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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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I was talking to Davidica Little Spotted Horse a couple of days ago about the Independence Through Music project on Pine Ridge Reservation.  I’ve written about it a few times and won’t bore you with all the particulars this time.

The ITM project is progressing well.  The young people from the project are progressing well, too, from raw talent with little or no experience performing in front of others to knowledgeable musicians.  It will indeed be interesting to see the finished product when they eventually produce and promote their CD.

This week ITM was doing workshops on management, booking agents, and the like.  It’s one part of the project I like very much.  It’s fine to provide musicians with the opportunity to perform and to learn how to record.  But if they are not educated in the reality of being a recording artist, they will be open to being manipulated and used.  This project will help them avoid those pitfalls.  It will also train those who are interested in the recording industry but do not have the talent or interest in actually performing.  There is a need for producers, managers, agents, CD cover art designers and other related personnel.

I asked Davidica if there was anything in the way of equipment that was needed by the individuals in the project.  She told me about a laptop that was donated by an individual and a computer program that was donated by the folks at KILI radio.  She said that 2 of the guitar players were being hampered by the fact that they had to borrow guitars to practice and perform.  They could not afford their own.

So that’s where you come in.  If you have an electric guitar or know someone who has an electric guitar that is not being used and is sadly sitting in a closet communing with the dust bunnies, pass it along.  Give a young musician on Pine Ridge Reservation a chance to become a working musician and to make a living from what he or she loves.

You can arrange shipping by contacting Davidica at the contact page on her website:    http://davidica.com  You will be able to get a receipt for tax purposes if you need one.

Just think, you could be contributing to someone’s career

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I am up to my eyeballs in packing, planning and preparing for our trip to Pine Ridge Reservation.  We leave Friday, June 2.

Last night, because I was starting to get a bit dizzy with all of this floating around in my head, I decided to make a list of the things I still needed to do.  While it might ultimately be useful, it is also rather overwhelming to have it all in black and white in front of me.

There is too much to do and too little time to do it in.

I have to pack the usual vacation items – clothing and the like.  I have to make sure I have all the necessary medications.  I could probably do that part of the packing in my sleep at this point in my life.

I have to make sure I have the electronics I need to take with me this time organized:  my new camcorder (which I also need to learn how to operate), my voice recorder, my netbook computer, the still camera, my phone, battery charger, cords . . . I’m sure I’ve forgotten something!

I have to make calls to persons on the rez to let them know when I will be around and hope that they will be available on those days.  Of course, there are so many people I would like to see in addition to our friends that I have to pare down the list a bit.  Since two days are travel days and the first four days of the visit will be used taking our friends to Salt Lake City to see my “goddaughter” then returning to the rez (about a 12 hour drive each way!), that leaves only four days to do everything else.

Everything else is a pretty vague term, don’t you think?  I hope so, because it’s meant to encompass a wide variety of activities.  There is a free concert by the youth involved in the Independence through Music project that we hope to attend.  The Veterans Powwow is happening in Pine Ridge on those days.  I have some people I want to visit to learn more about the kinds of assistance available to those who live on the rez.  There are more people I have “met” by phone when assigning sponsors to them that I would now like to meet personally – actually a lot more than I will likely have time to meet.

That’s not all.  My parish took a collection when they heard we were taking this trip so that we could use the cash to purchase art and crafts from local artists.  The plan is to put the cash into the economy on the rez now, then bring back the items and put them up for auction.  The proceeds will then go back into a fund to keep repeating the process — income rather than handouts.  So I have those items for which I need to contact folks.

I hope to be in touch with KILI, the Voice of the Lakota Nation — the independent radio station on the rez.  I’d like to visit the market so I can do actual price comparisons, not just say things are “much more expensive” when purchased on the reservation.  I’d like to locate some of the neighborhoods in the areas I serve that I’ve only heard of, never been to visit.

I also need to get out all the things we’re taking to our friends (clothing, toys for the grandchildren, etc) so they can be packed.

I have to figure out how we will keep all of our equipment secure when we are there.  I need to find out where I can buy some white sage before we leave (not holding my breath there).

If there was nothing else to be done, it might work.  But you know that’s never the case, don’t you?  (If things always get done easily and you are one of those talented multi-taskers, don’t talk to me right now!)

I just talked to a sponsor for about half an hour.  I really enjoyed the conversation, but . . .

I talked to a grandmother on the rez who needs sponsors for two grandchildren a little bit earlier.  I really enjoyed the conversation, but . . .

Time to get down to brass tacks here.  How many people did I call that were on my list?  Zero.

How many items have I crossed off my to do list?  4  How many items were on the list when I started?  24

At this rate, I’m going to be up the proverbial creek without a canoe by the time I have to leave for the airport.

My “to do” list is really a “too much to do” list!!

“Breathe!  Slowly!  Relax . . . . . .  you’re just getting over a respiratory infection . . . you don’t want the fibromyalgia to flare up, do you?”

Okay . . .

So I may not do much writing this week, but I hope you will forgive me.  I promise I will bring home stories, photos and video to share if you will be patient.  Deal?

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I almost titled this without the word “good”.  But you’ll see in a moment why I added that adjective.

A couple of months back I wrote about a fantastic youth program on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.  (Native Music! A Youth Project! published 2-24-2011: http://wp.me/p57ZB-hR ).  The project has been renamed – Independence Through Music (you can find ITM on Facebook).  Davidica Little Spotted Horse is the driving force behind this project to find, promote and educate young musicians on the Pine Ridge Reservation.  She has a new web page as well:  http://www.davidica.com/  You can find a lot of information about the project in those places.

As I read through the “wall posts” of ITM on Facebook, I ran across this one that struck me as important.  The author is a DJ at KILI radio on the rez.  The point is important. The post stated:  Deejay Spinnerz: It wud be nice , if  someone can do sum PR for them and donate sum musical instruments for them, also 🙂 Schools, music stores ,etc.

When I read that, I thought, “Why not me?”  After all, I’m always writing about the rez these days, right?!  It also occurred to me, as I read the names of the young people who have been chosen so far to participate in the program along with their specialities, it makes a certain kind of sense that there are so many rappers.  Musical instruments cost money and there are many families that cannot afford the basics, let alone buy a child an instrument.

So if you have a “good” (that means good condition, working, all the parts attached, etc) instrument that you no longer use, consider shipping it out to the program to support not only these young musicians but also others who have not even had the chance to try to learn.  Why let something as important as a musical instrument collect dust?  Why let it deteriorate?  Why not give it to someone who might discover not only talent but hope for life?  Music touches your soul to listen to – I’m not a musician but I would imagine it touches your soul even more to create it.

If you have an instrument to give to a young person, please send me an email at bblodgett@nativeprogress with your name, the type of instrument and contact information.  I will then give you the information to send the instrument.

Please — NO TOYS OR JUNK.  We’re talking recording artists, not playschool at this time.

Here is an update on the project along with their non-profit fundraising partner’s information in case you don’t have an instrument but would like to support this worthwhile endeavor.

Independence Through Music- Project Summary
We are committed to empowering our Native Youth by sharing our knowledge of the music business and providing them with resources to promote their talents with the help of our Native brothers and sisters from Canada so the Native Youth can in turn give back to their communities. Our combined efforts will help to bring Native’s together from all corners of Turtle Island to show that Wolakota has no borders.With the suicide rate on the rise among our Native Youth, we adults look for answers on how to help our youth to escape the overwhelming hopelessness and despair that is in their everyday lives.
How can we convince them that there is a future to look forward to?
After many hours and lots of prayers we have come to realize that we need to empower our youth by encouraging their natural talents by providing them with resources that we as working musicians have already acquired. We want to help them succeed by being self sufficient.
A one time donation is a helpful temporary solution that only lasts until the donation runs out. But the youth want a way to provide for their families by
doing something that brings them pride and enjoyment while being part of a higher purpose.
So following our traditional ways that teaches us to look ahead, to make a difference for our future descendants. We have decided to give the gift of knowledge and resources to our youth to help lift the despair and to show them there is hope for their future.
To help our Native Youth reach their goal of being working recording artists we are bringing in Native Mentors from all aspects of the music business. This will get them that much closer to being self sufficient. The end result of a youth shelter being built because of the efforts of our youth will make that much needed impact in our communities an even better reason for them to share their talents with the world.

Talent Search -Final list of Native youth chosen for project

Kyle Mesteth- Hip Hop Artist/ Lyricist
Tianna Spotted Thunder- R&B Singer/ Songwriter
Robert Afraid of Bear- Rapper/ Lyricist
Santee Witt- Rock Singer/ Songwriter
Corey Bettleyoun- Drummer
Savage Afterlyfe- Rap Group
Ceasar Cross Dog, Rapper/ Lyricist
Edward Two Eagle, Rapper/ Lyricist
Edwin Two Eagle, Rapper/ Lyricist
George Two Eagle, Rapper/ Lyricist
Rocky Frasier, Lyricist
Nuclear Decadence- Heavy Metal Group
Daniel Hudspeth, Singer/ Songwriter
Cody Makes Him First, Musician/ Songwriter
Marlow Rouillard- Rapper/ Lyricist
Derek Looks Twice- Rapper/ Lyricist
Eric Peltier- Conscious Rapper/ Lyricist
Sheldon King- Rapper/ Lyricist
Mike Lays Bad- Producer/ Musician

Compilation CD
The goal of the talent search is to make a two disc CD featuring 18 Native Youth from across the Pine Ridge Reservation. One song from each musician will be chosen to be on the CD which we will be promoting using our radio and media contacts.

Recording Demo CD for the artists
We are going to bring in a professional producer to record, mix., and master the demo’s for the musicians that are chosen to be on the compilation CD as well as finding sponsors for each musician to get promo starter kits for each musician for their single EP CD.

Workshops
Will be held for one week out of the month in May, June, and July in which all aspects of the music business will be covered. Native recording artists from Canada and the U.S will be instructing in songwriting, stage presence, marketing, promotions, and on the importance of to staying true to traditional teachings to keep them from being pulled into the negative aspects of the music business.

Musicians Showcase
At the end of each week long workshop we along with KILI Radio will be putting on a concert to allow each musician to perform at the radio station which will be aired live to showcase their talents.

Documentary of Our Amazing Journey
A film crew made up of the some of the most talented people in the business will be on site to film the youth’s journey through the program. The documentary will also feature the chosen musicians individually and film their live performances at KILI Radio. Documenting our journey to share with the world will be our biggest asset to help reach our goal of bringing this program to other reservations.

A Higher Purpose – Youth Shelter
The sales from the Compilation CD will be as follows –  half of the proceeds will go back to the musicians themselves and the other half will be donated to a youth shelter to be built in each district. The youth shelter will be a 24-hr open door home for the youth to access at any time and will provide basic necessities such as food, sleeping quarters, activities, mentoring, tutors, and teachings in our traditional culture.

From the success of this project we are hoping to bring this to the reservations of our brothers and sisters in Canada where their youth are having the same struggles and to other reservations in the United States. We as Lakota’s will offer our hand of friendship to all our Native brothers and sisters. Together, united we can win this fight against hopelessness for our youth. Our next goal will be to build a youth shelter on the Keeseekoowenin Reservation in Manitoba, Canada. We as Native people must unite as one force to help our youth if we really want to make positive changes for them. I know once we succeed we can take this project everywhere that its needed. This is a big project but one that will be used by our future descendants and will lead to many more opportunities for all Native Youth across Turtle Island.

All of the individuals involved in this project believe in the projects ability to bring positive changes to our reservations.
Because of this unwavering belief they have all generously agreed to donate their time to help us reach our goal.

Anyone interested in helping us in our fundraising can make donations by following this link http://elaineadairmichalakfoundation.org/ and clicking the donate button.

Much Respect,
Jean Belt -The Boss
Davidica Little Spotted Horse -Recording Artist/Mentor
Davidica Young Man, II -Youth Correspondent
Santana Young Man -Youth Correspondent
Wendell Young Man, Jr -Youth Shelter Development
Tracy Bone -Recording Artist/Mentor
J.C. Campbell -Recording Artist/Mentor
Sugar -Recording Artist/Mentor
Holly Marchuk -Photography
Dion Telesky -Director for Music Videos

Angelia Baldwin -Non-profit (Elaine Adair Michalak Foundation)
Michael Michalak -Non-profit (Elaine Adair Michalak Foundation)
Elaine Adair Michalak Foundation
PO Box 191 Pierpont, SD 57468
605-325-3392

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I promised that I would keep you up to date on the AWARENESS WALK of Dan Ross, the Rockford, IL musician.  So here is the second installment.

Don’t forget that Dan is walking to raise awareness of the conditions on Pine Ridge Reservation and to raise funds for ONE Spirit to build a Safe House for youth on the reservation.  Raising funds mean Dan needs what? …..that’s right, SPONSORS!

You can pledge money per mile (2000 miles)  per town (70 towns), per state (6 states) – however you prefer.  Just remember that the money will go to build and furnish a home where young Lakota can go when they feel their own home is not safe for them.  I have written enough on the problems that these kids face (alcoholic family, domestic abuse, etc) that you can understand why they might need a safer place from time to time.

Donations can be made to ONE Spirit via PayPal or by sending check/money order to:  ONE Spirit, PO Box 3209, Rapid City, SD 57709.

If you are in the Cedar Rapids, IA area on Saturday, April 23rd, there is a fantastic fund raiser being help as Dan travels through that town.  Tickets are only $10 in advance or $12 at the door.  There is a link for more information ( http://heartforpineridge.webs.com/apps/webstore/products/show/2290972 ) but let me give you a bit of a preview – because I sure wish I was going to be there!

The main part of the program will be the appearance of Lawrence Swallow, a Lakota storyteller, singer and actor.  Dan Ross will also be part of the show with his music.

In March, Dan Ross spent a week on Pine Ridge Reservation to get to know some of the people he will be helping and to experience Lakota culture in a more personal way.

While he was there, Dan kept a journal, as he will continue to do when he begins his walk in about one week.  I found it very interesting and personal.  I will include it here so that you, too, may start to know Dan Ross and Pine Ridge.  I am also including a link here to an update that includes a set of maps so you can follow Dan along his anticipated route.  That link is http://mail.google.com/a/nativeprogress.org/?ui=2&ik=5bcc2b9c68&view=pt&search=inbox&th=12f44c39409152ad

 

Now I’m going to let Dan Ross do the “talking” – enjoy reading his journal of his first visit to Pine Ridge Reservation.

Recently Dan Ross visited Pine Ridge Reservation in preparation for his walk for Pine Ridge Youth in April. The following are some of the highlights of his journey.
PINE RIDGE VISIT JOURNAL
Saturday March 12th, 2011
On the road leaving Rockford, IL by 8:00am. I decided to drive my walking route to the reservation instead of taking the interstate so I could see the places I plan to stay along the way. Driving on state highways amounted to less mileage, but it was still more time-consuming because of the stop signs, slower speed limits, and turns. However, these “cons” of taking this route were actually what made the drive more interesting, and kept me awake and alert.
Saw quite a few things worth noting: a bald eagle in flight, THOUSANDS (maybe 10,000) migrating geese in the air and on the ground in eastern SD, 2 separate herds of about 30 whitetail deer near the Missouri River, and I lost count of the Casey’s convenience stores.
Arrived in Kadoka, SD at the Dakota Inn Motel around 10:00pm, having gained an hour upon entering a different time zone (only to lose it the next day for Daylight Savings). The staff was nice, and the room cheap. I realized it was the first time I’d ever had my own hotel room all to myself. In fact, it was the first road trip I’d ever embarked on by myself. Slept well that night after so many hours on the road.
Sunday March 13th, 2011
Checked out of the motel by 10:00am, and made it out to the Badlands by 11:00am. I’ve visited the Badlands three times before, but always in the summer, so it was awesome to see them with snow. The feeling of isolation you get when you come to this place was magnified by the lack of tourists this time of year, which I enjoyed. Spent most of the day hiking on and off trails, making sure I didn’t get lost. Being the paleontology geek that I am, I was constantly on the lookout for fossils of ancient mammals, something for which the Badlands are quite well-known. My treasure hunting was successful too! I found a 10-12″ inch long lower jaw bone fossilized in a boulder near the “Saddle Pass” trail! After taking photos, I reported it to the Visitor Center and the rangers were excited to hear about it.
After hiking, I found a campsite in Cedar Pass and set up my tent with temperatures dropping into the 30s, with 20 degree temps forecasted for a low. Seeing as the lowest temperatures I’ll have to endure on the walk will most likely be in the 30s, staying warm this night would prove that I am well-enough prepared. So, I bundled up with five layers on my top half, three on my legs, a handkerchief around my head with another around my neck, and crawled into my 15-degree sleeping bag…
Monday March 14th, 2011

Though I did stay warm throughout the night, I didn’t sleep that well. Staying down in the sleeping bag gets stuffy, but when I let some fresh air in, it’s 20 degrees! I tried opening a small breathing hole, but after a while, my nose would begin to freeze – so it was a bit difficult. I awoke with the sun still below the horizon, packed up my tent (which was covered inside and out with frost), and slowly made my way out of the Badlands, making a few stops along the way.
Driving into Pine Ridge I didn’t really know what to expect. I felt like an intruder, or at the very least a foreigner. I spotted the sign for the Singing Horse Trading Post and slowed the car. The driveway was dirt and water had cut deep into some places, sculpting a sort of miniature Badlands landscape for my car to drive on. I made it past the worst part without scraping bottom, and parked in front of my home for the next five days. Rosie, the lady who runs the place, was outside. She greeted me with a big smile and welcomed me inside, making me feel less like an outsider.
In the afternoon I met John Dubray, a Lakota man who has been trying to get a youth center built in the Allen area on the eastern side of the reservation. He told me there are a couple youth centers in the towns of Pine Ridge and Kyle, but in outlying areas farther away the kids didn’t have much. John stressed to me the importance of receiving guidance in your childhood that would ultimately shape who you are and how you make decisions. As a result of the poverty, unemployment, and alcoholism, many of the kids lack this guidance and grow up in fear, never learning their own culture and the values of the Lakota people. The youth center in Allen would bring those kids opportunities in sports and the arts, and most importantly a safe place where they can learn and just have fun. Listening to John was eye-opening, and gave me much to think about after he left.
Tuesday March 15th, 2011
Slept well, as I was quite tired from my restless sleep in the Badlands the night before. Rosie’s three dogs are already my best friends, crawling all over me, competing for attention. I decided to go for a drive without any particular destination, and wound up in a place called Kiza Park. The road to the park became so muddy I had to pull over and walk some of the way. The park was also muddy because it had recently been flooded my snowmelt. The place seemed abandoned (partly because I was the only one there), but there was a basketball court, park kitchen, fire pit, outhouses, etc. As I was taking some pictures, a man in a truck drove by and yelled, “Is that you Bill?”, I replied, “No, I’m Dan…”. “Oh, you look like Bill from here”, he said. Not really sure what to say at this point, I walked over so we at least wouldn’t have to yell.
He asked me where I was from and I told him about my walk and why I was on the reservation. It turns out One Spirit had helped him build the park kitchen, and his whole extended family lived in the area near the park. The man invited me for a ride, so I accepted and off we went on the back roads. He told me how the Lakota people have large extended families and stay close usually, relying on each other in a small community. He stressed to me that although people from the outside might look at the trailers they lived in and feel sorry for them, they were actually quite happy, maybe happier than most. “We have a strong culture” he said, “Most Americans don’t have that, and that is why their lives are always about making money”. He laughed and went on to say that making money was a “nice hobby”, implying that it did not qualify as a culture. I would have to agree.
Wednesday March 16th, 2011
Today I met with an elder named Richard Broken Nose, who lived with his family in a house north of Pine Ridge. It was a little difficult to find the place, as there aren’t many landmarks to reference in the prairie, but I made it. I was first greeted by three happy puppies wagging their tails, then by the elderly man, who shook my hand and welcomed me inside. We began talking and he explained the problems the youth are having, focusing on the high drop-out rate and the fact that many of those who do graduate do so with very low grades. He said they don’t get the care they need as kids. I suppose it makes sense that when you receive little care from adults, you have less care to give for things like school. Talking to him reassured me once again that I’ve chosen a worthy cause to walk for.
In the afternoon, I met up with John DuBray again over at Porcupine Butte, where the local radio station called KILI Radio is located. He had reserved some radio time to talk about the youth on the reservation and how I’m going to help raise money with the walk. I was quite nervous before going on the air, still feeling like a foreigner, and hoping I didn’t make a fool of myself. We went on and John talked about trying to build the youth center in Allen to help the kids there, and then turned it over to me to introduce myself and tell everyone what I’ll be doing this year. After I got started, most of the nervousness went away and I ended up more or less satisfied with how things went.
That evening I had been invited to a sweat lodge, a traditional ceremony that would purify me before I leave on my journey. I was excited and a little apprehensive, not knowing exactly what I was in for. I drove to John Dubray’s house and from there he took me down the road to the sweat lodge. A large fire burned outside with rocks in the middle glowing so orange it was hard to tell them apart from the coals. After waiting for them to get good and hot , I entered the sweat lodge with at least ten others. The bright orange glowing stones were placed in the center, medicine was sprinkled on them, prayers were said, and then the water was poured. The steam was hotter than I had imagined, and the air difficult to breathe. I found myself holding my towel over my face, yet the others managed to sing loudly, seemingly unaffected by heat. Though it was difficult to endure by the fourth round of water and rocks, it was a very enriching experience. It was important to see it all the way through, as I will undoubtedly have to see my walk all the way through, no matter how difficult times get. During the ceremony, they had said prayers for me to give me strength for the journey. After that night especially, I began to feel much more comfortable being on the reservation. Any preconceived notions I may have had of Pine Ridge and the Lakota people had literally perspired right out of me.
Thursday March 17th, 2011
Yesterday I was thinking about meeting Merle Locke, a Lakota artist, but the day got so busy that we decided to meet today. I drove down by the town of Pine Ridge and he directed me over the phone to his house. He greeted me, welcomed me inside, and right away began talking about his art. Merle paints on century-old ledger paper, which was used by Indians on the reservations when they had nothing else to paint on. He was very good and the walls of his house were filled with his work. After getting acquainted, we drove to the Red Cloud Heritage Center and he gave me a tour of the art gallery there. I had a great time looking at all the paintings and beadwork, some of which was quite old. Having Merle there to explain the history and meaning behind the art was a special treat – it would not have been the same if I had just gone there by myself. He was a real easy-going guy, who I had no trouble relating to. He said he has always stuck to his own path in life rather than simply following the crowd, which reminded me of my own personal reasons for going on this walk.
Friday March 18th, 2011
Around 9:00am, Billy Jumping Eagle stopped by the Singing Horse, where I was staying. Billy is a school bus driver and had just finished his morning route. Off the job, he runs a “safe house” for kids. Basically it’s his and his wife’s own house which they open up to any kids who need a home away from home, be it temporary or permanent. Through One Spirit, they will be building a second house in addition to their own, so they can house even more kids.
Later on I went over to check out the safe house, which was quite close to where I was staying actually. When I arrived, there were some teenagers extracting an engine from a large van, and younger kids running around inside and outside the house. Billy invited me in and I distributed some of my mom’s homemade chocolate chip cookies to the kids, who enjoyed them immensely. It was a bustling and busy place, but eventually I found some time to tell everyone what I would be doing this year and all the kids seemed pretty interested. After answering their questions, some began joking around, telling each other they should go with me. The atmosphere was laid back and I didn’t feel like a stranger. After watching some “Wheel of Fortune” with Billy, I decided to head out. It was a good visit though – Billy and his wife Donna (who unfortunately I was unable to meet) do a great thing and it’s obvious they love kids and help them all a great deal.
Saturday March 19th, 2011
Today was my last here on the reservation, but I still managed to unexpectedly meet one more person – a man named Buck, who has been building a new trailer for Rosie at the Singing Horse so she can accommodate more guests. Buck (not Lakota, I think he was from Oklahoma) was down-to-earth and had a good sense of humor. He said he had been an alcoholic, but had been free of it for many years. He told me, “Alcohol doesn’t see colors”, referring to the fact that drugs don’t discriminate and anyone of any race can fall victim. Buck was excited to hear about what I was doing, and compared my walk to the sweat lodge – if I can see it through to the end I will be much stronger for it and it will renew me. I couldn’t agree more. Buck seemed to have a great deal of wisdom from his experiences. He told about how he used to hitchhike and walk long distances by himself, sleep under bridges, and live a hard life. He joined Rosie and me for a big breakfast (which Rosie made for us) and I enjoyed his company a great deal.
All in all, I got exactly what I wanted out of this experience, which is pretty simple really: to understand what I am walking for – not to tell everyone a bunch of statistics about the sub-standard conditions at Pine Ridge, which they could read in a book, but to tell them from my experiences here what kind of help the Lakota really want, especially for their youth. I look forward to walking through the reservation in June, and hopefully visiting many of these people again. Thanks Rosie for giving me such a nice place to stay for my visit, and John for inviting me to the inipi, and Alex, Richard and Linda, Merle, Billy and Donna, and Buck for helping me to better understand the Lakota people’s way of life.

More Updates will follow.

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I love a lot of music.  Music feeds my soul.  It has helped me through the hard times and it has helped me rejoice.  It has soothed my meditations and absorbed my anger like a sponge.

I’m not called eclecticwoman for nothing.  My musical tastes vary significantly, as my YouTube channel will attest.  But there is quite a bit of Native Music.

Now I am going to guess that you really don’t understand what I mean by that.  I’d bet that many are thinking of Pow Wow songs, chants, drums and flutes.  You wouldn’t be 100% wrong if you thought that, but you wouldn’t be 100% correct either.  Contemporary Native musicians produce all types of music — rock, country, blues, soul, Gospel, Christian, rap, hip hop, etc, etc …

Contemporary Native artists should not be placed in one box because, just as we are all individuals, so are they.

I “met” a young woman who is a rock artist this past week via internet and phone.  She is also a resident of Oglala, SD on the Pine Ridge Reservation.  She performs professionally and has been on a tour with 3 other female Native artists who perform different genres of music.  It is the “Women of the Four Winds” tour – they have a website on MySpace (http://www.myspace.com/womenofthefourwinds).

The young woman I met is named Davidica.  She is a traditional Lakota, a mother raising 5 children and a woman driven by the need and desire to give back to her community and her people.  In conjunction with friends in the recording industry, a major project is being planned to introduce talented youth on the Pine Ridge Reservation to the recording industry.

The project is called Teca Oyate Oic’ihi Owicakeyapi in Lakota.  The meaning in English:  Helping Youth Help Themselves.  I will, in the interest of space, refer to it simply as “the project.”  But it is a project grounded in Lakota traditions and culture.  It is a project centered on empowering Lakota youth.

I want to share the details of the project with you.  These musicians and their friends have some brilliant ideas.  They are going to need support — financial and otherwise — from the rest of us.  ONE Spirit, the organization I work with as a sponsorship coordinator, will be one of their supporters.  I hope you will be, too.  This is an exciting project!!

Mission Statement

“We are committed to empowering our Native Youth by sharing our knowledge of the music business and by providing them with resources to promote their talents (with the help of our Native brothers and sisters from Canada) so the Native Youth can in turn give back to their communities.  Our combined efforts will help to bring Natives together from all corners of Turtle Island to show that Wolakota has no borders.”

How do they intend to fulfill that mission?

There will be a reservation wide talent search on the Pine Ridge Reservation.  Following the auditions, 30 artists who have no prior solo demo CD’s will be selected to participate in one of 3 weeklong workshops.  The workshops, for both selected artists and any other residents of the reservation who wish to attend, will be led by Native mentors from all aspects of the music business, including songwriting, stage presence, marketing, promotions and the importance of staying true to the traditional teachings to stand strong against the negative aspects of the music business.  Each young artist will record one original song for a 2-disc compilation CD which will be promoted using the professional musicians radio and media contacts.  In addition, each young artist will record a raw demo for personal use courtesy of KILI radio.  That demo will be sent to a professional producer to work on.  The young artist will receive a Promo Packet via Discmakers which will include 1000 CD’s of their song, cover art, download cards, posters, a concert banner, contacts for copyrighting  and contacts with outlets such a Itunes.  At the end of each weeklong workshop, a musicians showcase concert will be produced in conjunction with KILI radio, which will air the concert live.  To promote the project and to enable the planners to carry this program to other reservations in the future, a film crew will be on site to document the week and film the live performances.  That is an ambitious project.

How on earth will they accomplish all that?

Good question folks!  They will do it in stages and with great organization.  They have incredible energy and enthusiasm for the project, which they consider part of their spiritual responsibility.

First, the talent search:

From March 1 to March 31, 2011, organizers will travel to the youth for auditions.  The will travel to the young artists because, as you may know from reading my entries, distances between places on the rez are huge and many people do not have reliable transportation.  They do not want the lack of transportation to prevent a young person from reaching out to achieve a dream. They will also use the schools and reservation organizations to meet with young artists.

I should probably note here that the definition of youth being used by the organizers may be different from the one you have in mind.  I know that was true for me.  They will be allowing anyone 30 years old or younger to enter the talent search.  They do this because in traditional Lakota culture, one is considered a youth until he or she is 30 years old.  (After reflection, I think maybe the Lakota had it right all along — most 18 year olds, while legally considered adults, are not ready to live life on their own.)

They will be looking for additional talent as well among the youth.  Each of the 30 young artists chosen will be teamed up with 3 other youths.  The other members of the team will be learning a) how to run a website for the musician, b) aspects of music management and c) how to market and promote a musician.  The reason for a team of 4 is that 4 is considered a sacred number.

When the search is over:

30 young musicians will be chosen from among all those who have auditioned to move into the workshop and production portions of the project.

Each young person will go to KILI radio, where a portable recording studio will have been set up, to record their raw demo.  They will participate in the workshops for one week, being fed and housed while there.  It is my understanding that the college center in Porcupine has offered space and that the Diabetes program has offered some assistance with the food and cooking.

At the end of the workshop phase, a concert will be held to showcase all the talent.  That concert will be broadcast live over KILI radio, the Voice of the Lakota Nation.

Finally, production and promotion:

Following the workshops and concerts, each young artist will have a produced version of their original song and the materials to begin distributing their music and promoting themselves as artists.  They will have a team to continue to work with right on the reservation. 

The compilation CD’s, featuring a song from each of the 30 artists, will be marketed by the project organizers. 

MONEY, MONEY, MONEY

Expenses first:

  • Gas money – Having traveled 950 miles on the reservation in 5 days, I can attest to the distances between settlements and other places.  In addition to the significant cost of gas for team members in the search phase, there will be the cost to transport the musicians to the recording studio and workshop.  The estimate for the month of March was originally $1440, but I think that will be low since gas prices have been rising with the  unrest in the Middle East.  With the additional cost of transport to recording and workshop, I would think $2000 would be helpful.
  • Recording expenses – The cost for each musician to record 2 songs at KILI radio will be $50 per artist.  That is a total of $1500.
  • Working Band Bundle (promo packet via Discmakers) – This is a major expense at $1500 per artist.  However, that $1500 is an investment in the future of a young Native musician and his team.  The total here is $45,000.
  • Food – Food for workshop attendees and professionals will be needed and this is a difficult amount to estimate.  The final total of participants will not be known for some time.

Based on both known costs and estimates, it would appear that this project will need about $50,000 to cover the expenses.

Donations: One Spirit has agreed to help the organizers raise the funds they need for this project.  In direct emailings and via their website, they will promote the project.  Donations, clearly marked as given to the Teca Oyate Oic’ihi Owicakeyapi project can be sent to ONE Spirit via PayPal or by USPS at:  ONE Spirit, PO Box 3209, Rapid City, SD 57709.  ONE Spirit is a 501(c)(3) organization.  More information can be found on their website:  http://nativeprogress.org .

PROFITS

There will be a two-pronged dispersion of the profits made on the compilation CD.  50% of the proceeds will go to the artists who participated in the project.  It will be theirs to use as they wish.

The remaining 50% will be used to construct a Youth Shelter in each district.  The organizers envision these shelters as a 24 hour open door home for youth to access any time.  They will provide basic necessities such as food, sleeping quarters, activities, mentoring, tutors and teachings from traditional culture.

The organizers hope that the success they pray for and believe in on Pine Ridge will enable them to repeat the project on the Keeseekoowenin Reservation in Manitoba, Canada.  That is a long-range goal.

I am extremely excited about the Teca Oyate Oic’ihi Owicakeyapi project.  I hope you will consider supporting the project in some way.

  • Send a donation
  • Send a media contact
  • Tell everyone you interact with
  • Send a donation – oh wait, I said that already …

This project brings Native youth together to work as a team.  It teaches them how to do something with their talent.  It gives pride and hope to young people who have been showing clearly that their hope for their future is fading.  It is organized, run by and filled with role models, Native adults who have “made it” without selling out to stereotypes of Native musicians.

I will be honest with you, as I always am.

I have not been this excited about a project on Pine Ridge Reservation since I have been involved with the people there.

There are SO many reasons that I hope and pray for the success of this program, but the biggest   . . .   HOPE.

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Have you heard?  There is flooding in Pine Ridge due to the snow melt (caused by some brief, unseasonably warm weather), ice jams, clogged culverts and bridges.

You haven’t heard?  Why I am not surprised?!

There are 11 creeks flooding with White Clay Creek presently being the worst.  One man said he hadn’t seen anything like it in the past 50 years.

The reason I know about this is that I follow KILI radio (90.1 FM, the Voice of the Lakota Nation on Pine Ridge Reservation) via internet and Facebook.  I also subscribe to the Lakota Country Times (based locally near the reservation) via internet and follow their postings to Facebook and Twitter.

I read the Rapid City Journal online.  That is where I found an AP News article about the flooding and evacuation of residents in some areas.  The AP article states it is based on information obtained from the RC Journal.

So I decided to cast the net a bit wider.  I did a web search for information on the flooding in Pine Ridge 2011.  What did I find?

ABC News or an affiliate?  Nowhere to be found!

CBS News or affiliate?  Yes, a 1:40 clip on KELO TV – helpful.  Be sure to watch the clip!  There will be a quiz later.

CNN?  I’ll write again when I stop laughing.

FOX News?  Sorry, still laughing!

NBC News or affiliate?  Well, yes, if posting the AP article on their website counts; KXMB did that.

Here is what little I did find.  I’ll let you check it out if you want, before I continue . . . . . .

Rapid City Journal: AP Article http://rapidcityjournal.com/news/state-and-regional/article_e119e9e3-4060-5d41-93ef-4257649ffbeb.html

AP News http://www.kcautv.com/Global/story.asp?S=14062038

Indianz.com http://64.38.12.138/News/2011/000489.asp

KELO TV News  http://keloland.tv/NewsDetail6162.cfm?Id=111005

KXMB TV CBS affiliate Bismark/Mandan http://www.kxnet.com/getArticle.asp?ArticleId=728059 (AP article)

The AP article was also printed in GoWatertown.net (Watertown, SD), IndyStar.com (Indianapolis, IN) and KTIV.com (Sioux City, IA).

Facebook page of Trees, Water, People with photos of flood:  http://www.facebook.com/#!/album.php?aid=276007&id=11071758786

So again, the poorest people in this nation are experiencing a disaster and the national news media are nowhere to be found.

Is anyone going to declare the area a disaster zone so the residents are eligible for FEMA aid?  When?  By the time they get aid, it might be too late for some.  Is Oprah going to set up a charity for these folks?  I don’t think their in her radar.  Are there going to be celebrities vying to have a fund-raising telethon to help these residents replace what shabby homes they may have had?  Not holding my breath!

If you think that people on the reservation have homeowner’s insurance, think again.  A few maybe; the majority no.  Too expensive when you already can’t pay for the necessities in life (you know, food, heat, electricity).  Even KILI radio didn’t have building insurance when their roof caved during the past year!

What do you think will happen to poor people who have lost what little they have?  They will get leftovers, handouts, second-hand donations and start all over again trying to get back on their feet.

Mother Nature has decided to throw a curve ball to these residents who are trying to pick up the pieces.  She has pulled back the pleasant, relatively warm weather and replaced it with a reason for the National Weather Service to issue a Winter Storm Warning.

That’s right, in the midst of all the flooding, the temperatures are plummeting as we speak.  Right now it is about 18 degrees in Pine Ridge.  The wind will be blowing at 15-20 mph with about 6 inches of snow expected.  The wind chill temperatures will range from 3 degrees above zero to 7 degrees below zero!  Isn’t that a kick in the teeth from Mother Nature after this flooding which still exists?

I guess it’s time for the quiz.  Here you go:

What was the name of the man interviewed in the KELO TV piece?

(Jeopardy music plays . . . da da da da …da da da …)

Okay, time’s up.  His name is Henry Red Cloud.

Why is he important enough for me to ask you that question?  It is another piece of irony, if you will, in this disaster.

You see, Henry Red Cloud is head of Lakota Solar Enterprises, which is what you see in the TV clip.  Lakota Solar Enterprises (LSE), located on the Pine Ridge Reservation, is one of the nation’s first 100% Native American owned and operated renewable energy companies. LSE  provides training to enable tribal members to become Solar Technicians.  LSE also manufactures solar panels and installs them.  This is a budding company on the reservation that has hit a serious set back.  To learn more about LSE, you can go to the website of the not-for-profit organization Trees, Water, People (http://www.treeswaterpeople.org/tribal/info/tribal_lse.htm).  To help in the current crisis, you can go directly to the link that follows:

To donate to the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center relief effort please visit http://treeswaterpeople.wordpress.com/2011/02/16/emergency-flood-relief-fund-created-for-red-cloud-renewable-energy-center/. We need to get people back to work!  To see a video of the flooding in this area, go to http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=1247074937634&oid=21578805928&comments

So, back to the original question.  Have you heard about the flooding in Pine Ridge, SD?

Yes, you have, no thanks to the national news media who are busy telling us about a lot of other nonsense.

Your job?  To pass the information on.  It appears that the only way there will be any help for these people who live in 2 of the 8 poorest counties in the United States (all in SD) is for those of us who care to pass it on until someone has to notice.

Are you willing to help?

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