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Archive for the ‘Organization’ Category

ABC NEWS Has Come Through For Pine Ridge

Over a year ago, I was contacted by a researcher/producer for ABC News.  She had found one of my blog entries (in which I was chastising ABC for not paying attention to the disasters in the west, especially on the reservations).  She told me they were working on a Diane Sawyer prime time special in her “A Hidden America” series.  The prior one had been on life in Appalachia.  This time they were planning to profile Pine Ridge Reservation.

Those of you who have been reading my blog will know that there is not much that fires up my hopefully righteous passion more than talking about life on Pine Ridge Reservation.  So talk we did, for almost an hour.  And we emailed – resources that they might find helpful.

I had heard that Diane Sawyer was out on the rez this past summer when I was there (no, we didn’t happen to cross paths traveling the approximately 2 million acres on the rez.  But I did here that she went up to KILI Radio one of the days I was there.  Try to keep that quiet when you’re talking to DJ’s.

I am giving you a link to the promo for the show.  Please, if you have ever enjoyed or been moved by anything I have written, I implore you to watch the 20/20 program on Friday at 10 PM.  See with your own eyes the good and the bad of Pine Ridge.  You may not find it possible but this place does exist.  I have been there and I suspect they will not tell you the worst story nor show you the poorest homes.  But it will still be worse than you expect.  After all, the living conditions on Pine Ridge rival those in Haiti and the life expectancy on Pine Ridge rivals that of Burundi.

I work for an organization that works to support self-sufficiency – not an easy thing to have on Pine Ridge.  Many of us work to keep the dam from breaking by trying to improve the life of one person at a time.  The big picture can be truly overwhelming.

If you can’t watch the show when it airs, record it or have a friend record it for you.

I will be honest.  I prayed for someone with greater reach than mine to focus attention on the needs of Pine Ridge.  I did not know (or care) who it would be.  I am grateful to ABC News because I know that if more people see the conditions, they will be moved to respond.  I believe in the American people and I know in my heart that things can improve.  I do not have the answers but I know it can be done.

Thank YOU for helping them to raise awareness.  You can do that by sharing this blog post with everyone you know.

Oh yes, here’s the link to the promo:  http://abcnews.go.com/2020/video/hidden-america-children-plains-14708439#.TpOhj9LOE2E.facebook

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I spoke with a young mother last night to try to assist her.  She had moved from Oklahoma to Pine Ridge, SD to help care for her mother after her mom had some surgery.  Her mom has other medical conditions in addition to the one that required surgery, had been life-flighted off the reservation previously and certainly needed the extra help.  Her mom, however, has gone back to work early because of the dire need for income.

I said this was a young mother who moved back to Pine Ridge.  She did not come alone.  She brought her 4 children with her.  Her children range in age from 11 to 18.

It has been a culture shock moving from the Cherokee Nation, where her children are enrolled members, to the Lakota Nation, to which she has transferred her enrollment when she moved back there.

In Oklahoma, she was enrolled in a college program majoring in Criminal Justice.  Back in Pine Ridge, she is enrolled at the Oglala Lakota College, which does not have that major.  So she will have to choose something else to complete her degree.

When she and the children moved back, they were given her grandfather’s trailer to live in.  However, because neither he nor other family had a job, the electricity was shut off for lack of payment.  They were not the only ones, of course, so candles and generators in the neighborhood were the norm.  But generators take fuel, too, so they are run intermittently, as hot water is needed – not solely for TV or lights.  Apparently while she was at her mother’s home, the children had candle lit so they could see.  A neighbor had turned on a generator and did have the TV on while the water was heating.  So her children we to the neighbor’s house to watch TV . . . forgetting the candle.  Unfortunately, unattended candles can be a fire hazard and this one was no exception.  The trailer caught fire and burned down, taking all their possessions as well.  Even worse, they had some historic documents and items in the trailer which have now been lost to both the family and the tribe.  She is so saddened by that loss.

I explained to this mom that the family had been referred to us and explained both the sponsorship and OKINI programs.  I told her I would put them on both, with an emphasis on the OKINI due to their urgent needs.  She began to cry.  She apologized for the tears and said that it has been very difficult to get help through the tribe.  It seems that the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing, that no one communicates with anyone else and that there is “no money left” in any program.

She said that would never occur with the Cherokee Nation.  They are organized and it is easy to navigate their systems.  They are honoring and trying to maintain their culture while at the same time fitting in with the current day.  Moving back to Pine Ridge, from one Indian nation to another, has been a Native American culture shock!

She and her four children went to the tribe for assistance with housing after the trailer burned.  They were told that they qualified for assistance but it would take some time.  This young woman, who is strong and articulate, was not about to let her children be homeless.  They have moved into her great-grandmother’s “old house” that was built sometime around the 1900’s.  It is a house, but it is small!  It contains a kitchen and one other room.  The only furniture they have is a full-sized bed.  Since there are 5 family members, the 2 older children are going at night to sleep on their grandmother’s couch.  They have no appliances, no table or chairs, no food storage (no food for that matter) and very little clothing.  They do have someone who is willing to build another room onto the place if they can materials from they tribe (they are not holding their breath on that).

After we talked about all the hardships she and her children have been enduring, she proceeded to tell me the story of her pre-teen nephew.  Her brother, who still lives in Oklahoma, is the boy’s biological dad.  However, when the mother was pregnant with the boy, she left the biological dad and moved to Pine Ridge to live with another man.  She listed that man as the father on the boy’s birth certificate.  After a short time, she left that man . . . and left the boy with his non-biological father as well.

Apparently this boy has been abused since he was quite small — physically, mentally, emotionally (being told his biological father was dead after he found out about him) and perhaps sexually.  The boy finally called the police to try to find safety.  After a court hearing, they placed him back with the abuser.  The young woman fears for her nephew’s life and wants to help the boy.  But again she is frustrated by the lack of organization and lack of urgency she finds in the Oglala Sioux Tribe.  I have connected her to my Lakota friend, who has had a lot of experience with the juvenile system on the rez, as you know if you read my accounts on this blog.  I will try to give her other connections as I can.

This young woman is passionate, articulate, intelligent and driven to make a difference for her people.  I hope and pray that she will find a way to do that.

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I love my work with ONE Spirit, the organization which provides sponsors for persons who request them on Pine Ridge Reservation.

But as in any job, paid or not, there are parts of the job and parts of the “company’s” structure that I find problematic.  Perhaps I see a better way to get something done.  Or maybe I think that a program should be completely revamped.  Sometimes I question the feedback I’m getting from program participants.  Sometimes I question the information I am getting from those who are higher than me on the totem pole of responsibility.

This has happened in just about every job I’ve held and every organization with which I have interacted.  I suspect I am not alone in that.  We all have varying perspectives when we are in a group.  We have different backgrounds and experiences.  We may not voice all our opinions – at least if we are smart, we won’t – but we definitely have them.

That’s the dilemma in which I find myself right now.  I have some definite opinions about work flow and program issues.  Typically I would use this forum to rant about problems.  But there are people from both sides of them who read this and I do not want to burn any bridges or alienate any who might be hurt by my opinions.

So I am finding stress where I don’t want it (Now that sounds stupid, doesn’t it?  Do we ever find stress where we want it?)  But I think maybe you know what I mean.  I don’t want the things I do that bring pleasure to also be bringing stress.

So I am between the proverbial rock and hard place.  Do I voice my opinions and rock the boat?  Or do I keep my mouth shut, which will keep the outer peace though I will feel increased stress, which is a hard place for me to be?

I’m not really asking you for the answer.  In the end, I’ll do what will be the most good.

I’m just reminding you that it is important to consider the results and unintended repercussions of your decisions.

Nothing is ever as simple as it first appears.

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I actually have 5 sponsors on my desk (actually, their information, not the sponsors themselves) at one time.

How can that be?  I have never had that many at one time.  In some ways, it’s overwhelming.  I have to, in a matter of just a few days, contact all of them, get to know something about them and then call twice as many contacts on the rez to make an appropriate match.

Don’t get me wrong!  I am NOT complaining about having sponsors.  It’s just that the universe has a strange sense of timing.  I have these sponsors when I also have several other pressing tasks and a deadline – since I traveling out to Pine Ridge a week from today.  I feel like I remember feeling when I was in school and it was time for mid-terms or finals.

I’m trying to get organized.  It’s not usually difficult for me, but it seems that there is a lot of subconscious thought going on as well, which is making it more difficult to concentrate.  I can’t add the subconscious topics to the “To Do” list because I don’t know what they are.  Obviously they are important but touchy.  So they will live a life of their own while I try to organize the rest.

I’ve been trying to contact the Food Program drivers for one of the areas I coordinate all week as well.  I have had an interesting story about one of the food recipients and want to talk to them about it, to get their impressions.  If you think “phone tag” is no fun in your life (and you’re right), it is even worse when you do it with someone on the rez.  I have to do some more of that today as well.

Okay, time to get going.  My husband has gone out hiking for the day to “stay out of my hair.”  The cat is fed and so am I.  Time for some caffeine and the phone.  Oh wait . . . it’s 10:30 AM here . . . that means 8:30 AM in Pine Ridge . . . just a bit early to call people, even if it is about a sponsor.

Maybe I have time to enjoy that coffee and listen to the birds.

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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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