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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Our last visit to Pine Ridge Reservation was very different from our previous visits.  One of the things we did this time was to spend a bit more time learning about the contemporary activities on the rez.  History is important but what’s happening today helps me to understand the youth needs better.

So with some trepidation, we decided to attend the Independence Through Music (ITM) free concert that was being held one of the days we were there.  I say with some trepidation because I have written about the ITM project before and knew that many of the musicians were hip hop or rap musicians.  No offense to anyone whose musical tastes run in those directions, but mine do not.  I can enjoy almost anything else, being the eclectic gal that I am, but rap generally would send me heading for the door.

In addition to being eclectic, however, I am also open-minded and like to learn about new people and things.  So we went.  I have a feeling that my husband, who shares my hip hop/rap feelings, was there only because I wanted to be.  I’m grateful, because he handled the video taping which allowed me to concentrate on listening, watching and, yes, enjoying the concert.

We arrived at Billy Mills Hall in Pine Ridge, the concert venue, a bit early.  I had a fairly good idea of what to expect, my husband did not.  What we found was basically a large gymnasium with bleachers that push back when not in use.  If you’re old enough, you may have had that kind of gym for your high school.  Obviously, the acoustics were going to leave a lot to be desired.

We watched the sound check, which included some of the artists we would see later.  Interesting.  There is a link to the sound check video clip below.  This is the memory of the concert, followed by some observations.

******

There was one more thing that struck me about the concert in general — and it had nothing to do with the musicians.  Picture this:

You are sitting on the bottom step of the bleachers in a large, open gymnasium.  People are getting their hands marked with a number as they enter — not for a count, but so they will be eligible for door prizes at intervals during the concert.  Your back is already telling you that your fibromyalgia is not going to be happy with the seating arrangements.  You ignore your back, knowing you may pay for that tomorrow.

The lighting leaves a little to be desired.  There are no spotlights or stage lights, of course; there are just the single bulb lights suspended from the gym ceiling.  Just the lights in front, where the performers are, are lit although at first the sunlight is also streaming through the high gym windows.

People trickle in.  You are surprised that there are not more people, since the concert is free.  But of course, communication on the rez is not great so it’s possible that many don’t even know about the concert.

You notice that while some people sit and watch the concert from one spot, others seem to need to wander about.  Some go in and out the doors – the smokers, of course.  Children run about freely, a bit distracting for you but they are not ill-mannered or wild.  You think how wonderfully accepting the community is of normal child behavior and how much love they demonstrate to their children.  Even the performers accept it easily, including the guy who performs half his act holding his son who is sleepy and wants his dad.

You notice a young man who is very obviously disabled and by his physical appearance, you would guess he has Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.  He wanders across the gym, mingles with the musicians and dances when the mood strikes him.  Then surprisingly he is introduced as a community member who would like to perform.  He goes to the microphone, stands there clearly struggling to recall the song and to have the courage to sing it.  He cannot.  Suddenly, the audience breaks into loud applause and he beams.  He leaves the microphone and resumes his previous activities.  But it isn’t the young man who has impressed you — it is the community.  The support and love they showed this disabled young man spoke volumes about the kind of people they were.  Amazing!

The concert was supposed to run 6 – 10 pm.  It is now 9 pm.  You want to stay for the last hour, but you can see your husband has run out of enthusiasm.  More than that, which might be overlooked, your back has finally begun to issue you an ultimatum — move and do something else soon or you will pay a BIG price.  You know your back doesn’t kid about those things, so you look at your husband and give him a slight nod.  He packs up the camcorder and you both head out to the car.  You have almost an hour’s drive through the road construction to go the distance to your hotel at the casino.  Suddenly you are very tired and hope you can stay awake until you get to the room.

******

The show started more or less on time.  It was interesting to watch these aspiring musicians perform.  Some had performed locally before.  For others, this was the first time they were performing in front of a live audience.  It showed, to be sure, but it also a bit endearing to watch these young men who were performing for the first time confront their fears and insecurities.  I say young men, because there is only one young woman in the program so far.  That’s just a result of who showed interest, not where the talent lies.

I was struck by the fact that most of the hip hop/rap artists performed music which told a great deal about rez life from the perspective of young people.  So it was very interesting.  It gave another point of view to an already complex topic.  It was not all negative.  Many of the lyrics displayed their pride in their heritage and their anger at being judged.

There are links below to all of the performances.  If you notice that there is a clip missing (#10), that clip is of Davidica.  Since she is a professional and has recorded the song that she sang, I agreed not to publish it at this time.

I wanted to make note of the young lady who performed, Tiana Spotted Thunder.  I had noticed her videos on YouTube before my rez visit and before I knew she was a participant in ITM.  In person, even battling a cold, she sounds just as beautiful as she looks.  But she is shy and it unfortunately comes off as not believing in her own talent.  I hope she can overcome that because her talent is real and her voice will have power when her confidence can shine through it.

My bottom line on the concert?  I loved it!!!

And I learned something, which is always good.

I learned that, just as you shouldn’t judge people by any arbitrary factor (and I usually don’t), you shouldn’t judge art or music by arbitrary factors as well.  I typically don’t like the kind of music I heard that night.  But I did enjoy it at the concert.  Why?  It wasn’t exactly the same.  Perhaps it was the roughness, the unpolished, unpackaged manner in which it was performed.  I don’t know for sure.  But I am glad I was open-minded enough to try it.

******

Concert Sound Check                                 http://youtu.be/OLSRBKVXK3Q

Independence Through Music #1            http://youtu.be/J1q0rI01bfI

Independence Through Music #2            http://youtu.be/RQ0pWiG6qPE

Independence Through Music #3            http://youtu.be/HgyyXxQaT-w

Independence Through Music #4            http://youtu.be/lbEktnOGyvI

Independence Through Music #5            http://youtu.be/eqdRqCd9TDI

Independence Through Music #6            http://youtu.be/NFitcxqa3Fw

Independence Through Music #7            http://youtu.be/GlJ9fPdSJNY

Independence Through Music #8            http://youtu.be/Ins1pL2fkLY

Independence Through Music #9            http://youtu.be/OPxVGZTggso

Independence Through Music #11          http://youtu.be/etgyr74Gewk

 

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One of the best things we got to see on this visit to the reservation was the return of the Crazy Horse Ride participants on Thursday, June 9.  In the center of the Pine Ridge settlement, people started lining the streets, staking out prime viewing spots early.  The riders would come up Rte 407 from White Clay, NE and turn left onto BIA Road 32 at the center of Pine Ridge, ending at the Powwow Grounds.

The riders return to Pine Ridge, SD

Since we were going to the concert at Billy Mills Hall shortly after the riders passed, we found a parking space at the hall, right along the riders’ route.  It was quite convenient, since it was also directly across from Big Bat’s, the convenience store/snack bar/gas station that is today’s version of a trading post.  There are rest rooms, too, always a plus!

The riders approached in the distance from the top of a hill with an escort of police cruisers with their lights turned on.  It was a beautifully clear, sunny day.  The colors of the massed flags and flashing lights were truly a sight to behold!  We recorded the event and you can actually view it for yourself by using the link at the end of this post.

So what was the big deal, anyway?  Was this just a parade?  Why did all these folks ride horses from Ft Robinson, NE to Pine Ridge, SD on an extremely long, 4 day trail ride?

The annual Crazy Horse Ride, now in its 14th year, is a 4-day trail ride held the second week in June to honor all veterans and the war leader, Crazy Horse.  This year the ride ran from Jun 6 to Jun 9.  Approximately 200 riders participate each year according to organizer Charles “Bamm” Brewer.  Although the group is primarily made up of Oglala Lakota riders, all are welcome.  Many young Lakota take part in the event, which gives them an opportunity to learn and understand their culture and heritage in a more concrete way.  It is a pilgrimage of sorts and has a definite spiritual aspect.

A father carries his disabled son during the 2011 Crazy Horse Ride

This year’s ride had special meaning for the riders.  On the first morning of the ride, the governor of Nebraska and other dignitaries gathered with the riders to dedicate the section of US 20 from Ft Robinson to Hay Springs as “Crazy Horse Memorial Highway.”

The ride forms in Ft Robinson, NE each year since that is the location of the death of Crazy Horse on September 5, 1877 as he was being taken into custody by government troops.  Day 1 of the ride proceeds from Ft Robinson to Chadron, NE where the riders camp for the night.  On Day 2, the riders proceed from Chadron to camp in the Beaver Valley.  This is a particularly meaningful stop, since this area was the land of Crazy Horse and tradition holds that his parents brought him here to be buried after his death.  Day 3 is a rest day in that special place, with many activities planned for the riders.  On Day 4 the riders complete their journey, traveling from Beaver Valley into Pine Ridge for the All Veterans Gathering and Powwow at the Pine Ridge Powwow Grounds.

The 2011 ride included Spiritual Leader Wilmer Mesteth, Crazy Horse Ride Elder Mel Lone Hill and the drum  group Creekside.  A riderless Spirit Horse for Crazy Horse was included and can be seen in the video and photos.

A riderless Spirit Horse for Crazy Horse was included in the 2011 Crazy Horse Ride.

 

 

 

Here is the link to the video:  http://youtu.be/Pody6Yn9-mk

 

 

 

I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

 

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A lot of people wait for me to write about the sadness and poverty that I find when I visit Pine Ridge Reservation.  But the truth is, while there is plenty of both to be found, there is also plenty that is positive about Pine Ridge.

The first thing that we saw positive this visit was the land itself.  All of our prior visits have been in the fall or winter.  This is the first time we have visited in the spring.  What a difference a few months can make!  It was green!  I know, it sounds rather simple, but the difference between a green reservation and a brown, dried up reservation is amazing.

The green vista was incredibly beautiful.  It breathed hope and new life.  After seeing the reservation green and blossoming, I understand on a new level why the people who live here would not want to leave.  The beauty may not be there on that level all the time, but when you are in tune with the land and the seasons, you know it will return.

The first two people we met with were as positive and refreshing as the new life that spring brought to the reservation.  They were two inspirational women who believe there is hope for the youth of the reservation and who are doing something to put that belief into action.

I encountered Davidica Little Spotted Horse the first time because she had heard of the ONE Spirit program and wanted to know more about it.  She cares very deeply about her people, the Lakota people, and wanted to find out if we really did help people on the rez or not.  Sadly, there are organizations that say they are helping (and may on some level mean it) but who turn out to be divisive in the community.

Davidica and her mother, both of whom we met on our visit to the rez,  consider themselves “traditional Lakota.”  They hold fast and practice the Lakota traditions and values.  They pass those ways to their children.  Talent and positivity runs through the family like the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon – strong and creative.

This is the bio that I found of Davidica on Facebook after I spoke with her the first time,

I am a singer/songwriter, artist, businesswoman and mother. Currently the opening act for The Women of the Four Winds featuring Martha Redbone, Tracy Bone, Wayquay, and Davidica-www.myspace.com/dlittlespottedhorse
For Booking info fourwindstour@hotmail.com

My name is Davidica Little Spotted Horse.
I am a singer/songwriter from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. If I had to describe my lyrics in three words it would be, “heartfelt, personal, and passionate.” My songs are about love, loss, hope, and happiness, I believe these are feelings all human beings deal with. My songs are my connection to my inner self. All of the songs I wrote are about my own life and the two I co-wrote with my brother Isnal-Wica Belt are about his struggles. The song “Aaron’s Song” my brother and I wrote together is for his best friend Aaron Lakota because we wanted to give him a gift for being such an important part of our family and to voice that we understand what he’s going through.
I am a singer/songwriter first and foremost I just happen to be native, but more than anything I am a human being. So I humbly give all my songs to humanity no matter what your race because we can all relate to the human condition… life. I’ve always had a dream I would leave something behind to make my mark in history for my future descendants. My music is my gift to them. My children are my biggest supporters and the reason I recorded this album. I cherish my children, my extended family and my friends everyday.

I am also an artist. My beadwork is another way for me to share my creativity. I put my heart and soul into my work to create the best quality beadwork possible. My traditional beadwork is only Lakota style beadwork and I take tremendous pride in knowing how to make traditional pieces.
I also make contemporary beadwork which includes many different beading techniques and I make sure these are also excellent quality work.
You are welcome to purchase any of my beadwork that is put up for sale in my “Beadwork” Album in the photo section of my profile. I also accept orders for specific projects. Just message me and I’ll contact you with more details.
Much Respect.

I had wanted to meet Davidica after our first conversation.  She is thoughtful and open to everyone.  She is an incredibly giving woman.  She has nurtured those same values in her own children.

Davidica is a recording artist.  That is a remarkable thing for someone living on Pine Ridge Reservation.  But she is more than that.  She is a strong Lakota woman.  She puts those Lakota values into actions — they are not just words for her.  She treasures the children — her own and all those on the reservation.  It is Davidica who is responsible for the Independence Through Music project becoming a reality.

Independence Through Music is a project to identify talented young people on the reservation, to teach them about recording and performing, to teach them about the recording industry and to give them opportunities to become self-sufficient — not only by being performers, but also producers, managers, booking agents, web designers, art designers, etc..  This is not a “The Rez has Talent” contest where talented performers place themselves into the hands of strangers.  This is a comprehensive educational experience and an opportunity for young people to grow into careers and futures.

We were grateful that Davidica took time out of her day to meet us on a day that was a busy one for her prior to the ITM Concert the next evening.  We met at her mother’s home and except for the many calls she received regarding the details of the concert, their attention was on getting to know us.  We did not feel like we were being a distraction to their day.  We talked about the program, life on the rez, raising children and many other things.  It was a very pleasant time.

I have not written as much about Davidica’s mother yet because she was not the center of attention.  Yet I think she is very much the center of strength in the family.  Her deep spirituality and love of her people was very evident.  Some lead by the actions rather than many words.  This is the way Davidica’s mother leads.  I came away feeling it had been a privilege to meet her and wishing we had more time to chat one on one.

After leaving these two amazing women, we went to the home of another woman who strength is different.  She is not a community leader.  She is not even out of her home much.  She is not healthy yet she is raising two teenaged daughters.  She is raising them well in spite of poverty that almost crushed me when I entered her home.

I don’t say that lightly.  I have been in many poor homes before on the reservation.  But this home weighed on my heart and mind — perhaps even my soul — as none have before.  I don’t have pictures to share with you of this home because there was no way I was going to ask this woman if I could photograph her home to share with the world.  I was probably not meant to be a news photographer.

But I can try to paint it with my words.  As we drove up the dirt driveway, which was a hill, we had to avoid a large number of deep ruts that had been formed earlier in the week when the ground had been mud.  Straight ahead was a wooden building with a couple of small windows.  To our left was a single-stall garage sized building that was or had been used as a shop of some type.  A small trailer was behind the shop.

We were uncertain which building to go to when we saw someone peek out the window of the building in front of us (which I will refer to as the house).  Then a teenaged girl came out to greet us and lead us into the house.  Her mother, who was the person I had come to visit, was sitting in a rather worn recliner.

But before I introduce you to her, let me describe entering this house.  As we entered, there was the smell of animal urine — not extremely strong but definitely there.  The interior was dark.  The two small windows were partially covered by blankets to help with insulation and privacy.  We entered through the kitchen.  There was a refrigerator and cook stove.  The lack of cabinets meant that the non-perishables they had were stacked on the counter and other available spaces.  The kitchen table was a metal table that certainly was made prior to the 1950’s.  The kitchen and living room were actually one space, perhaps 10’x20′, separated only by the arrangement of furniture.  In the living room were the small recliner, an orange plastic chair and a television.  In the corner was a pile of several blankets and it made us wonder if this woman slept in the recliner.  Her daughter brought the single metal kitchen chair into the living area so we could all sit.

In the center of the space was a small wood stove.  My parents used wood to supplement their heat and this stove was probably only half the size of my parents.  The wood would have to be cut small to fit and the stove would need to be filled often.  I recalled that, the first time I had called this woman, she had told me they had a stove but no pipes to vent it.  I could see there were pipes now.  The stove was so old that I imagined it might have been in use since the 1800’s.

Off this main kitchen/living room, there was one bedroom, which had a door with a padlock on it.  It was the room her daughters shared and was padlocked when they were gone so none of their things would be stolen.  I cannot say how big the room was, but based on the size of the building, it was probably not much bigger than a queen sized mattress.  There was an indoor bathroom.

This woman was pleasant but had a difficult time talking because she was on oxygen full time.  She had been to the doctor’s just the day before for breathing issues.  She was due to have a lung scan soon.  She also had a difficult time moving around and I will have to assume that the two teenaged daughters must do much of the cooking and cleaning in that home.

We did not visit there long because it was such a physical strain on this woman to have company.  Personally, I’m not sure I could have stayed much longer because of my own reaction to the poverty that weighed down on me like a ton of bricks.

We left Oglala and drove to Pine Ridge to meet a woman who works with ONE Spirit for dinner at Subway.  Of course, there is only one road to get there and it is clogged with road construction.  You have to wait for a pilot car to follow through the construction and that wait can be 15 to 20 minutes if your timing is bad.

The meeting at Subway, however, was wonderful.  We spent much longer than expected there discussing rez life, various programs and individuals and much more.

After we ate, we returned to our room for a good night’s sleep.  It amazes me how tired you can get just driving around the reservation and talking to people.

 

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If you’re in IA and have passed a young man walking down the road with a golf club cart . . . without the clubs . . . you have had the honor of passing Dan Ross.  Dan is the young musician who has decided to “find himself” in a most unique manner.  He will be walking from IA to the OR coast to raise awareness of the needs of young people on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

Dan experienced one learning experience before he set out.  He suffered what he believed to be a knee injury.  In reality, it was a hip problem that caused his gait to be faulty, which then injured the knee.  The result is several life lessons:  preparation is important in any endeavor, even the most exciting; life will always throw us curve balls – adaptability is essential (hence the club cart for his backpack rather than his back); nature is even more capricious than life – things like hail can fall from the sky so having a shelter to wait out the storm safely can be a life saver.

You see, this endeavor has taken me along a philosophical route.  But I will update you a bit in the particulars of this walk as well.

As Dan walks through IA, he is fortunate to have the hospitality of the Rodemeyer home.  Lu’Ella Rodemeyer has picked Dan up from his stopping place for the night then returned him to that spot the next day to continue his walk.  Another lesson:  Friends are essential in life.  They can mean the difference between success and failure.  They can nurse us through our injuries and pain.  Rather than the isolation of a solo journey, Dan is finding the companionship of friends (new and old) is a blessing on the road.

In Dan’s last Facebook post of June 15th, he said,

A BIG THANK YOU to Lu and Dan Rodemeyer, Dan Winkowitsch, and Kurt and Corky Wolf for giving me a place to stay, feeding me and making me feel at home as I journey westward through Iowa!  Without your help I would not have made it this far.

So Dan has about 250 miles under his belt thus far.  And already lessons have been learned — or at least been available for the learning.  Imagine what the next approximately 1750 miles will bring!

If you want to follow Dan’s progress on a more detailed basis, check out the Facebook group Dan Ross Walks to the Pacifichttp://www.facebook.com/home.php?sk=group_125643704165866&ap=1

If you prefer a brief synopsis, stick with this blog.  I will continue to follow Dan’s progress and well as provide my philosophical take on his experiences.

If you want to donate to the cause that Dan hopes to raise funds for as he raises awareness of the youth needs on Pine Ridge Reservation, go to the ONE Spirit website:  http://nativeprogress.org

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