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Life on Pine Ridge Reservation is very complicated.  I am thrilled that ABC News has followed through on their plans to spotlight life on Pine Ridge for the Lakota people.  But the 20/20 program they will air tonight (Friday, October 14, 2011) will only scratch the surface.

Yes, you will see the deplorable living conditions that most endure.  You will see the ideas and programs that are trying to bring hope to the people.  But there are stories that you won’t hear.

You won’t hear these stories because of “political correctness” and the fear of offending those in positions of authority on Pine Ridge.  I usually avoid those stories as well, because I have friends who live on Pine Ridge and I want them to be safe.

But after the 3 phone calls I have received from my Lakota friends this past 10 days, I’m stepping out of my gentle persona and allowing my passion and “righteous anger” to vent.  The volume may get a bit loud, so step back a bit if that will bother you and read from a distance.

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Call #1

When the phone rang 2 weeks ago, I was still recovering from organizing and conducting an event at my church which included a silent auction of Lakota arts & crafts, a video presentation about my Lakota friends’ housing search over 6 years and a “feed” that included buffalo stew.  It had been a huge undertaking the prior weekend and I was, quite honestly, feeling the energy drain.

My friend’s eldest daughter had moved to Rapid City to find work and build a home for her 2 little boys.  They are all my takojas (grandchildren), at least in my heart.  Her partner, the boys dad, was living with them.  Her daughter found work at a fast food restaurant, got an apartment and tried to make a home.  Her partner did not find employment.  He did find the time and money to drink with his friends, even when he was supposed to be caring for the boys.  He had the “energy” to beat her in front of his sons.  This latest call was because he’d slept with another woman.  All of this may sound like your garden-variety domestic drama — but not to my friend.

My friend and her husband got sober years ago.  No AA or other 12-step group; just a strong desire to put her children first.  They do not want the takojas, the boys, to live in those conditions.  So my friend was going to Rapid City to pick up her takojas.  She was going to bring them home to live with them while her daughter figured out what she wanted in her life.

Why did they call me in all this?  Gas money.  The most mundane things can complicate these domestic issues even more.  The first complication is they no longer have a car.  So in order to make the 2 hour trip to Rapid City, they have to borrow a relatives car.  Then they must fill the tank with gas so they have enough gas to get that “rez ride” to Rapid and back.  With no source of income and limited funds, gas money is a frequent request in times of emergency or stress.  I called the local gas station and authorized gas for my friends.

***************

Call #2

It was no more than a week later that I spoke with my Lakota friend again.  She was not feeling well, having severe pain in her abdomen and chest that was strong enough to cause her knees to buckle.  I told her she needed to be seen by a doctor.  She said she had been seen at the nearby clinic and the only thing they had found was that she had a significantly elevated platelet level in her blood tests.

I am fairly well versed in medical knowledge but I did not have much information about elevated platelet levels and if pain was a result or a cause of that finding.  So I did what any slightly tech-savvy nerd would do – I researched it on the internet.  I found that pain is not typically found when you have elevated platelet levels.  I discovered that there are many causes of elevated platelets, ranging from “benign – no obvious cause” to cancer with many options in between.  I could find nothing that made any sense based on the symptoms my friend had related.

She called a day later, in so much pain that I could hear it in her voice.  Since I was 2000 miles away, I could not say “Show me exactly where it hurts” or do any kind of touching to clarify what I was hearing from her.  But she sounded so frightened, she is newly diagnosed as diabetic, she has a family history of heart disease and the pain was lasting far longer than seemed okay to ignore.  So I made the suggestion that I would make to any friend:  go to the emergency room and have a doctor look at you.

I was aware that the nearest hospital was at least 45 minutes away, if she went to Pine Ridge Hospital.  There is a hospital in Martin, SD that she could go to if she wanted a bit longer drive and of course, there was Rapid City Regional, 2 hours away.  She decided to go to Pine Ridge Hospital, since the clinic was planning to have her check in there the following day for additional tests.

Pine Ridge Hospital is an Indian Health Services (IHS) facility.  The residents of the reservation have a standing joke about IHS:  “I sat in the emergency room for 6 hours and all I got was 2 Tylenol.”  It is a commentary on the quality of care received from IHS.

There were 2 physicians who examined my friend, one male and one female.  They did an x-ray of her abdomen which showed nothing.  [I cannot fathom how an x-ray of soft tissue with no contrast administered could be expected to show anything of significance.]  They did an EKG, which they said was find.  So the male doctor started to discuss what might be going on when the female doctor made a comment aloud, to no one in particular, that my friend’s problems were all in her head and she needed a psychiatrist.

My friend stopped the male doctor in mid-sentence to ask if the female doctor had spoken about her.  The male doctor was uncomfortable enough that my friend realized it was true.  She asked both doctors to leave so she could get dressed and she prepared to leave the hospital without treatment.

That was when she overheard a number of hospital staff, doctors, nurses, etc, making comments about “drunken Indians”.  They were laughing and mocking.  My friend and her husband, who were stone cold sober, were shocked.  They were even more shocked when one of the staffers made a comment to the effect that, if all the drunken Indians were shot, it would make their nights a whole lot easier and saner.

I know the anger that rose in me when my friend told me about those comments and the mocking.  I could barely speak, which was fine since I could not think of what to say that might possibly be appropriate in this situation.  I was embarrassed that those in the medical community would say such things.  I knew my anger, resentment and embarrassment couldn’t begin to approach what my friend and her husband felt.  She did file complaints through the proper channels.  But you and I both know that will not take away the sting of being mocked by those charged with your care.  It was so totally unprofessional.  Sadly, it was not particularly unusual.

***************

Call #3

The most recent call occurred 2 days ago.  Before I detail the call for you, I want to tell you about my Lakota friend’s husband.  Understanding this man is germane to understanding the event.  It is also important to understand a bit about rez life, so I will also go into that a bit in case you don’t know very much about it.

As I said at the beginning of this post, life on the rez is very complicated.  That statement might actually be an understatement.  There is the poverty the underpins almost everyone’s life, since 90% of the residents live at or below the poverty level.  There are divisions that tear at the fabric of the culture:  pure-blood vs mixed-blood, traditional vs contemporary, activist vs passivist, etc.  There are times when the true Lakota culture, its values and traditions, are ignored or perverted.  Elders, women and children are considered sacred yet domestic violence is rampant.  Based on the traditional clannishness of historical Lakota life, who your family is can be more important that who you are or what idea you may have.  Nepotism and corruption abound.  The tribal council has actually tolerated disrespect among its members. People who are elected do not have to meet any age or educational requirements.  Politics play a bigger part in who gets a job than does who is the best qualified.

My friend’s husband is a big man but he is not the kind of man who uses his size to intimidate.  He is quiet and funny.  He is very smart and currently working on his college degree in business.  He would like to see honesty and respect return to the tribe and the interactions of the people who live on Pine Ridge.  He is a man of integrity who married my friend when she was a single mother raising 4 teen-aged daughters.  That takes courage in any culture!

All of that information is what made the phone call I received from my friend 2 days ago even more unthinkable.  She called to tell me that her husband was going to be arrested and she could find no one on the rez who could loan them $125 for bail money!

If it had not been for the panic in her voice, I’d have thought it was a joke.  I have always told her that, if the girls got into trouble, there was no money available for bail money.  Just not going to happen.  But the panic was there.

Here is the story that I pieced together:  They had submitted, to the proper person, a voucher for gas to go to a health appointment for her daughter.  Somehow, it had disappeared (mistakenly thrown out, intentionally “misplaced”, who knew?); they resubmitted it.  The check was supposed to be ready that day but wasn’t.  My friend’s husband called the office and the clerk told him she had seen the check in the official’s office.  So my friend’s husband called the official and, as he stated, “in a voice of authority” told the official that he would come down to the office “to straighten things out.”  The official decided that was a threat and called the police to arrest my friend’s husband for threatening a tribal official.

This had been on the phone.  My friend’s husband did not assault anyone nor did he go into the office and create a scene.  [I must say it is probably a good thing I don’t live on the rez; I’m not sure I could keep my temper in the face of all the “crap” that goes on.  I’d probably be a “regular” with the jailer under that criteria.]  If she could not bail him out, he would be suspended from college and lose his scholarship money.  It would destroy everything he has worked so hard to achieve thus far.

I was really torn because I had always said there would be no bail money.  But this man has worked hard.  He makes really good grades.  He is honest and straightforward.  I have always respected him.  I wired the bail money.  They plan to wire it back to me when they receive his educational stipend for the semester in another week.  I plan to let them send the money back to me.

After all, there is no gift of bail money, even if there is a loan of it.

And life on Pine Ridge Reservation is complicated, even for those of us who don’t live there.

 

 

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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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A friend of my daughter’s just posted on Facebook about something that I’ve been saying since yesterday as well.

*scrape*  *scrape*  “Sorry for the noise, dragging my soapbox out.”

For many of us in New England, Hurricane Irene did not live up to her billing.  That isn’t to say that there was no damage or that there aren’t many folks who are still being inconvenienced by power outages.  There was damage and many are still in the dark.  But Irene had been billed as the “storm of the century” and hyped by every media outlet and government agency as nature’s version of Armageddon.  It didn’t turn out to be that way for most in the area where I live.

In my yard, for example, there were some very small branches that fell from the trees, leaves and a little bit of water in the basement.  We went for a drive yesterday afternoon and did not see much worse.  Yes, there were trees broken and fallen here and there.  Only one or two had fallen on or even close to a house.  Most of the fallen trees we saw either partially blocked a road, fell on power lines (hence the outages) or simply fell harmlessly in a yard or field.  Clean up work to be sure, but not significant damage.

If you were one of the few people who had a tree fall on your house, you did indeed suffer a catastrophe.  However, if you are out there just raking up leaves, you are in the majority and lucky.  We did not see roofs, shingles or siding blown off houses; we did not see signs blown down; we did not see shattered windows.

The problem is that people are complaining that it wasn’t “bad enough.”  After all, they went out and bought water and bread so they wouldn’t starve for a few days.  They were glued to their TV sets (til the power went out) watching for news of the devastation being wrought by the storm.  Perhaps some were realizing how tied to electronics they are when the power was no longer available.

I think folks should be grateful instead of complaining.  They should be acknowledging that we “dodged a bullet” on this one.  It was a HUGE storm!  We were lucky that it didn’t cause more damage here.  We were fortunate that the storm reduced in fury before it hit much of New England.  Mother Nature is notoriously fickle and change is one of her basic character traits.  She is also a bit of a trickster!  She loves to change a few small things to see how we respond (like taking some steam out of a hurricane or putting a tornado in an area which typically doesn’t have them).  Mother Nature revels in being unpredictable.  Just when we think we have her figured out with our knowledge and our technology, she throws us a curve ball to test us.

She isn’t always kind with the tests – there are plenty of times when things are worse than we had expected.  This time, in our neck of the woods, we got lucky and things were not as bad as expected.

So why are people complaining?!

Why are people blaming the weather folks for Mother Nature’s vagaries?  Why are folks unhappy that their homes were not demolished?  Why are they sad and whining about the fact that they prepared “for nothing?”

It wasn’t nothingeverywhere!  There were places where the predictions were spot-on.  There are places where people have been flooded out of their homes, where trees fell in the wrong places and where the winds tore up homes.

 

Personally, I think our society is in a sad state when people have so lost touch with Mother Nature that they expect to be able to perfectly know, predict and control her.  In the profound words of an old acquaintance,

 

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Let me say this right up front, while I’m dusting off my soapbox . . .

I AM NOT A PRUDE!!

And while I’m at it, although I’m 58+ years old, I am not old – my mind has settled in at about 25 years old.  So I am not an “old fogey.”  If you’ve read any of my posts before, you know that I am eclectic in interests and liberal in my approach to social justice.

I have attended R-rated movies and comedy shows.  I’ve even seen an X-rated movie. I’ve seen some recent music videos.

I do, however, occasionally comment on the clothing that young children wear these days and how adult many parents are allowing/assisting their young children to look.  I was horrified that a mother would allegedly inject her grade school aged daughter with Botox.

But NOTHING prepared me for the opening number of the Billboard Awards Show last evening.  I hadn’t planned to watch it.  But the movie I wanted to watch was not on until 9 EDT, so I decided to check out the music awards.  I try to keep current.

The opening number, “S & M“,  featured Rhianna in a white patent leather leotard fashioned in dominatrix style.  By the end of the first phrasing, “I feel so good being bad,” we were being treated to a full, straight-on shot of Rhianna’s crotch as she sat on a bench and moaned her lyrics.  She slinked and slithered around the stage, dancing on a raised platform from which male arms were extended — reaching, of course, for her crotch no matter what position she was in.  She gyrated with a pole, as did Britney Spears, who joined her for the second half of the song.  Britney was clad in a similar black get-up.  Both women were sporting “hand-cuffs” and chains binding their wrists.

Ken Jeong, who was in a popular but tasteless movie recently, was the emcee for the night.  He was raunchy and not particularly amusing.  The song he “sang” with Nicki Minaj tauting the greatness of the show included lyrics such as “This show won’t suck!” and “This show won’t blow!”.  Jeong made suggestive tongue gestures toward Minaj and ended the scene by cupping and shaking his genitals.

The show contained many, many bleeps.  And it contained many words that would have been bleeped in the days of my youth (think of George Carlin’s routine about the 7 words you can’t say on television).  Some of them would not offend me personally today.

HOWEVER, I am ranting about things that don’t necessarily offend me personally because they were aired by ABC (yeah, not FOX) between 8 PM & 8:30 PM EDT on a LIVE show from Las Vegas.  That means it was even earlier in the remainder of the country.

So what??!  So kids — young kids — were watching this raunch.  I saw kids in the 8 to 10 year old range in the live audience in Vegas.  Imagine how many were watching on TV – either with parents who wanted to watch and didn’t think how their kids might be effected or alone in front of their TV, which may have been acting as a baby sitter.  Woe to the kids whose “babysitter” presents them with Rhianna’s crotch.  What lessons were they learning?

It was already my belief that this society brings “sexiness” into children’s lives far earlier than is healthy for them.  The low-cut, skimpy clothes available for little girls are ridiculous.  The raunchy gyrations that 5 year old “cheerleaders” and “dancers” are taught should be illegal.  If you and I made some of those motions on the street or bus, we’d be arrested for lewd and lascivious conduct in public.  But it’s okay to teach them to our young ones.

It astounds me that we allow our kids to wear sexy clothes and make sexy moves in kindergarten, but we refuse to allow them to show genuine loving actions like holding hands or hugging without risk of being accused of sexual harassment.  It’s ludicrous!

So what — I hear some of you saying that.  So what if kids act sexy too early in life.  What difference does that make?

Before I answer, let me ask you one more thing.  If you watched the show last night, how many of the men did you see prancing around in clothing that consisted of little more than fringe over underwear?  Even the ones who were sexy didn’t show everything they owned.  They left something to the imagination.  Boys are not treated the same way.  The are not dressed in skimpy outfits in grade school.  T-shirts and jeans or shorts.  Oh, not those short-shorts the girls wear.  Old fashioned shorts that cover their butts.  They are encouraged to do things, not focus on looking good.

This difference is not new.  Neither are the differences that girls and boys experience as the grow into men and women.

  • Who makes more money to do the same job?
  • Who suffers from more eating disorders from trying to look good?
  • Who suffers from more domestic violence?
  • Who experiences more sexual assaults?
  • Who is expected to contribute to the family income as well as raise the children and maintain the home.

These are just some of the more important inequities that women face.

Why do these inequities still exist after SO many years of trying to right them?!

I would suggest that showing raunchy, relatively explicit sexual moves by scantily clad young women that are idolized as celebrities by children in our society, as occurred in this show, is one of the causes of the difficulty  women still find in their lives as adults.

Do I think this is the only cause?  Of course not; I realize the world is not that simplistic.  However, we need to start thinking about it seriously.  There’s an old saying that children “learn what they live.”  Pretty scary if you think about what some children are obviously living.

Ranting on the soapbox is great for me.  It helps get the steam out of my head.  But just ranting or reading the rant is not going to change a things.  You need to tell the people responsible that you are not amused; that you are “mad as hell and not going to take it any more.”

You know I am nothing if not helpful!  So here are some links to help you express your feelings to the responsible parties.  . . . . . You’re welcome!

Billboard.com Editor, Jessica Letkemann, Jessica.Letkemann@billboard.com

ABC TV:  http://abc.go.com/site/contact-us

Federal Communications Commission commissioners:                      

Chairman Julius Genachowski: Julius.Genachowski@fcc.gov
Commissioner Michael J. Copps: Michael.Copps@fcc.gov
Commissioner Robert McDowell: Robert.McDowell@fcc.gov
Commissioner Mignon Clyburn: Mignon.Clyburn@fcc.gov        Commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker: Meredith.Baker@fcc.gov
Go to it people!  I will!!

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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 know what you’re thinking — wait, I shouldn’t say that.  My mother used to say that to me when I was a teenager and I hated it!  She would always use that phrase when she was assuming that I was having stereotypical teenager thoughts — which I was never having because I was either too docile or too lame.  Probably the latter.  But I hated being told that I was thinking something I really wasn’t!

So, let’s start again.  It’s true, I haven’t been writing as faithfully as I usually do and now suddenly I’m inundating you with posts.  Sorry, that’s the way writing happens sometimes, especially when you’re doing it for free and your life is in a lull.

But some things have been happening lately that have stirred my interest.  You probably already read about my “godchild” on the rez and her good news.  Now I want to tell you about a family that really needs some good news.

I received an email from a young woman who lives in one of the areas I serve on the Pine Ridge Reservation (southwest SD, for any newcomers).  She asked if I would contact Carrie [made up name to make the story easier to follow], a friend of hers who lived in another area but was in need of assistance.  I let her know that I would.  She told me the family’s trailer had burned, a far too common occurrence.

I called Carrie.  I learned that she is a single mom with 3 children – a 19 year old son, an 11 year old daughter and a 5 year old daughter.  They had been living in the trailer prior to the fire and Carrie’s sister and child had lived with them.

Now they were homeless.

Her sister and niece/nephew (my bad – I don’t recall which) were living with other family now.

Carrie and her family had tried living with her former in-laws.  But the people in that home were drinkers.  She is not.  She did not want her children constantly exposed to that.  She did not want to worry that the few things they had after the fire might be stolen by a family member to sell/trade for alcohol.  It was not a peaceful home.

As you may be aware, there is a severe housing shortage on the reservation.  So finding another place to live is difficult at the best of times and nearly impossible in an emergency.

Carrie decided to borrow a tipi (English spelling: teepee) and set it up in a different district (for reasons I’ll explain in a bit – patience, please).  Allow me to describe the current living conditions and her requests when I called her.

She and the 3 children are living in the tipi which is set up in a grassy area.  They are sleeping on mats on the ground.  They have no bedding or blankets to speak of.  No running water, of course.  There is a hydrant nearby from which they can fetch water.  I suspect they will be building an outhouse.  No shower or bath, either.  They have no electricity and will not be able to get it for some time.  When the trailer burned, Carrie was behind about $300 on her electric bill.  The electricity had to be turned off due to the fire, of course.  So now, in order to get the electricity turned on anywhere else, there will be a $200 reconnect fee as well as the back bill which must be paid.  Carrie will have to find a little over $500 in order to get electricity for the tipi.  She says she does beadwork and has been given some beading supplies by a friend.  She will try to make some earrings to sell for the electric money and to buy more bead supplies.  You see, her supplies were in the trailer when it burned.  So basically, her income went up in smoke!

What do you think was the first thing Carrie asked for?  . . . . .{Jeopardy music} . . . . . Whatever you guessed was probably wrong – sorry about that.  The first thing she asked for was something to cut the grass around the tipi because it’s getting long and the snakes are out.  Yeah, my very thought – I’d want the lawn mower or whatever too!  Then she said, maybe rakes or a shovel.

After the lawn mower came the requests you would expect:  mattresses, bedding, towels, plates and utensils, pots and pans, clothing.  Lastly, in a kind of apologetic tone, perhaps some art supplies for beading.

I placed the family on the OKINI list (in case you are thinking of offering assistance).  Kari, the OKINI coordinator for ONE Spirit, was surprised by the lawn mower request, too.  It was a first for her.  (You can reach Kari at keovensen@nativeprogress.org).  Then I forwarded the family’s information to the area coordinator for the district she is in.

Now, back to the reason for moving to a different area.  Carrie and her family had been participating in a peaceful civil protest at the time that her trailer was burned.  I used those words intentionally, because it is believed that the fire may have been arson.  She thinks that it may have been related to the protest in some way.  She wanted to be away from that area when she set up a new home.

I do not get into politics on this blog if I can avoid it, so I’m not going to comment on the merits of that belief.  I can say that, once a fire is started on the rez, the distances from fire trucks and personnel, the prairie winds and the poor condition of the substandard housing usually results in a total loss of the property — both home and personal belongings.

This kind of thing doesn’t get attention from the national media because it is a single occurrence, not an entire town wiped out by a tornado.  Yet it is still as traumatic for the people involved.  I have done what I could officially to help by putting them on the OKINI list and getting them signed up for sponsors.  But I wanted to do more.  So I am writing this for you to read and think about.

And maybe pass along.

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Well, I certainly didn’t get the number of comments on my post that Stossel did on his Fox Business Blog post.  But I got a couple that were interesting and I’d like to share them with you – as well as my thoughts on them.

First of all, I think that perhaps the original commenter, Mr Hack, should perhaps follow his own advice.  He said I should have watched Stossel’s whole show before I commented on it.  If I had been commenting on the show, that would indeed have been wise.  But since I was commenting on Stossel’s blog post, the advice should have told me to read it first — which of course, I did!  Perhaps Mr Hack should have followed his own advice and read my post completely and accurately.

Here is Mr Hack’s first comment:

How can you take Stossel out of context like that. If you really watched the show, you wouldn’t need a definition for the term ‘helped.’ It’s obvious what he means; there is no need to go into the history of how Americans and Christians screwed them over; we all know that. He’s talking about the here and now and how Gov assistance has destroyed these people while American Indians who did not take Gov assistance thrived and are doing great! They are doing great because THEY DID NOT TAKE GOV. ASSISTANCE! Had they relied on the Gov, they’d be in the same boat! There are tons of charities, churches, etc… that do a better job for the impoverished than the Gov has ever done or could ever do. There is NO LEGITIMATE REBUTTAL to Stossel’s information. He was censored by ABC hence why making you liked him back then. He couldn’t tell all of the truth; now that he can, you hate him. I spit at your bullshit comments. I’m not a libertarian, but it doesn’t take a genius to know it’s the best and most ethical system there is. Progressivism is tantamount to being drug dealers; give ‘em enough to survive, they’ll vote for you and they won’t pull themselves up with their own boot straps. I worked in environment where I saw how hundreds of people abused the social programs; phony law suits, etc.. #’s not captured by statistics because they have to be discovered to be reported as statistics.

My response to Mr Hack:

I did not take Mr Stossel out of context.  I took him at his word – or words – the ones he wrote in his blog, just as I am doing here.  So anything he defined in his show or anywhere else is irrelevant.  His word has to be what it is in the blog.

I disagree that there is no need to go into “the history of how Americans and Christians screwed them over.”  In spite of Mr Hack’s assertions, everyone does not know that.  Furthermore, history is important here because the treaties that were signed by duly elected officials of the United States of America are part of that history.  Those treaties are legally binding and should not be ignored because they are inconvenient.

Mr Hack, please do your homework.  What the Native Americans receive from the government are not “handouts,” but the fulfillment of treaty obligations.  Furthermore, if you read my post, you would see that I explained the difference between a small NC tribe that “refused” those “handouts” and the bulk of the Indians of the western region.  The tribe you reference is not necessarily doing well because they “refused” the government benefits.  You have some individuals of that tribe who are doing well because they have been assimilated into Western culture.  You have a land developer.  Certainly, if you were “in environment” as you stated, you know the difference between land in North Carolina and land in southwestern South Dakota.  Try to develop the SD land – oh wait, the government did that . . . with a bombing range and uranium mines.

You stated there is no “legitimate rebuttal” to Stossel’s information.  I believe there is no legitimacy to his statements. If you read my post, you would already know why.  I hate repeating myself!  You state I liked Stossel at ABC because he was censored there.  No, Mr Hack.  I liked Stossel because I agreed with some of his consumer protection/awareness pieces.  I judge a person’s work on what I see, not what I have no knowledge of.

You spoke of libertarianism and progressivism.  I could care less about any “ism” you would like to discuss.  I am not a political person.  I am interested in caring for people.  I care that everyone has enough to eat, heat when it is freezing and adequate clothing.

Your last comment was about seeing people abuse the system.  I have no doubt that occurs.  You were in environment.  I processed auto insurance injury claims.  You want fraud, you’ve got it there.  Yet I don’t claim that everyone who makes any injury claim is a fraud or faker.  We all, even Mr Stossel and you and me, deserve to be judged on the fruits of our labors and at our words.

So, for the record, Mr Hack, I do not “hate” Stossel now nor have I ever.  As for your statement, “I spit at your bullshit comments.”, I find it in poor taste and would never stoop to such a low in responding.

Here is Mr Hack’s second comment:

sorry for typo’s… John Stossel Keep Up The Great Work.. If it weren’t for people like you and even the tea party (which I am not a member), then Obama and the dems would have carte blanch to spend us into oblivion. What good is a social program when there’s no economy left to support it. Loving the stuff coming from John & Rand Paul… Loving the info. from [link removed], Heritage foundation (except more waste needs to be done away with in the military).

My response to Mr Hack:

Contrary to what you may believe, I am not for spending without attention to waste control.  I believe legislation should only be for what it is meant to be — no little “pet projects” put into bills that have nothing to do with them.  I believe that, if we as a nation taught responsibility and self-control to our children, we would have fewer problems and we would not have to legislate common sense.  However, I also believe that we must fulfill our legal obligations, whether we like them or not.

There was one other comment that was not from Mr Hack but in response to his comments.  It said:

Not wanting to drag politics into this but equating him [Stossel] to the tea party is hardly a way to endear him to …. oh, most of the country!

My reply:

Thank you for not wanting to drag politics in because I really try to steer clear of politics as much as I can.  My wish is to focus on human needs when I write about Pine Ridge Reservation.  However, I did chuckle at your point.  If not “most of the country,” certainly most of the people I personally know.

 

So where does that leave us?

It leaves me thinking John Stossel would be better off writing (or broadcasting, for that matter) about facts rather than using inflammatory name calling to get readers/viewers.

 

 

 

 

 

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