Archive for the ‘WY’ Category

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



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Yes, we kicked off our visit to the rez with a road trip.  After all, we wouldn’t be doing much driving on the rez, right?  Not!

For the uninitiated, the rez is Pine Ridge Reservation in the southwestern corner of South Dakota.  As they say in real estate, it all comes down to location and that is true in this story because the rez is located near nothing.  That’s right, really, nothing is close to the rez . . .  and of course, nothing on the rez is close to anything else on the rez either.  With 2 million acres to spread out, I wouldn’t necessarily want close neighbors myself.

Our trip actually began in Hartford, CT the morning of Friday, June 3 when we boarded an early, non-stop (yes, a miracle) flight from Hartford to Denver, CO.  I continue to be pleasantly surprised by Southwest Airlines.  They do need more newer planes, as we discovered on our return flight, but this plane was new, clean and comfy.

We arrived in Denver much earlier than you’d expect — oh that’s right, there was that thing with the time changes.  Gaining 2 hours in your day can be helpful.  After gathering the baggage, we went to choose a rental car.  My husband, the rental car genius, had reserved an SUV that was going to cost us the exorbitant price of $20 and change per day.  You are not seeing a typo – we had a 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee for that price.  Genius, right?

The drive to the reservation was going to take us about 7 hours, so it was good that we had gained those 2 hours crossing the country.  It was a pleasant drive for the most part.

On one of our stretch breaks, we happened to be passing Carhenge.  I did not misspell Stonehenge.  Carhenge is a quirky, arty adaptation of the “henge” idea.  Located right along County Road 59 in Alliance, NE (http://www.carhenge.com/), there is no charge to view the art – there is, however, a shop for snacks and souvenirs, aptly named the “Pit Stop.”  It was a good place for a break.

We entered the Pine Ridge Reservation from the south, which necessitated passing through White Clay, NE (of which I have written before), that bastion of sobriety and icon to American greed.  That last is sarcasm for those not familiar with White Clay, NE.

It took nearly an hour to reach our motel, the Lakota Prairie Lodge Resort in Kyle.  This is in the northeastern part of the reservation.  We checked in and settled in, then called our Lakota friends to let them know we had arrived.  They are now living in Allen and invited us over.  We drove to Allen (about half an hour) where we had a wonderful reunion.  They are the kind of friends you can pick right up with, even if you haven’t seen them in a year.  We finally left about 10 pm, realizing that our bodies thought it was midnight.  Since we had to pick them up in the morning to start driving to Salt Lake City, some sleep might be a good idea.

Of course, we had gotten one surprise when we arrived that evening.  Our original plan had been to take my friend and her husband to visit her daughter who is currently in a treatment facility near Salt Lake City.  She had not seen her daughter since Christmas.  Salt Lake City is a long way from home for a young Lakota woman.  We love my “goddaughter” and know how much she misses her family.  She has been through so much in her years, much of which I have written about and won’t repeat here.  Suffice to say here that her anger has real roots.

We knew our Lakota friends did not have a working car and could not afford to pay someone to borrow a car to drive there or pay for the gas.  So we had thought it would be something we could give them, what with the almost free rental car that, by the way, had unlimited mileage.  It would be like the honeymoon they never had, room and board paid for as well.  So we had thought.

Our surprise was that, in addition to our friends, we would be taking her 20 year old daughter and another daughter’s 5 year old son.  We had 3 adults and a 5 year old in the back seat.  Talk about tight quarters – especially since my friend’s husband is over 6 feet tall and wears 3X shirts.  Enough said?  I was particularly concerned over the lack of seat belt use and sort-of held my breath on this whole trip.  So grateful my husband is a careful and wary driver.

We stayed at Hampton Inns on this part of the journey.  Good prices and good accommodations.  They 5 year old particularly enjoyed the pool every evening – a rare treat for a rez kid.  Our first stop was Casper, WY.  Some might dare to drive the 12 hours in one long ride, but this gal, having fibromyalgia, knows her limits.  6 hours sitting in one place in a car or twisting around to converse with the folks in the back seat is plenty for this body.

We arrived at South Jordan, UT on Sunday, June 5, in time for a visit with my “goddaughter.”  It was a tearful reunion for mother and daughter.  I stood back and observed, not wanting to insert myself into what was an intimate and private moment.  I looked at my “goddaughter” – she’d grown since I’d seen her last.  She will be 16 years old in July and is starting to look like a young woman.  She looked healthy and beautiful.  Some of the stories she told were less than pretty, though.  When you are living in a center for troubled youth, many things can occur – fights, bullying, etc – that the staff cannot always control.  But she is working hard to learn what she needs to and hopes to be home soon.  I pray she succeeds.

Monday morning, June 6, we returned to the center for a final visit.  Then midday, we had to leave to return to the rez.  Although the initial reunion had been tearful, the leave-taking was stoic.  Not easy, to be sure!  But strong in a way I have seen many Lakota people endure difficulty.

We stayed in Rawlins, WY on the way back to the rez, then completed the trip back to Allen, SD  on Tuesday, June 7.  The return trip always seems to pass by faster, regardless of where we travel.  That certainly was the case here.

After we dropped our friends off in Allen, we still had about an hour to drive to get back to the hotel we would stay in for the remainder of our vacation.  Allen, as I said, is in the northeastern part of the rez and our hotel at the Prairie Wind Casino and Resort is just west of Oglala, in the southwestern corner of the rez.  If you could drive directly from one to the other, it would be a diagonal – the hypotenuse of the triangle, which we former math teachers know is the shortest distance.  But there is no road that does that.  As they say in Maine, “You can’t get they-ah from he-ah.”  At least not directly.

We finally checked in to the hotel.  People who want to travel to the rez often ask me about accommodations.  Choices are minimal.  There are a couple of bed and breakfasts – which I have not tried yet.  There is the motel in Kyle and the hotel at the Casino.  I have written about the motel in Kyle before.  This was our first stay at the Casino.

The decor and bed were excellent.  The bathroom was . . . well, amusing.  The plumbing in the shower had been installed upside down and backwards somehow.  Typically, to turn on the shower, the lever arm is attached at the top of the regulator and is lifted to turn on the water.  In this shower, it was attached at the bottom of the regulator, was already in the lifted position and had to be pushed in to turn on the water.  It was a bit like learning a foreign language.  Amusing.  The water is very soft and it takes quite a while to feel that you’ve rinsed off the soap or shampoo properly.  Of course, that is only in part due to the soft water.  It is also due to the very low water pressure from the showerhead.  Between the soft water and low pressure, I’m sure it took me 3 times longer to shower than it usually does – which sort of defeats the purpose of water conservation, don’t you think?

It was a good night’s sleep that night, however.  After I stopped feeling like I was still rolling down the road in the car.  Strange feeling to be stopped after so many miles on the road.

Denver to Kyle                 371 miles

Kyle to Salt Lake City       717 miles

SLC to Kyle                      717 miles

Kyle to Casino                  79 miles

TOTAL for 5 Days          1884 miles   (approximately)

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No, not the book Flatland written by Edwin A Abbott, which I thoroughly enjoyed when I read it many years ago.  The actual land that I saw much of the day in my second day of 6+ hour drives.  The problem with driving that many hours when the land is flat, as I’m sure many long-haul truckers would agree, is that what was interesting and fun becomes boring and tedious after you are too far into the drive to turn around.

Yesterday, after rising at 5 AM Eastern Daylight Time, we flew to Denver from the East Coast.  It was a great non-stop flight and we were again pleased with Southwest Airlines.  We picked up an SUV rental (my travel-genius husband got us this car for $20.10 per day with UNLIMITED mileage) and headed up to Kyle, SD on the Pine Ridge Reservation.  The land flattened out about the same time my body started to rebel against all the sitting I had been doing.  But with stops to stretch, we persevered.

We got to our room about 7:30 pm Mountain Time (9:30 pm EDT).  Then we went to visit our Lakota friends for a while.  We left there about 10:30 pm because we finally realized our bodies thought it was after midnight!  Besides, we had to be up early today.

We are taking my Lakota friends to Salt Lake City, UT so they can see her daughter who is in a program there.  If you’ve read my stories about my “goddaughter”, you know the kind of issues she has had.  If you’ve read my posts about Pine Ridge Reservation and my friends, you know there is no way she could make that 12 hour trip to see her daughter if we did not take them.  We found out last night that in addition to my friend and her husband, we were taking her 20 year old daughter and her 5 year old grandson.  Very tight quarters – if we’d known ahead of time we might have rented a mini-van instead!

We picked everyone up about 9 am and set off through the rez, with its many road construction projects, headed for Casper, WY.  After the fourth hour or so, the land began to flatten out quite a bit.  While the incredibly long freight trains, many hauling coal, were out some interest initially, there are so many trains that even they could not keep interest from waning as the vista of flat land began to tire our eyes.

Tomorrow we have a six and one half hour drive, not including pit stops.  The first couple of hours may be flat but the final hours will be through the mountains – a better way to do it in my opinion.  It will wake us up with varying vistas as we tire of riding rather than the other way around.

After a visit and overnight stay, we’ll have to reverse course to get back to the rez.  12 more hours of driving over 2 days.  It will be interesting to see how my fibromyalgia reacts to 5 straight days of  riding 6+ hours in a car.  I know, I can hear you saying, “But all you’re doing is sitting on your butt in a car.”  Absolutely true.  But that can make my muscles just as unhappy as doing some physical activity too long.  I don’t know why!  But it is a fact and I usually try to balance my activity better than this.  Sometimes you have to do what you have to do and deal with the consequences afterward.

I think the change from flat land to mountains will be good for my brain, my eyes and my fibromyalgia – at least I won’t be sitting as still in one place.  I don’t think I could ever live where there was nothing but flatland.  zzzzzz………

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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.
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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Today I received an email from the folks at ONE Spirit (http://nativeprogress.org) about a young musician who will be walking across the country – yes, I said walking – to raise awareness of the conditions on Pine Ridge Reservation and to raise funds for ONE Spirit’s work there.  You know how dear to my heart the Lakota people of Pine Ridge Reservation are.  So you shouldn’t be surprised that I have offered to provide information about this event and write periodic updates on Dan’s progress as part of my blog.

Dan Ross is a young Illinois-based musician who can be found on YouTube.com under the guise of “goofyguitarist.”  More information on the Dan and the walk can be found at ONE Spirit’s website:

Dan has a Facebook page going to garner support for the walk (from Rockford, IL to the Pacific Ocean in Florence, OR!).  The link is:  http://www.facebook.com/#!/home.php?sk=group_125643704165866&notif_t=group_activity

This is the description of the Facebook group that he gives:

“In 2011, Dan Ross (that’s me) will walk from his hometown of Rockford, IL all the way to the Pacific coast in Oregon. For 5-6 months I will walk every day, rain or shine until I reach the ocean. Why? Well…I watched Forrest Gump recently and…..err….I mean I like to walk, and…I like the the ocean too, so i figured ….uuum… I guess right now I don’t quite know why I’m doing it, however I do know that once I’ve done it I’ll surely know why I did it….. Anyway, I’ll also be bringing publicity to a non-profit organization called “One Spirit”. This organization brings aid to the impoverished Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. The reservation contains in it, the poorest county in the United States. Living conditions on the reservation are unacceptable by most American standards, and the children growing up there have little opportunity. As I traverse the land on my epic trek, I plan to encourage people across the country to donate to One Spirit in an effort to help them raise enough money to build and maintain a youth center on the reservation, which will provide new opportunities for the children and teens on the reservation. TOWNS I WILL WALK THROUGH/BY: ILLINOIS- Freeport, Elizabeth, Galena, East Dubuque. IOWA- Dubuque, Colesburg, Edgewood, Strawberry Point, Oelwein, Readlyn, Waverly, Shell Rock, Allison, Dumont, Hampton, Clarion, Humboldt, Pocahontas, Storm Lake, Alta, Aurelia, Cherokee, Marcus, Remsen, Le Mars. SOUTH DAKOTA- Vermillion, Yankton, Tyndall, Wagner, Pickstown, Bonesteel, Gregory, Winner, Mission, Martin, Pine Ridge, Oelrichs, Hot Springs, Custer. WYOMING- Newcastle, Moorcroft, Gillette, Buffalo, Ten Sleep, Greybull, Cody, Yellowstone National Park, IDAHO- Tendoy, Challis, Clayton, Stanley, Lowman, Banks, Horseshoe Bend, Emmett. OREGON- Vale, Brogan, Unity, John Day, Mitchell, Prineville, Redmond, Sisters, Springfield, Eugene, Veneta, Walton, Florence, OCEAN!!!!!!!! “


I recently read the interview Dan gave investorideas.com and would like to share a couple of his responses with you.

Question: Can you tell us what motivated and inspired you to take on such a challenging endeavor?

Dan’s response: Honestly, I was watching “Forrest Gump” one night during the fall of 2010 when I was first struck with the idea to walk across 2/3 of the country. For those of you who are unfortunate enough not to have seen the movie (because it’s a good one!), the main character spontaneously decides to run across the entire country, and it is certainly an inspiring moment in the film. Before that night, I had already planned on moving out of my hometown in 2011, in an effort to broaden my horizons and gain a new clarity of mind so that I might discover what I’d like to pursue in life; I just wasn’t sure exactly where I would go or how I’d get there. So I would say that I was primed, ready, and waiting for a good idea to come along. All I needed was a spark of inspiration.  What motivates me to take on such a challenging endeavor is the fact that it IS a challenge. I enjoy pushing myself, if for no other reason than to test my own potential. Also, I believe traveling is one of the wisest things a person can do with their time and money – it allows you to learn things which cannot be taught. The possibilities of what I can learn from this journey are more than enough to motivate me to do it.

Question: You have chosen the youth of the Pine Ridge Reservation and the building of the Safe House and youth center as your non-profit to dedicate this to. A white youth from Illinois dedicating his walk to the native youth at Pine Ridge is an unexpected storyline; can you tell us how that came to be?

Dan’s response: Once I was certain that I would walk to the ocean in 2011, I began to think that maybe someone besides myself could benefit from this whole thing. After quite a bit of brainstorming, I was still unable to decide what cause I would walk for. Then, amidst the planning of my route, I noticed I would be walking right through the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, a place which I knew nothing about at the time. So I did a little research, and the information I found was startling and overwhelming unemployment estimated at 87%, life expectancy of about 50 years, 90% living below the federal poverty level, and teenage suicide rates 3 1/2 times the national average. I couldn’t believe that this place was located practically right in the middle of the United States. The fact that I was unaware of the situation at Pine Ridge makes me think that most others living in this country are unaware, as well. From this point on, I was sure that I had found a just cause.  After notifying One Spirit that I would like to help, we decided I should dedicate the walk primarily to the youth on the reservation. If you provide the younger generation with a safer childhood, and more opportunities to learn and grow, it becomes likely that they will want to take action to help the next generation in the same way. If all a child knows growing up is poverty, it’s easier to turn to drugs and/or gangs as a way out. I want to help show them something better.


Can you imagine doing what this young man is doing for people you don’t know?

Okay, if you’ve read any of my earlier blog entries, you’ll know I, personally, can’t imagine walking any farther than absolutely necessary, except on a treadmill – and that is an act of will.

I could get all spiritual on you (pun, get it?) and quote Christian scripture:  “For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die.” Rom 5:7  All right, don’t moan, I can hear it from here.  I know Dan is not planning to die.  But you get my point.  This is a really big thing for a person to do for someone else.  It shows a generous heart.  I am impressed and inspired.  I hope everyone who reads my blog will support Dan in this walk – if only by sending him good wishes or checking out his music.

I think it will be very interesting to follow this trek and see what Dan learns about himself as he tries to educate the nation about Pine Ridge Reservation and ONE Spirit.

This is a copy of the information I received today about Dan’s initial plans for his walk.  If you are on his route and can support his effort in any of the ways noted, you should contact ONE Spirit directly (if you send offers to me, it will only delay things).

If you aren’t on the route, you can still support the effort by forwarding a link to this blog entry or the ONE Spirit website or Dan’s Facebook page to friends and acquaintances.  The more who know about this effort, the better.

As we gear up for Dan Ross’s walk from Rockford, IL to the Oregon Coast to raise awareness for the youth of Pine Ridge, we are again relying on the help of our generous One Spirit supporters.

We are planning out the Illinois, Iowa and South Dakota legs of the walk and need the help of local supporters to provide a place for Dan to stay, help arrange for media coverage, and facilitate awareness gatherings if at all possible.

Don’t be afraid to think outside the box on ideas for this. Any and all suggestions are welcome. Even if you have a contact or a lead that you would like to share with us so that we can follow-up, we are grateful for your help.

Below is a list of dates and times Dan will be passing through Illinois and South Dakota. If you are able to assist in any capacity with these stops, please contact One Spirit. If you know of a friend or relative in that area who might be interested, please forward on this email.

Chicago area volunteers are needed for publicity and awareness campaigns. If you know of a media outlet that will be able to spread the word, or if you are able to set up a benefit concert or donation drive, please contact One Spirit.

4/20/11 – Dubuque
4/24/11 – Oelwin (we have a grateful volunteer who is willing to cover this stop
4/26/11 – Wavery
4/28/11 – Hampton (we have another volunteer who is taking care of this stop)
5/11/11 – Humboldt
5/5/11 – Storm Lake (we have a volunteer taking care of this area)
5/8/11 – Le Mars

5/10/11 – Vermillion
5/12/11 – Yankton
5/16/11 – Wagner
5/21/11 – Winner
5/28/11 – Martin (We have accommodations arranged for this area)
6/7/11 – Hot Springs
6/9/11 – Custer

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You either clinked on this post because you know I have a penchant for odd titles or because you can’t, for the life of you, figure out what heart surgery and a car have in common – maybe both.

I just finished a conversation with a grandmother on Pine Ridge Reservation in SD, who called to find out if our organization could do anything to help with getting her car running again.  I explained that we do not normally do that kind of thing because of the exorbitant costs we would incur.  (Every car on the reservation could use some kind of repairs, from what I’ve seen and heard!)

But I also asked her what the problem was and why she needed the car so urgently.  I explained that, while we do not do this kind of service, we have people who have connections and sometimes one person knows another who … you get the picture.

There began the 20 minute story.  I am going to try to recall it as she told it, though I confess that I probably did not take enough notes and I am getting to that “senior moment” memory age.  I will try to do her justice.

First, I’ll set up the story and give you some general information in case you are new to circumstances on the Pine Ridge Reservation.  Most cars are old and in need of repairs.  Health care is administered by Indian Health Services (IHS) and both very inadequate and of relatively poor quality.  The tribe “helps” tribal members in emergencies with minimal assistance.  Grandma has experienced all of this.  For example, on one occasion, when she needed a blood transfusion, she was given blood from a person who was allergic to penicillin.  Although it did not harm her at that time, she did develop an allergy to penicillin herself, which she had never had before.

The story she told me started with the birth Grandma’s own daughter, who is now 9 years old.  When Daughter was born, both Grandma and Daughter were very sick with an infection.  Within hours, Daughter was rushed from Pine Ridge Hospital, where she had been born, to Rapid City Regional Hospital.  Grandma was kept in Pine Ridge, where she was given penicillin for the infection.  If you are thinking “Wait a minute, she’s allergic to penicillin!  Stop!!”, you get an “A” for your memory.  So she got sicker before she got better.  It was days before she was able to get to see her baby.  By then, the baby had been moved from Rapid City, SD to Omaha, NE – they had discovered the baby had heart problems.

Grandma jumped into the car she had and drove to Omaha.  When Grandma got to the hospital, her baby needed surgery on her heart.  The surgery was complicated and after surgery, Daughter was in very tough shape.  Suddenly a “Code Blue” was called.  The doctors surrounded her baby, the nurses surrounded Grandma.  She had no experience with this kind of medical care and began to cry.  The nurses asked if she had anyone she could call.  She called her own grandmother.

Her grandmother told Grandma to stop crying.  She told her the baby could feel her despair and would be very sad.  It would be harder for the baby to survive.  Her grandmother told her that she had to be strong for her baby and pray.  Pray!  So Grandma stopped crying and prayed.  Daughter survived.  She still has medical care but she is doing well.  We just got her a sponsor.

That experience had a profound effect on Grandma.  She changed her lifestyle.

Grandma has a sister who lives in Washington state.  She recently fell quite ill and needed Grandma’s help.  So Grandma hopped into her current car, a  ’99 Chevy Suburban and started driving to Washington with her son and her son’s pregnant girlfriend.  She tried to talk the pregnant girlfriend into staying home, but the girl wanted to come.  She was only 24 weeks pregnant so it should be fine.

Grandma left the 2 young people at the motel while she went to visit her sister.  When she returned, she found the young woman in severe pain, bleeding profusely.  She immediately called an ambulance and the girl was taken to the hospital.  Then Grandma prayed.  The baby was delivered weighing 1 pound 10 ounces.  She was very small, to say the least!  She was also very fragile.  The money ran out and Grandma had to leave.  The young people were able to stay at the Ronald McDonald House in that city.  Grandma had to scrounge for enough money to buy gas and food for the drive home.

The day finally came for her granddaughter to be released from the hospital to come home.  Grandma was thrilled.  What had seemed foolish, the pregnant young woman taking that long trip, had been a blessing – the baby had survived because she was born in a city where proper neonatal care was available for premature babies.  The baby probably would have died if she was born in Pine Ridge!  And now she was coming home!

Grandma asked a cousin to travel with her and jumped into the same ’99 Suburban.  As her cousin was driving during the night, while Grandma tried to sleep, the Suburban started “acting up.”  It was “coughing.”  Her cousin pulled over and woke her.  Grandma took the wheel and realized they needed a service station as she drove.  They got off the highway in the middle of the night and drove to the nearest station that was lit up.  But it wasn’t lit up because it was open; it was lit up to prevent vandalism.  The car would not run now.  How was Grandma going to get to Washington and drive home with her son, his partner and their new baby?

Her cell phone had no service there.  Grandma and her cousin pushed the Suburban (you do know the size of a Suburban, right?) closer to the building, where the found a pay phone (talk about the grace of God – when was the last time you saw a pay phone anywhere?).  They called the police and told them about being stranded.  This was in Gillette, WY.  Well, kudos to the people of Gillette, who not only found the 2 women a place to stay while the work was being done, but also found a way to put in the new fuel pump at very little cost.  Grandma was, of course, frantic because the baby was supposed to be released the very next morning.  The folks in Gillette had them on their way by morning.

As they got back on the road and drove quickly (understatement) toward Washington, Grandma got a phone call on her cell phone.  The doctors had decided to keep the baby one more day.  Grandma quipped, “Well, I guess I can slow down a little then.”

Baby had a problem that Grandma was very familiar with.  Baby had heart problems.  She has a hole in the heart, where it did not grow properly and a problem with one vessel.  She has had an apnea attack.  On Jan 12, 2011 Baby will be going to Omaha, NE for heart surgery.  Grandma will be suffering from deja vu that day — if she can get there to be with her son and his partner.

The Chevy Suburban has chosen a bad time to give up running.  Grandma is told it is an electrical problem.  Diagnosing the problem will cost $300.  The cost of the repairs will be determined after the diagnosis.  At least the Suburban chose a good place to give up the ghost, so to speak – Grandma’s back yard.  It just wouldn’t start one morning.

But now Grandma is frantic.  She has no money for all of this.  How will she get the car repaired so she can get everyone to Omaha – you see, she is transportation for Baby and her parents as well as herself.

So I told her I would spread the word to the people I work for to see if they had any ideas.

But I am also spreading the word to all of you.  This is the Christmas season.  The time of giving and miracles.  The time of the birth of a special baby.

I hardly ever ask for anything from my readers when I post.  I would rather inform you.  But this time I AM asking!

  • If you know anyone in the Pine Ridge area that can help Grandma with these repairs quickly, send me a message.
  • If you want to help create a Christmas Miracle, go to ONE Spirit and use their PayPal connection to donate for Grandma’s car repairs (be sure to put a memo designating that).  The website is http://nativeprogress.org
  • If you can’t afford to donate, PRAY, as Grandma’s grandmother told her.  Pray for a Christmas Miracle.
  • If you can do none of these things, I will pray for you, since you probably need it more than Grandma.


I know that none of us can do Christmas Miracles alone.  But if each person does what he or she is able to do, that is indeed a miracle.  A Christmas group miracle.

I believe that you care.

I pray that you will show it.

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