I received a call from a grandmother on Pine Ridge Rez the other day. She was calling because she wanted to know if we could help her daughter, who had only days to pay her electric or it would be shut off. There are 2 adults and 5 teens that live in the home.
I think Gramma was a bit embarrassed because they have always been able to manage before. Her daughter had gone to the tribe to ask for assistance but was told there would be no money available for this until November. I unfortunately had to tell her that ONE Spirit, the group I work with in their sponsorship program, did not include utilities in our program because of the vast amount of money it would take to do that. We shared my vision of a wind farm on the plains there that the tribe could build. The tribe could then supply free electricity to all residents and probably still have electricity left over to sell back to the electric company. What a relief it would be to residents of Pine Ridge to have free electricity! Paying over $200 per month when you have no source of income or live on Social Security is a huge burden. It would be a blessing for the tribe to be able to accomplish this for their people as well, a place where they could begin to rebuild the hope and confidence of their people as well.
She told me about her health, which has improved since her back pain was finally properly diagnosed and treated. She told me that her daughter, for whom she had requested the help, had been diagnosed with Graves disease in 1996. That surprised me, because her daughter is full of drive and works harder than anyone I know to help others on the rez.
Gramma also told me about the windows on her trailer (which I have visited). Apparently one of the severe thunderstorms this past summer blew out all the windows on the rear of her trailer. The weather, including rain, now comes in her windows. She said that she had managed to get a board across her bedroom window; however it doesn’t cover the whole window, so rain still comes in. I asked if she had talked to the tribe about getting help to get them fixed. She said that, since the trailer was not “tribal housing”, the tribe has no funds to help with things like that. She noted that she had also contacted a non-profit group that is known for doing work like that all summer. The group, Re-Member, hosts volunteer groups all summer. Their last group was last week. They would not be able to help until spring! So Gramma will have to go without windows until next spring unless she “finds the money” to hire a private contractor to do the work. I’m afraid it will be a cold winter. Unless Santa decides his sleigh has the room and brings windows.
I told Gramma that although ONE Spirit did not have the resources to run a program for utilities, I would see what I could do among my contacts. Gratefully, we were able to come through for this young woman.
The daughter called me crying when her mother told her I had found a way for it to be done. It shouldn’t have surprised me, but I am still a bit surprised when strong people cry. The tears, you know, were tears of joy and relief, not self-pity and woe. That attitude is something that never surprises me about Lakota women — they never show self-pity and they are always trying to help a neighbor/daughter/sister/cousin instead of themselves.
Lakota women are so inspirational!