cared for by their parents until the parents passed away.  At that time, one of their adult siblings was given guardianship over the two women.  The guardian decided to put the two women into a home of some sort, many miles away from the reservation and from all that was familiar to them.  No one from their immediate family visited them and, in fact, the guardian moved away to the East Coast and left them alone.

Jane Doe was the only one who visited her nieces, in spite of the fact that her car was constantly breaking down.  The women cried when she left and called her crying when she was at home because they were so lonely.

Jane, though disabled herself, was so concerned about her nieces that she went to the tribal court and sought guardianship of the two women.  They have been allowed to come to visit her — sleeping on the floor of her living room on top of sleeping bags and quilts.

Jane recently received guardianship!  However, they cannot come to stay with her permanently until she has a place for them to sleep that is not the floor. 

The living room is the only place in the apartment that they can stay.  Truly, Jane and her nieces need a proper place to live — one where a wheelchair will fit through the doorways.  But that is not likely to occur any time soon.

Jane would like to have her nieces home by the holidays, she told me when she called to ask if I could help her find a pull-out sofa bed or bunk beds for her nieces.  It’s so hard to say no to someone as generous and kind-hearted as Jane.  But it isn’t what we usually do, since a sofa bed, the best option, can be quite expensive.  I, personally, would hate to ask 38 and 40 year old women to be climbing into bunk beds, however.

We have actually located a sofa bed for $1000 that can be delivered to their home.  I’m not sure if that included tax — probably not, right?  But we don’t have a spare $1000 at this time.

I’m hoping that there will be a donor (or donors) who thinks that these 2 mentally handicapped women deserve to live with their aunt, who is so loving and giving in spite of her own needs.

If you know anyone who would like to help, direct them to ONE Spirit at http://nativeprogress.org to make the donation.

I, personally, am going to keep Jane Doe in my mind as I prepare for the holidays of giving thanks and giving gifts.  She is willing to give of what little she has out of love for her family.  She is a true inspiration to me!

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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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Today was the last day of vacation, after a week of relaxing in Yellowstone National Park and the surrounding area.  Yellowstone is one of my favorite places in the entire country — and having been to all 50 states, I have seen some wonderful sights.  But Yellowstone is a place that is continuing creation in a way, since it sits atop a volcano and has incredible geothermal features.  It has an inexplicable energy that permeates the park.  So I was rather reluctant to leave.
Another reason for my reluctance to leave was the long drive ahead of us.  We had to travel back to Salt Lake City, UT.  Tomorrow we will fly from Salt Lake City back to the East Coast . . . and home.  We decided to take the “low roads” back instead of the highways we had traveled to get to Yellowstone last week.  We prefer being able to take breaks as well as having more interesting sights to see.  We began by exiting Yellowstone through the south gate, which led us into Teton National Park.  The mountains there are breathtaking.
However, after a long morning of driving (we left at 8 AM and it was now 12:30 PM) we arrived at Afton, Wyoming.  We had taken this route on our first trip to Yellowstone and I remembered the antler arch that stretches across the street (see photo above).  The town is quaint and historic.  You can read more about it on Wikipedia (search Afton, WY) or at the town’s own website http://aftonwyoming.net .
This story is not about the population (about 2000), the income levels, unemployment rates or any other demographic statistic.  It is also not about how scenic Afton is nor about the activities available.  It is not even about the fact that Afton, WY boasts an Olympic gold medalist (Rulon Gardner).
This story is about people behaving well, showing kindness and compassion and bringing a warm smile to me after a long ride.
We stopped at the Burger King located in Afton for one of our stretch breaks and decided to have a quick burger to hold us until we got to Salt Lake City for dinner.  While my husband ordered, I chose a table and sat down.  I chose the right table as things turned out.
There were 3 elderly ladies in front of my husband.  As they got their orders, they were assisted by one of the Burger King employees to get their food to the table they chose directly behind me.  As the party went past me, I noticed that the Burger King employee who helped them was a young woman with Down’s Syndrome.  When the ladies realized that they needed ketchup, she offered to get it for them and returned with 3 small cups of ketchup on a tray.   After the ketchup was delivered, one of the elderly women tipped her (no, I don’t know how much) and she was so pleased.  So was I.  I admire a place that respects handicapped individuals and I respect people who do the same, as the 3 elders did.  They did not patronize this young women.  They treated her with respect.
It was the next event that really solidified my respect for the people of Afton.  After assisting the 3 women, the young woman sat at a nearby table to do a task that many would find tedious.  She was stacking numerous, loose little paper cups used for ketchup into a bin.  She was taking great pains to be sure the stacks were straight and neat when she accidentally bumped a stack, scattering several dozen paper cups across the floor near her feet.
The young woman was momentarily flustered.  I watched in both pleasure and awe as 2 children, obviously siblings, looked at each other and then went to work.  The boy and girl, in the age range of perhaps 8-11, picked up all of the stray cups off the floor and returned them to the grateful young woman.  Then they simply went into the playroom to meet a parent and left.
Perhaps it seems a small thing to you.  Or perhaps you expect unattended children to act like the ones I described.  Personally, I don’t expect it in this day and age.  I have seen far too many children who pay no attention to anyone or anything except their own interests and desires.  So frankly, I thought this was a big thing.  I thought to myself, “Those parents have done a terrific job of raising their children!”
There may yet be hope for the future.  If parents in Afton, WY can do it right, perhaps more parents can start to figure out how to raise children who are kind, compassionate and respectful.  I looked for the children and parents after I finished eating but they had already departed.  I really wanted to tell the parents how proud they should be of their children.  Since I couldn’t find them, I’m using this post to say what I would have said.
You must be very proud to have children who show respect and caring without being told to.  They did what was helpful and kind.  It may have been a small task but it was done without a second thought.  They didn’t debate if they should help — they just did it.  It really brought me joy to see it and I want to thank you for raising such “good” children. 
If the other children in Afton are raised as well as the 2 I watched, then Afton must be a special place.

 

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Our last visit to Pine Ridge Reservation was very different from our previous visits.  One of the things we did this time was to spend a bit more time learning about the contemporary activities on the rez.  History is important but what’s happening today helps me to understand the youth needs better.

So with some trepidation, we decided to attend the Independence Through Music (ITM) free concert that was being held one of the days we were there.  I say with some trepidation because I have written about the ITM project before and knew that many of the musicians were hip hop or rap musicians.  No offense to anyone whose musical tastes run in those directions, but mine do not.  I can enjoy almost anything else, being the eclectic gal that I am, but rap generally would send me heading for the door.

In addition to being eclectic, however, I am also open-minded and like to learn about new people and things.  So we went.  I have a feeling that my husband, who shares my hip hop/rap feelings, was there only because I wanted to be.  I’m grateful, because he handled the video taping which allowed me to concentrate on listening, watching and, yes, enjoying the concert.

We arrived at Billy Mills Hall in Pine Ridge, the concert venue, a bit early.  I had a fairly good idea of what to expect, my husband did not.  What we found was basically a large gymnasium with bleachers that push back when not in use.  If you’re old enough, you may have had that kind of gym for your high school.  Obviously, the acoustics were going to leave a lot to be desired.

We watched the sound check, which included some of the artists we would see later.  Interesting.  There is a link to the sound check video clip below.  This is the memory of the concert, followed by some observations.

******

There was one more thing that struck me about the concert in general — and it had nothing to do with the musicians.  Picture this:

You are sitting on the bottom step of the bleachers in a large, open gymnasium.  People are getting their hands marked with a number as they enter — not for a count, but so they will be eligible for door prizes at intervals during the concert.  Your back is already telling you that your fibromyalgia is not going to be happy with the seating arrangements.  You ignore your back, knowing you may pay for that tomorrow.

The lighting leaves a little to be desired.  There are no spotlights or stage lights, of course; there are just the single bulb lights suspended from the gym ceiling.  Just the lights in front, where the performers are, are lit although at first the sunlight is also streaming through the high gym windows.

People trickle in.  You are surprised that there are not more people, since the concert is free.  But of course, communication on the rez is not great so it’s possible that many don’t even know about the concert.

You notice that while some people sit and watch the concert from one spot, others seem to need to wander about.  Some go in and out the doors – the smokers, of course.  Children run about freely, a bit distracting for you but they are not ill-mannered or wild.  You think how wonderfully accepting the community is of normal child behavior and how much love they demonstrate to their children.  Even the performers accept it easily, including the guy who performs half his act holding his son who is sleepy and wants his dad.

You notice a young man who is very obviously disabled and by his physical appearance, you would guess he has Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.  He wanders across the gym, mingles with the musicians and dances when the mood strikes him.  Then surprisingly he is introduced as a community member who would like to perform.  He goes to the microphone, stands there clearly struggling to recall the song and to have the courage to sing it.  He cannot.  Suddenly, the audience breaks into loud applause and he beams.  He leaves the microphone and resumes his previous activities.  But it isn’t the young man who has impressed you — it is the community.  The support and love they showed this disabled young man spoke volumes about the kind of people they were.  Amazing!

The concert was supposed to run 6 – 10 pm.  It is now 9 pm.  You want to stay for the last hour, but you can see your husband has run out of enthusiasm.  More than that, which might be overlooked, your back has finally begun to issue you an ultimatum — move and do something else soon or you will pay a BIG price.  You know your back doesn’t kid about those things, so you look at your husband and give him a slight nod.  He packs up the camcorder and you both head out to the car.  You have almost an hour’s drive through the road construction to go the distance to your hotel at the casino.  Suddenly you are very tired and hope you can stay awake until you get to the room.

******

The show started more or less on time.  It was interesting to watch these aspiring musicians perform.  Some had performed locally before.  For others, this was the first time they were performing in front of a live audience.  It showed, to be sure, but it also a bit endearing to watch these young men who were performing for the first time confront their fears and insecurities.  I say young men, because there is only one young woman in the program so far.  That’s just a result of who showed interest, not where the talent lies.

I was struck by the fact that most of the hip hop/rap artists performed music which told a great deal about rez life from the perspective of young people.  So it was very interesting.  It gave another point of view to an already complex topic.  It was not all negative.  Many of the lyrics displayed their pride in their heritage and their anger at being judged.

There are links below to all of the performances.  If you notice that there is a clip missing (#10), that clip is of Davidica.  Since she is a professional and has recorded the song that she sang, I agreed not to publish it at this time.

I wanted to make note of the young lady who performed, Tiana Spotted Thunder.  I had noticed her videos on YouTube before my rez visit and before I knew she was a participant in ITM.  In person, even battling a cold, she sounds just as beautiful as she looks.  But she is shy and it unfortunately comes off as not believing in her own talent.  I hope she can overcome that because her talent is real and her voice will have power when her confidence can shine through it.

My bottom line on the concert?  I loved it!!!

And I learned something, which is always good.

I learned that, just as you shouldn’t judge people by any arbitrary factor (and I usually don’t), you shouldn’t judge art or music by arbitrary factors as well.  I typically don’t like the kind of music I heard that night.  But I did enjoy it at the concert.  Why?  It wasn’t exactly the same.  Perhaps it was the roughness, the unpolished, unpackaged manner in which it was performed.  I don’t know for sure.  But I am glad I was open-minded enough to try it.

******

Concert Sound Check                                 http://youtu.be/OLSRBKVXK3Q

Independence Through Music #1            http://youtu.be/J1q0rI01bfI

Independence Through Music #2            http://youtu.be/RQ0pWiG6qPE

Independence Through Music #3            http://youtu.be/HgyyXxQaT-w

Independence Through Music #4            http://youtu.be/lbEktnOGyvI

Independence Through Music #5            http://youtu.be/eqdRqCd9TDI

Independence Through Music #6            http://youtu.be/NFitcxqa3Fw

Independence Through Music #7            http://youtu.be/GlJ9fPdSJNY

Independence Through Music #8            http://youtu.be/Ins1pL2fkLY

Independence Through Music #9            http://youtu.be/OPxVGZTggso

Independence Through Music #11          http://youtu.be/etgyr74Gewk

 

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One of the best things we got to see on this visit to the reservation was the return of the Crazy Horse Ride participants on Thursday, June 9.  In the center of the Pine Ridge settlement, people started lining the streets, staking out prime viewing spots early.  The riders would come up Rte 407 from White Clay, NE and turn left onto BIA Road 32 at the center of Pine Ridge, ending at the Powwow Grounds.

The riders return to Pine Ridge, SD

Since we were going to the concert at Billy Mills Hall shortly after the riders passed, we found a parking space at the hall, right along the riders’ route.  It was quite convenient, since it was also directly across from Big Bat’s, the convenience store/snack bar/gas station that is today’s version of a trading post.  There are rest rooms, too, always a plus!

The riders approached in the distance from the top of a hill with an escort of police cruisers with their lights turned on.  It was a beautifully clear, sunny day.  The colors of the massed flags and flashing lights were truly a sight to behold!  We recorded the event and you can actually view it for yourself by using the link at the end of this post.

So what was the big deal, anyway?  Was this just a parade?  Why did all these folks ride horses from Ft Robinson, NE to Pine Ridge, SD on an extremely long, 4 day trail ride?

The annual Crazy Horse Ride, now in its 14th year, is a 4-day trail ride held the second week in June to honor all veterans and the war leader, Crazy Horse.  This year the ride ran from Jun 6 to Jun 9.  Approximately 200 riders participate each year according to organizer Charles “Bamm” Brewer.  Although the group is primarily made up of Oglala Lakota riders, all are welcome.  Many young Lakota take part in the event, which gives them an opportunity to learn and understand their culture and heritage in a more concrete way.  It is a pilgrimage of sorts and has a definite spiritual aspect.

A father carries his disabled son during the 2011 Crazy Horse Ride

This year’s ride had special meaning for the riders.  On the first morning of the ride, the governor of Nebraska and other dignitaries gathered with the riders to dedicate the section of US 20 from Ft Robinson to Hay Springs as “Crazy Horse Memorial Highway.”

The ride forms in Ft Robinson, NE each year since that is the location of the death of Crazy Horse on September 5, 1877 as he was being taken into custody by government troops.  Day 1 of the ride proceeds from Ft Robinson to Chadron, NE where the riders camp for the night.  On Day 2, the riders proceed from Chadron to camp in the Beaver Valley.  This is a particularly meaningful stop, since this area was the land of Crazy Horse and tradition holds that his parents brought him here to be buried after his death.  Day 3 is a rest day in that special place, with many activities planned for the riders.  On Day 4 the riders complete their journey, traveling from Beaver Valley into Pine Ridge for the All Veterans Gathering and Powwow at the Pine Ridge Powwow Grounds.

The 2011 ride included Spiritual Leader Wilmer Mesteth, Crazy Horse Ride Elder Mel Lone Hill and the drum  group Creekside.  A riderless Spirit Horse for Crazy Horse was included and can be seen in the video and photos.

A riderless Spirit Horse for Crazy Horse was included in the 2011 Crazy Horse Ride.

 

 

 

Here is the link to the video:  http://youtu.be/Pody6Yn9-mk

 

 

 

I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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