Working that Skirt: A $500 Challenge for Okiciyap

“What skirt,” you say?

Yesterday, volunteers for Okiciyap (we help) the Isabel Community, put the skirt on the trailer.

AND…we have a $500 challenge grant, good to tomorrow at midnight,

This donor is asking all the small donors to get together now….can you pitch in $5, $10, $15? It adds up quickly, believe me.

Right now, by my estimates we only have about $120 toward that challenge (correct me in the comments if I’m wrong). We have until midnight on Monday to qualify for the match. Can we do it drop by drop?

And when that challenge is up, another Kossack stepped forward with another challenge for next week…..

Here’s a photo update so you can see what your money is doing. Yesterday volunteers installed the skirt on the trailer.

Here they are:

Yes, everyone wants to help!

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Cutting the wood to size:

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There they go, working that skirt:

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Okiciyap is truly on the brink of success!

Won’t you help us get over this last hump, or forward this diary to someone who can?

(If you are financially pinched right now – which was me until a month ago –  please don’t feel guilty for not being able to send funds. You can help us by spreading the word and posting this story on your Facebook pages etc. We greatly appreciate ALL help here!)

We’re almost there. There is SUCH need on this reservation – 90% unemployment in winter, high youth suicide rates, and federal cuts in food stamps have further pinched the population.  A grassroots community group has come together to confront these issues – lets help them help themselves.

YOUR DONATION IS TAX-DEDUCTIBLE

If you would prefer to send a check:

Georgia Little Shield, Board Chair

Okiciyap

PO Box 172

225 W. Utah St

Isabel SD57633

So, here’s what YOU have helped Okiciyap do so far:

1. Host a Christmas dinner, where the members provided a healthy dinner and a safe and sober place to gather and open presents they had bought for the children, who otherwise had none. They even bought a Christmas tree with the funds:

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2. Move the trailer 30 miles to Isabel. Here’s moving day:

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3. And JUST YESTERDAY, the community CAME TOGETHER to help get the building into place. While they had to pay a professional plumber to install new pipes and hook them to the sewer line and an electrician to install electric boxes and get it going, the community came out to build the stairs and install new doors. So, this isn’t just a group of determined women, they have gotten the community involved. SUCCESS!!!

Group of volunteers

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The stairs

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Electric box

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Supplies for outside work

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Volunteer Ted installing the door

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Missing toilet in the bathroom

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Lights are on!

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Kitchen Faucet installed

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Look at all the room in there:

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These kids thank you

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P.S. Georgia is working through  severe, and chronic, back pain right now, exacerbated by abhorrent IHS health care. I figure if she can do all that in such pain, I can write this little diary and help this project succeed.

Georgia at Netroots Nation Austin

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First Nations News & Views: Okiciyap, the Dawes Act & Elders Get Heard from K-12 to College

Welcome to the fourth edition of First Nations News & Views. This weekly series is one element in the “Invisible Indians” project put together by Meteor Blades and me, with assistance from the Native American Netroots Group. Last week’s edition is here. In this edition you will find an update on the Cheyenne River Reservation Okiciyap project , this week in American Indian history, five news briefs and some bullet links. Click on any of the headlines below to take you directly to that section of News & Views or to any of our earlier editions.

Okiciyap (we help) the Isabel Community

It has been 182 years since the Indian Removal Act was signed into law by President Andrew Jackson. With tribes then and for decades afterward being forced onto reservations, and no Marshall Plan to help them rebuild after the Indian Wars, Native people are still struggling to stay alive. Many don’t make it. Fighting against all odds-of poverty, 80 percent unemployment, hunger, government bureaucracy, societal indifference-a few people stand as warriors to help their communities of limited means even when they themselves often don’t have enough means, living as they do on fixed incomes of $260 to $460 a month.

One of those warriors is Georgia Little Shield (Lakota). She was the director of Pretty Bird Woman House, a women’s shelter on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, from 2005 until 2010 when health problems forced her to quit. In 2007, the Daily Kos community helped raise more than $30,000 to keep Pretty Bird Woman House running.

In 2011, Little Shield’s health improved. On the Cheyenne River Reservation in north-central South Dakota due south of Standing Rock, she saw an important need for a community-strengthening program to fight poverty, hunger and the epidemic of teen suicide.

Okiciyap logo

So she founded Okiciyap, the Lakota word for we help, in Isabel, a reservation town of about 250 people. Okiciyap (we help) the Isabel Community‘s (501c3) first project is a food pantry “trying to keep families alive for one more winter.” The group has plans to build a youth center with a GED program “to keep our young people’s souls and spirits alive, too.”

Last summer, Okiciyap set up a temporary office in a small trailer. Later, a modular 40-foot by 60-foot building was donated. But it was located 30 miles from Isabel. Ten thousand dollars were needed to transport it, set foundation forms and skirt them. Another $10,000 is needed to set up utilities for one year until Okiciyap can obtain grants to keep the facility running on its own. Under the auspices of AndyT and betson08, netroots fundraising began in late October to pull together the needed $20,000. By the end of December enough money had been raised to transport the building to Isabel. The trek was completed Jan. 30.

Okiciyap Building move
The building being transported

Okiciyap Building move
The building arrives

Within Lakota culture everything is shared. There is great pride and pleasure in giving away any abundance of food, clothing and other possessions. There is traditionally no social hierarchy of haves and the have-nots. So even though Little Shield doesn’t always have much to share, she shares it anyway.

After Thanksgiving last November, betson08 discovered that Little Shield didn’t have enough money to buy a turkey for her own family, but she still cooked what she had and invited people who needed food. The week before Christmas betson08 learned the same thing was going to happen. The Daily Kos community rallied again and raised enough for Little Shield to provide a holiday banquet for the community plus provide toys for the kids.

The Okiciyap fund-raising widget has now been stuck at $10,580 for a month. That $9420 still needed will allow Okiciyap to tie into the city’s water and sewer system plus cover the cost of electricity and provide basic office equipment and supplies.

Little Shield’s appearance below is one of satisfaction in watching the new building arrive. She’s embarking on an ambitious new project that she hopes will help her community tremendously. The Daily Kos community has a stake in helping her succeed.

Georgia Little Shield, watching as her new building is being placed
Georgia Little Shield watches as the new building arrives

– navajo

Navajo Wedding Basket divider, Navajo Wedding Basket divider

This Week in American Indian History in 1887

Sen. Henry Dawes of Massachusetts

(Library of Congress)

February 8th marked the 125th anniversary of President Grover Cleveland’s signing of the Dawes Act. That single piece of legislation had a more devastating impact on Native Americans than anything other than the century-long Indian Wars themselves. And it was initiated by people who actually believed they had Indians’ best interests at heart. Before it and follow-up acts were effectively repealed 47 years later by the Indian Reorganization Act, 90 million acres had been wrenched from communally owned Indian land, leaving just a third of what the tribes had held in 1886, the year Geronimo, the last organized warrior, surrendered and was shipped off to prison. What land wasn’t directly taken was “allotted” to individuals. Taking and dividing the land coincided with a stepped-up effort to destroy Native culture, religion and governance, in effect, “Indianness.”

Named after Sen. Henry L. Dawes, who headed the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, the law was the culmination of practices toward Indians that had begun within a decade of the Pilgrim landing at Plymouth. Boiled down to their essence, those policies said to Indians: Get out of our way, or else. Even getting out of the way often wasn’t enough to prevent the “or else.” The Dawes Act itself arose at least partly out of the influence of a book written by Helen Hunt Jackson in 1881, A Century of Dishonor. It was the Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee of the 19th Century, documenting the bloodthirsty avarice and corruption that had suffused Indian-U.S. relations all those decades since the first war in 1788. Jackson didn’t live to see the Dawes Act passed, but she would no doubt have approved.

(This Week in American Indian History continued below)

The intent was assimilation, “killing the Indian to save the man,” turning Indians into farmers of acreage they held individually, altering gender roles, shattering kinship connections, breaking up communal land and tribal government, and, ultimately, wiping out reservations altogether. Officials thought this would be better for everyone as Indians adopted norms of the dominant culture. It would certainly be good for transferring some prime real estate.

Helen Hunt Jackson’s 1881 exposé

What the new law did was allot 160 acres to each head of household and 80 acres to each single adult over 18. This land would be held in federal trust for 25 years, after which ownership and citizenship would go to Indians still working their allotment. To take full possession of any land a woman had to be officially married. All inherited land passed through the male head of household. This broke the tradition of tribes with matrilineal heritages.

“Surplus” land, that is, what was left after allotments, was flung open to white settlement and ownership. That was the provision’s most likeable quality for congressmen and businessmen who would just have soon have slaughtered or starved every Indian still alive. Half the Great Sioux Reservation was sold to outsiders after Indian allotments were distributed.

As Youngstown University Asst. Prof. G. Mehera Gerardo has noted, even before the ink was dry on the act, speculators were making deals to trade or buy Indian lands. But they mostly postponed development for fear the government would confiscate what they’d shadily acquired before the trust period expired. Thus were many Indians able to keep to their traditional ways of life for another decade, treating the land as if it were still held communally, even though they’d already bargained their allotments away. State and local governments soon found ways around the law to permit outsiders to buy allotments. Hemmed in by fences, cut off by private ownership of forests and riverine areas, Indians now found themselves no longer able to subsist on hunting and fishing.

Meanwhile, funds from the sale of reservation land, which were supposed to benefit the tribes, were mismanaged, often not paid for decades, sometimes outright embezzled. Money that did make it to the proper federal accounts was often used for things Indians did not find worthwhile. The late historian Melissa L. Meyer wrote, “Facile generalizations about Anishinaabe dependence on welfare gratuities mask the fact that they essentially financed their own ‘assimilation.'”

Thanks to the lobbying of those for whom no amount of freed-up Indian land was enough, new federal legislation was passed in 1906 to allow Indians to sell their allotments well before the end of the trust period. Many, hating farming or broke from trying, sold at rock-bottom prices. Those who had actually received land suitable for farming, and much of it was not, couldn’t afford the tools, seed, animals and other supplies required. Small government grants were insufficient and most could obtain no credit. They had received no training. Even if parents knew how to farm, children coerced into boarding schools came home years later without the necessary skills. Inherited land was often divided among too many heirs to be large enough to farm.

The dispossession was wildly successful. Partly as a consequence of the act, by 1900 the American Indian population had fallen to its lowest point in U.S. history, about 237,000.

– Meteor Blades

FNNVs News Briefs Divider, San Serif

North Dakotans Still Fighting Over ‘Fighting Sioux’ Name

Petitioners for a statewide referendum to keep the University of North Dakota’s “Fighting Sioux” nickname have exceeded by several thousand the 13,452 signatures they needed to get the issue on the June 12 ballot, according to Secretary of State Al Jaeger. He now has a month to ensure that the signatures are valid.

The fight over the nickname and an accompanying logo of an Indian in feathers has been going on for decades. In 2006, the NCAA instituted a policy requiring schools to abandon nicknames, logos and mascots considered “hostile and abusive” to American Indians. Any school that chose to ignore the policy would be sanctioned by not being allowed to host championship games nor wear its team logo at postseason games. Exceptions were made for schools that got consent from relevant tribes to keep using their nicknames. Tribal permission was obtained for the University of Utah Utes, Central Michigan University Chippewas and Florida State University Seminoles. FSU even got to keep its Appaloosa-riding “Chief Osceola” mascot.

UND took a different approach. It sued. But it lost. In the settlement it agreed that if it could not gain consent from the two Sioux tribes in North Dakota by the end of November 2010, it would begin retiring the nickname and logo. But the university could only get one of the two tribes to agree. A vote by the 6700-member Spirit Lake Tribe (Sisseton Wahpeton), which has long been active in support of keeping the name, approved UND’s request by a 2-1 margin. Tribal member Frank Black Cloud told Time magazine in December: “Why should the NCAA come in and tell us that we should be offended?”

However, the tribal council of the 8900-member Standing Rock Tribe (Lakota, Yanktonai, Dakota) rejected the name. It refused to hold a tribal vote, however, and would not accept petitions seeking a vote of the whole tribe. Councils of other Sioux and non-Sioux tribes, like North Dakota’s Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, have passed resolutions against keeping the name.

The North Dakota legislature responded by passing a law in April 2011 requiring UND to keep the “Fighting Sioux” name and threatening an anti-trust lawsuit against the NCAA if it imposed sanctions. With the law in hand at a meeting last August in Indianapolis, top UND officials, North Dakota legislators and the governor met with the NCAA to get it to change its decision. In a completely unsurprising move, Spirit Lake was not asked to participate. “How can we not have a seat at the table?” Black Cloud complained.

After the NCCA refused to budge, the legislature backed off, repealing the pro-nickname law in November. UND immediately began removing the logo and name from its web sites, ordering new uniforms with a simple “ND” in a circle on them and making other changes that officials estimate will cost $750,000. Under the law, no new name can be chosen until the end of a 36-month “cooling-off period.”

Faced with the imminent switchover, citizen petitioners, including a few Indians from both Spirit Lake and Standing Rock, began gathering signatures. Because of the way referendums work in North Dakota, the repeal of the pro-nickname law is now held in abeyance until the balloting takes place. To comply with the law, the UND president has reinstated the “Fighting Sioux” name. Meanwhile, another group of is circulating a separate petition that advocates a pro-nickname amendment to the North Dakota Constitution. They need 26,904 signatures to get the issue on the ballot for November.

Even if one or both referendums pass, however, there is another sticking point. More and more schools are saying they will refuse to compete with UND if it continues the “Fighting Sioux” nickname. Here is a comprehensive timeline of the Fighting Sioux controversy.

-Meteor Blades

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Interior Dept. Set to Clean Up Dawes Act Mess

Elouise Cobell

The Interior Department announced Feb. 2 that it plans to spend $1.9 million to buy fractionated American Indian lands and restore them to the tribes. The program stems from the historic $3.4 billion settlement in Cobell v. Salazar, a class-action lawsuit filed over a century’s worth of gross mismanagement of royalties for Indian trust lands. The suit was brought by the late Elouise Cobell (Niitsítapi [Blackfoot]), also known as Yellow Bird Woman.

The proposal is open for public comment until March 15. Nothing will move forward on it until four appeals of the Cobell settlement are dealt with. A key issue in those suits is that the settlement failed to uncover even a close approximation of how much money got “lost” from the federal land trust accounts.

The fractionation emerged out the tribe-smashing Dawes Act of 1887 that allotted lands to individual Indians and opened the “surplus” to non-Indians. Over several generations, the heirs of these allotments found themselves owning smaller and smaller plots unsuitable for farming or any other commercial uses and unsalable because of the logistics of getting all owners to agree. Original allotments ranged from 80 to 320 acres, depending on the status of the individual Indian and the location of the land. Some allotments now have as many as 1000 owners, many of whom are unaware they even own their small piece. The Associated Press says the Interior Department has identified 88,638 fractionated land tracts owned by nearly 2.8 million people.

Over 10 years, the program will work first on tracts with the most owners, targeting land that will take the least preparatory effort to gain a controlling interest. No individuals will be forced to sell their allotments. Once a buy is completed, the land will be returned to communal ownership by the tribe, the very thing the Dawes Act tried to destroy.

John Dossett, the general counsel for the Native Congress of American Indians, said the draft proposal appears to address most of the tribes’ major concerns. Of particular importance was that the tribes be involved in implementing and administering the land consolidation program through cooperative agreements, which are addressed in the draft plan.

“It’s a problem that has been sitting around for a hundred years or more,” he said. “I think tribes are really interested in doing this right. You don’t get a do-over on $1.9 billion.”

Cobell died in October a few months after the settlement was approved by a federal judge.

-Meteor Blades

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GOP Exploits Navajo Division Over EPA Toxic Rule

Wahleah Johns

House Republicans were at it again last week, seeking to justify their opposition to the imposition of stricter guidelines for mercury emissions by the Environmental Protection Agency. At a hearing of the Subcommittee on Energy and Power, they used a ploy that has a long history in Indian-U.S. relations, finding an Indian who will go along with whatever it is particular politicians want while excluding Indians who don’t.

In this case, the Indian on the GOP witness list was Navajo Attorney General Harrison Tsosie. Like Navajo Nation President Ben Shelley, Tsosie opposes the EPA’s four-year time-line for complying with the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS), which imposes national limits on lead, arsenic, mercury and acid gases emitted from power plants that burn coal and oil. Tsosie said power plants in and around the Navajo Nation would need 20 to 25 years to upgrade. Those plants include Navajo, Cholla, Four Corners, San Juan and Escalante. He said the toxic rule would also force the shut down of coal mines on the Navajo Nation.

“Indian nations are often cited as being pockets of poverty … and the one common denominator is pervasive federal control,” Tsosie [testified]. “The United States EPA MACT rule is no exception and adds yet another regulatory burden tribes are left to contend with.” […] “Revenue and job losses of that magnitude would be cataclysmic for the Navajo Nation and its people, and would certainly impugn the very solvency of the Navajo Nation government,” his written testimony said.

Tsosie’s wife, Gerilyn (Navajo), works in an administrative job with BHP Billiton, the Australia-based mineral and energy giant with worldwide coal operations, including in the United States. Tsosie’s view is not shared by all Navajos, especially those who live near the generating stations. Waheah Johns of the Black Mesa Water Coalition is one of those. She was born atop Black Mesa, land sacred to the Navajo and Hopi. The mesa, which rises suddenly from the dry, red plains around it, was the centerpiece of a bitter three-decade battle over strip-mining and water use, which pitted the Bureau of Indians Affairs and Peabody Coal against the tribes and the tribes against each other. Not only does Johns support the EPA standards, she “doesn’t buy the job loss argument”:

“[W]e’re very happy the EPA stood their ground on behalf of our children. Just think how many Navajos are going to be employed installing the new equipment,” she said. “This rule is going to create jobs, not destroy them. […] It opens the door wide for alternative energy.”

The EPA toxic release inventory says the five big power plants around the Navajo Nation collectively have released 14.6 million pounds of mercury, chromium, lead, nickel and hydrochloric acid into the air in the past 10 years.

-Meteor Blades with a h/t to Aji and John Walke

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Nation’s First Tribally Owned Wind Farm Planned for Maine

Passamaquoddy Chief Clayton Cleaves

(Photo by Joyce Scott)

Joining a growing number of tribes installing renewable energy operations on their land, the Passamaquoddys of Maine hope to have between 18 and 50 wind turbines generating electricity for up to 21,000 homes by 2013. To get there requires passing through a few bureaucratic hoops, including the purchase of surplus government land. The remote location of the proposed wind farm is now home to blueberry barrens and cranberry bogs and an abandoned Air Force radar site. Because all the land involved is held for the tribe in federal trust, only federal permits will be required to install the wind turbines.

The $120 million wind farm is a joint project of the tribe and the Boise, Idaho-based Exergy Development Group. It will be called Peskotmuhkati Wind LLC (after the Indians’ own word for Passamaquoddy). Clayton Cleaves (Passamaquoddy), chief of the Pleasant Point reservation. said his tribe own 51 percent of the project and will invest profits in other local projects. additional projects. “This can be a key economic driver for the Passamaquoddy Tribe,” he said.

Tribal ownership of the wind farm is unique. That arrangement took place on the advice of John Richardson, a consultant the tribe hired for the project. Richardson, formerly Commissioner of the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development and at one time Speaker of the House of Representatives in the Maine legislature, is a principal in Native Power LLC. The firm’s goal is to ensure majority ownership by tribes of project relying on wind, solar and other renewable resources. Peskotmuhkati Wind is its first effort. No U.S. tribe currently has such ownership of any large-scale energy projects on tribal lands.

Richardson said that seeing the project succeed was very important to him because of the struggling economy in Washington County. “What is most significant is that because the wind project will be owned by the tribe, the majority of revenues created by the wind farm and other businesses will remain in Washington County,” he said. “This could be a game changer for the county.” […]

“We became interested in this project because it is a first-of-its-kind development of a commercial-scale wind power project that is uniquely owned with Native Americans,” James Carkulis, president and CEO of Exergy said Tuesday. “We have also been highly encouraged by the Department of Energy and the Bureau of Indian Affairs analyses that we are a national model of how to navigate development and financing of renewable energy projects on tribal lands.”

-Meteor Blades

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American Indian Elders Incorporated into Learning Curriculum at Schools

As a result of the modern battle over over fishing and treaty rights in the 1980s, Act 31 was passed  into Wisconsin law in 1991 to require K-12 schools to learn about federally recognized American Indian tribes and bands in the state. University of Wisconsin-Green Bay established The First Nations Center in 2009 to help teachers better understand this requirement. In recent years UW-Green Bay has enhanced this program by including one-on-one training with tribal elders to further help future educators have a more accurate knowledge of American Indian culture and in particular, a better understanding of nearby tribes.

This good news comes on the heels of last week’s report of a 7th grader being punished instead of praised for speaking her Native language in class at Sacred Heart Catholic School, also in Wisconsin. This boarding school-like incident is the very situation Act 31 was designed to try to prevent. UW-Green Bay also recognizes that weak stabs, such as making paper head-dresses for elementary programs or dance performances for older students, is not a true fulfillment of the legal requirement for which there are no enforcement provisions.

David Turney Sr. Menominee
Elder David Turney Sr. (Menominee)

Elder David Turney Sr. (Menominee), who also goes by the name Napos, teaches Menominee Ethnohistory and Introduction to First Nations Studies as an adjunct lecturer at UW-Green Bay. For example, he uses his tribal religion to teach the seven principles of the Menominee Nation. Turney teaches the one-word Menominee guidelines translated into English phrases meaning to have love and goodness, search for knowledge, have strength to help others, build wisdom to teach one day as an elder, respect everything, and to be humble and be truthful. He says, each these should be a factor in how you make your decisions to control the way you live on this earth.

UW-Green Bay’s program is a work in progress to address continuing stereotypes and help students to gain an appreciation of the various tribal cultures.

Wilson De Vore
Wilson De Vore (Navajo)

At Northwest High School in Shiprock, N.M., Wilson De Vore (Navajo) is the first traditional counselor in the district to use Navajo culture to help students. De Vore helps his Native students with their identity issues and feels he can relate to them because he also was a problem student. He uses the Hero Twins, deities in Navajo religion, to tie students to their culture, not for conversion but to reinforce their pride.


The twins, as legend has it, visited Spider Woman to learn the identity of their father. After learning he was the Sun, the boys traveled to him, seeking weapons that would allow them to defend their people against the monsters and create harmony.

One of the twins, Monsterslayer, confronts the negativity in life […] and his brother follows to generate resolution.

Students are encouraged to use the story to find resolution to modern struggles.

“I feel students have monsters today, life struggles that cause imbalance,” he said. “I tell the students that in each of them lies the Hero Twins. You have a choice. You can go about using aggression or you can go about creating balance and harmony.”

De Vore plans to build a sweat lodge on campus and bring appropriate Navajo ceremony experiences to the students and faculty. He says traditional teachings can be incorporated into every academic subject.

Alyce Spotted Bear
Dr. Alyce Spotted Bear

(Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara)

Dr. Alyce Spotted Bear (Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara), a former tribal chairwoman of the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota and recently appointed by President Obama to serve on the National Advisory Committee on Indian Education, is now part of the Native American Center’s Elder-in-Residence program at Fort Lewis College in Colorado.

The Elder-in-Residence program brings prominent individuals from the American Indian community to meet with staff and students in an effort to increase knowledge and understanding of First Nations Cultures at the college.

E. B. Eiselein
E.B. Eiselein,

Speaks Lightning

(Anishinaabe)

Here at Daily Kos we have another example of utilizing traditional experts in education.  Dr. E. B. Eiselein (Anishinaabe), who writes here and at Native American Netroots as Ojibwa, has been teaching Native American Studies at Flathead Valley Community College for the past 30 years. He says, one of the challenges in teaching in a college environment is that it is not appropriate to teach some things, particularly regarding ceremonial traditions, in this context. As a traditional ceremonial leader he does invite students to participate in open ceremonies. His course description on Native American Spirituality is here.

– navajo

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Oglala Restores Wounded Knee Mass Grave Site: Volunteering his time, masonry materials and his all-Native employee labor to renovate the 121-year-old cemetery, Julian Brown Eyes (Oglala Sioux Tribe) honors the men, women and children who were murdered by the 7th Cavalry in December 1890.

– navajo

UPDATE:  S.D. House Panel Rejects Flag with Medicine Wheel Motif: The traditional state flag touting the Mount Rushmore monument will not change to a design honoring indigenous tribes. But if tradition had been honored in the first place the sacred Black Hills would not have been carved with the faces of its conquerors. (See brief in Feb. 5 News & Views.)

– navajo

Navajo Nation Wins One Uranium Waste Cleanup Fight : Tribal experts proved the Highway 160 waste-dumping site should have been part of the federal cleanup program that ended in 1997. The cleanup is now completed. The tribe has other waste sites it wants the government to remediate.

– navajo

California Tribes Strive to Keep Pomo Language Alive: Only a handful of fluent speakers of Southern Pomo are still live and they’re over 90. But, using a full array of modern technology, linguistics teacher Alex Walker is trying to revive the Northern California Indian language by teaching some 20 Pomos the idiom that their parents and grandparents were punished for speaking.

– Meteor Blades with a h/t to maggiejean

Ski Resort Wins Case to Make Wastewater Snow on Peaks Sacred to Tribes: The Save the Peaks Coalition and individual members of the Navajo Nation have been fighting a legal battle to prevent a ski resort from further desecrating the San Francisco Peaks near Flagstaff since 2005. The latest ruling allows Snowbowl to use 100% reclaimed sewer water to make snow, something not done anywhere else in the world.

– navajo

Oglala Sioux Sues Anheuser-Busch, MillerCoors, and Liquor Stores in White Clay: The tribe blames the huge beer makers for knowingly exploiting alcohol sales to liquor stores in White Clay, Neb., which has a dozen residents but sold nearly 5 million cans of beer in 2010. Nearby Pine Ridge reservation has struggled with alcohol abuse as a result of pervasive poverty since the 1800s.

– navajo

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Indians have often been referred to as the “Vanishing Americans.” But we are still here, entangled each in his or her unique way with modern America, blended into the dominant culture or not, full-blood or not, on the reservation or not, and living lives much like the lives of other Americans, but with differences related to our history on this continent, our diverse cultures and religions, and our special legal status. To most other Americans, we are invisible, or only perceived in the most stereotyped fashion.

First Nations News & Views is designed to provide a window into our world, each Sunday reporting on a small number of stories, both the good and the not-so-good, and providing a reminder of where we came from, what we are doing now and what matters to us. We wish to make it clear that neither Meteor Blades nor I make any claim whatsoever to speak for anyone other than ourselves, as individuals, not for the Navajo people or the Seminole people, the tribes in which we are enrolled as members, nor, of course, the people of any other tribes.

(We help)

( – promoted by navajo)

I don’t know about you, but I had parents who would pull the “starving children in Africa” thing if I was going to leave food on my plate.

Then one day I came up with something that made them quit. I held out my plate full of leftovers and said,

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“well, here, send it to them.”

That shut them both up.  Never again did I hear that stupid expression.

And that brings up Thanksgiving.

Many of us have a lot of leftovers in the fridge. We should be thankful for that.  But  like my parents, you can’t really send your extra food to hungry people.

But you can take out your credit card or checkbook and donate to a food pantry on the Cheyenne River Reservation, where, like on many Indian reservations, hunger is rampant during the winter.

 

The pantry is being run by an organization called Okiciyap (we help) the Isabel community, founded by Georgia Little Shield, the former director of Pretty Bird Woman House. She was the reason that shelter was so successful, but she couldn’t remain in that stressful position due to poor health.

However, just because she had to stop working full time didn’t mean she stopped trying to help her community. Now she and a group of women have formed a 501 c3 (official nonprofit) to run a food pantry and youth programs.

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The winters on many Indian reservations are terrible, not just because of the cold, but because of 80-95% unemployment. Here’s what Georgia has said about the situation:

The families around our reservations are on fixed incomes of 260.00 to 460.00 per month. This is per month. The people on the reservation fight to survive each month and the winters are so brutal that this is when we would need the food pantry more then at any other time of the year.

The food pantry has already started working on an ad hoc basis. Right now they are working out of a trailer lent them by a board member, and have obtained some food donations.  

Recently, a 30×60 building was donated but it is currently 30 miles from Isabel, where the project is located.  They have to bring it back to Isabel, and hook it up to utility services.

Here’s the breakout of what that’s going to cost:

Moving the Building      

Transport 30 miles                            $7000.00

Building forms to set building down       $2500.00

Skirting of building and new ramp         $2500.00

Total                                             $12,000.00  

This will be done by a contractor that knows how to transport the building and is a professional and will set and put the building together when it gets to Isabel. The build of the forms will be done by a cement contractor, Jackson’s cement out of Timer Lake SD. The skirting and ramps will be done by volunteers with the SD specification of disability Ramps.

Utilities:

One year Electricity                           $3000.00

One year water and sewer                   $780.00

One year Propane and Tank set up        $1800.00

Hook up to the to Town sewer and

Water pipes                               $2000.00

Total                                               $7580.00

We are requesting a one year utility for the building and when this year is up we should be able to have funds raised and applied for grants to run the building.  We will need to get hooked into the city sewer and water so we will have this done by the city.

Total amount requested  $19,580.00

Notice how they left out a computer and internet service? I rounded the figure to $20,000.

Here’s the group at work already:

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Here’s their website Okiciyap, where you can go to get more information.

To donate by credit card, just click on this ChipIn:

YOUR DONATION IS TAX-DEDUCTIBLE

If you would prefer to send a check:

Georgia Little Shield, Board Chair

Okiciyap

PO Box 172

225 W. Utah St

Isabel SD57633

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You can also send clothing donations to that address.

They’re starting from scratch from the grassroots. Lets give them a hand.

No dough, but willingness to help? Write some diaries on this with us!

Also, don’t forget that propane fundraiser that Navajo started….if you can do a little of both that would be great, but we are thankful for any help you can give for either one.

Nobody in the richest country in the world should be hungry or cold. These are small projects yes, but the services they provide makes a big difference in the lives of the people receiving them…and that means that even $5 makes a difference.

Here’s information on donating money for propane and/or propane heaters. The easiest way is to pick up the phone and call the company Navajo is working with, but there are other ways too:


Telephone:

Sherry Cornelius of St. Francis Energy Co.

at  6 0 5 – 7 4 7 – 2 5 4 2

11 AM – 6 PM MST EVERY DAY

Ask for Sherry or her mom Patsy. Normally a minimum order is $150, but they have an account to accumulate small donations to a minimum order. Credit Cards welcome and they are the only Native owned fuel company on Rosebud.  Rosebud is next to Pine Ridge Reservation and in the same economically depressed condition.

If you’d like to mail a check: [make check payable to: St. Francis Energy Co.]

Attn: Sherry or Patsy

St. Francis Energy Co. / Valandra’s II

P.O. Box 140

St. Francis, South Dakota 57572

NOT tax deductible

http://sfec.yolasite.com/

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We’re grateful for any assistance you can provide this holiday season, whether writing diaries on this or donating. Thank you to Dr. Erich Bloodaxe for starting this up again at DKos on Thanksgiving.

This is a community of helpers, so let’s help (we help).

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Cold, Hungry and Sick: Winter in Indian Country

( – promoted by navajo)

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I hate the winter. I especially hate the darkness and the cold. Yes, I have Seasonal Affective Disorder. But I also have a warm apartment and a job, even if I am underemployed right now….

But I’m only SAD….add unemployment, terrible housing, hunger pangs and a chronic health condition or two to this cold and darkness, and you have winter misery on many an Indian Reservation in this the richest country in the world.

On the reservations in the Great Plains and many other places in this country, the unemployment rate hits 80 or 90 percent in the winter.  Saying that the housing is God awful is an understatement; homes leak like a sieve and the only thing people have only to try to keep out the cold are sheets of plastic. The unemployed and the elderly in particular don’t have enough money to heat their homes in the winter. That’s why navajo began the propane drive last year.

So, people are freezing cold in the winter, but they’re also hungry, and tend to have  health problems that aren’t helped any by the hunger and cold.

More below the orange squiggle…and action you can take if this travesty infuriates you as much as it does me.  At the end of the day, this is an action diary.

While I was writing this I started to think about the Occupy Wall Street movement, and whether it’s really aware of the plight of the people at the bottom 1% of the 99%. So then a post came through on my Facebook friend’s page written by Deborah White Plume about this very issue. She’s giving permission to use it, and someone is promising to read it the Occupy Cincinatti General Assembly meeting.

We have a long way to go to reclaim justice for everyone in this country:

I will believe the occupiers everywhere in their statements that they want their American Constitution upheld when they begin to speak the message that their Constitution, Article 6, includes Treaties are the Supreme Law and start to press their American Government and American People to honor the Ft Laramie Treaty with our Lakota Nation, Cheyenne Nation and other Nations that signed it.

The occupiers everywhere when they start to do this, then they are walking their talk. Until then, it is empty words as far as I am concerned and by their silence on this situation they are participating in the oppression of our people and their silence contributes to the genocide of my nation.

We are the poorest of the poor, our death rate is the highest, our suicide rate is the highest, our unemployment has been at 85% for the past five decades, we die young from curable illnesses, our water is contaminated, and American people send their $$ to other countries.

We are the Third World right here in the USA, created by the American Government and the continued Silence of the American People. We do not want your old used clothes. We want your ACTIVE, LOUD support for the enforcement of our Ft Laramie Treaty. -Debra White Plume

Cold

See navajo’s most recent diary with pictures of the people helped by the propane fundraiser last year, as well as info if you want to buy some more this year.

For more information on the “cold” issue, see her other diaries too:

Here we go again: Blizzard hits Dakotas

Band-Aid for the Lakotas

Pine Ridge: American Prisoner of War Camp #334

Revealing Pine Ridge Rez Demographic Information

You will be really well-informed just by reading those diaries…

Hungry

Many people reading this will have experienced hunger in their lifetimes, which may surprise you considering the demographics of this site. I know this because it comes up in the comments….

Researchers talk about hunger in terms of food insecurity. So, what is food insecurity?

Basically, food insecurity is not having enough food to meet basic needs. As you can imagine, food insecurity in general has been increasing across the U.S.

In 2009 to 2010, nationwide 20% of families with children had food hardship issues.

The Native American population is more likely to have food insecurity issues than the rest of the population. And households without children within that population tend to be even more food insecure. And it’s worse for people living in non-metropolitan areas. In the 1990s the rates were around 25%. I haven’t found more recent data but if you think about how it’s grown in the general population during that period, you will dread thinking about how food insecurity has grown in among American Indians and Alaska Natives.

And yet…

According to the Office of Minority Heath in HHS:

   

American Indian/Alaska Native women are 40% more likely than White women to be obese.

American Indian/Alaskan Natives are 1.6 times as likely to be obese than Non-Hispanic whites.

American Indian or Alaska Native adults (30.4%) were as likely as Black adults (30.8%) and less likely than White adults (40.9%) and Asian adults (62.8%) to be a healthy weight.

American Indian or Alaska Native women (29.4%) were less likely than Black women (36.6%) and more likely than White women (20.3%) and Asian women (5.8%) to be obese.

Actually, researchers have found a relationship between obesity/overweight and food insecurity.

It’s two sides of the same coin. You can imagine some of the reasons: poor people have access to less healthy food, whose concentrated fat and sugar are satiating but high in calories and low in nutritional value, there is often no or little fresh food available (this phenomenon is called a food desert, and it exists in many parts of the country), and where it is available, it’s more expensive.

I don’t know if you saw the 20/20 special Children of the Plains, but I notice the kid’s splotchy skin right away. That’s from poor nutrition.

Additionally, people who have to subsist eating lots of government commodities aren’t helped any in this regard, especially if they’re diabetic. Here’s the list of things provided under the government food program.

Sick: Health Disparities

Health disparities are serious differences in health access and outcomes experienced by racial, ethnic and sexual minorities.

For a good discussion and case studies on this issue and the relationship between  structural violence and poor health outcomes, see Dr. Paul Farmer’s book Pathologies of Power.

This is the health situation of the American Indian and Alaska Native population (IHS data)

American Indians and Alaska Natives die at higher rates than other Americans from tuberculosis (500% higher), alcoholism (514% higher), diabetes (177% higher), unintentional injuries (140% higher), homicide (92% higher) and suicide (82% higher). (Rates adjusted for misreporting of Indian race on state death certificates; 2004-2006 rates.)

The leading causes of death:  

Diseases of the heart, malignant neoplasm, unintentional injuries, diabetes mellitus, and cerebrovascular disease are the five leading causes of American Indian and Alaska Native deaths (2004-2006).

Dr David Jones cautions people to remember this when thinking about the reasons for health disparities among Native Americans:

The existence of disparities regardless of the underlying disease environment is actually a powerful argument against the belief that disparities reflect inherent susceptibilities of American Indian populations. Instead, the disparities in health status could arise from the disparities in wealth and power that have endured since colonization.  Such awareness must guide ongoing research and interventions if the disparities in health status between American Indians and the general population are ever to be eradicated.

Indirectly, he’s talking about structural violence.

Youth Suicide

One of the things that hunger, cold, and poverty can breed is hopelessness among the youth, especially those from families dealing with alcoholism, domestic violence and other problems. This has lead to astronomical suicide rates among the youth on many reservations.

1999-2007, American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) adolescents and young adults had the highest unadjusted death rate per 100,000 population among other age groups and races/ethnicities.

American Indian/Alaska Native youths had substantially greater rates of suicide than young persons of other races.

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If you go to minute 39 in this hour long documentary, The Canary Effect you will find a good description of the causes of this. It’s a very well done film and worth the hour to see it (this is the full video). It also mentions a suicide pact among 10 youths on the Cheyenne River Reservation (minute 44)

HOPE

OK, there’s more than enough despair to go around. But there IS hope too, and it’s coming from people on the reservations.

You might now be either numb, outraged, a combination of the two, and wondering what you can do to help.  

We’ve been doing a few things around here…first, under navajo’s  incredible leadership, making these issues visible. You can support Native American Netroots by visiting the site, and commenting on the diaries.

You may be also familiar with the project that Kossacks made possible, Pretty Bird Woman House, which is the only women’s shelter on the Standing Rock Reservation. It’s still functioning, but without the shelter director, Georgia Little Shield, whose determination was so instrumental in getting us motivated to raise enough money for a house. If Georgia puts her mind to something, it happens.

Georgia resigned for health reasons, but now she’s doing better, and has become the Board president of a new grassroots organization called Okiciyap (we help) the Isabel Community, which just received its tax status as a 501 (c) 3 organization. They have started a food pantry  and want to  (start youth development programs, including a GED program and counseling. You see, Isabel is 30 miles from Eagle Butte and often the youth can’t get there for schooling or other needs.

I would like to make this and the propane drive our seasonal action this year.

Right now they are working out of a trailer lent them by a board member, but a 30×60 building has been donated but they have to bring it back to Isabel. Here’s the breakout of what that’s going to cost:

Moving the Building      

Transport 30 miles                            $7000.00

Building forms to set building down       $2500.00

Skirting of building and new ramp         $2500.00

Total                                             $12,000.00  

This will be done by a contractor that knows how to transport the building and is a professional and will set and put the building together when it gets to Isabel. The Build of the forms will be done by a cement contractor Jackson’s cement out of Timer Lake SD. The skirting and Ramps will be done by volunteers with the SD specification of disability Ramps.

One year Electricity                           $3000.00

One year water and sewer                   $780.00

One year Propane and Tank set up        $1800.00

Hook up to the to Town sewer and

Water pipes                               $2000.00

Total                                               $7580.00

We are requesting a one year utility for the building and when this year is up we should be able to have fund raised and applied for grants to run the building.  We will need to get hooked into the city sewer and water so we will have this done by the city.

Total amount requested      $19,580.00

Notice how they left out a computer and internet service? I rounded the figure to $20,000

While we raise this money don’t think they’re just sitting around. This is a serious grassroots organization:

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I have started a website Okiciyap, where you can go to get more information.

Here are their goals:

   

To provide educational, recreational, cultural, health and lifelong learning opportunities for youth and adults.

To offer educational advancement opportunities for adults and seniors.

To ensure that no one in Isabel or in surrounding areas goes hungry

If you would prefer to send a check:

Georgia Little Chair, Board Chair

Okiciyap

PO Box 172

225 W. Utah St

Isabel SD57633

They’re starting from scratch from the grassroots. Lets give them a hand.

No dough, but willingness to help? Write some diaries on this with us!

Revealing Pine Ridge Rez Demographic Information

This diary was inspired by the recommended diary Suicide State Of Emergency On Pine Ridge Reservation by Winter Rabbit.

Permission granted to post the following in its entirety:

The Arrogance of Ignorance:

Hidden Away, Out of Sight and Out of Mind

Regarding life, conditions, and hope on the Pine Ridge Oglala Lakota (Sioux) Reservation of South Dakota

This is an article of facts about the lives of modern-day American Indians, a topic most mainstream American news organizations will not discuss. It is not a plea for charity.  It is not a promotion for non-profit organizations. It is not aimed for pity.  It is not even an effort to detail cause and effect.  It is, however, an effort to dispel ignorance…. a massive, pervasive, societal ignorance filled with illusions and caricatures which, ultimately, serve only to corrupt the intelligence and decent intent of the average mainstream citizen. Only through knowledge and understanding can solutions be found.  But facts must be known first.  Then, it is the reader’s choice what to do with those facts.

Reservations-South-Dakota

Hidden away, out of sight but dotting the landscape of America, are the little known or forgotten Reservations of the Indigenous People of our land.  Sadly, the average U.S. mainstream resident knows almost nothing about the people of the Native American reservations other than what romanticized or caricaturized versions they see on film or as the print media stereotypes of oil or casino-rich Indians.  Most assume that whatever poverty exists on a reservation is most certainly comparable to that which they might experience themselves. Further, they assume it is curable by the same means they would use.

But that is the arrogance of ignorance.

Our dominant society is accustomed to being exposed to poverty.  It’s nearly invisible because it is everywhere.  We drive through our cities with a blind eye, numb to the suffering on the streets, or we shake our heads and turn away, assuming help is on the way.  After all, it’s known that the government and the big charities are helping the needy in nearly every corner of the world.

But the question begs: What about the sovereign nations on America’s own soil, within this country, a part and yet apart from mainstream society?  What about these Reservations that few people ever see?

Oddly enough, the case could be made that more Europeans and Australians know and understand the cultures and conditions of our Indigenous people better Americans do.

Moreover, what the Europeans and Australians know is that there are a number of very fortunate Native American Nations whose people are able to earn a very good living due to casino income, natural resource income, a good job market from nearby cities, or from some other source.  They also know, however, that a staggering number of residents on Native American reservations live in abject, incomprehensible conditions rivaling, or even surpassing, that of many Third World countries.

This article chronicles just one Nation: the Oglala Lakota (Sioux) Nation of the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.  Yet the name and only a few details could easily be changed to describe a host of others…. the Dineh (Navajo), Ute Mountain Ute, Tohono O’odham, Pima, Yaqui, Apache, the Brule’ Lakota (Sioux) ….the list is long.

But this is not an article of hopelessness.  Despite nearly-insurmountable conditions, few resources, and against unbelievable odds, Nation after Nation of Indigenous leaders and their people are working hard to counteract decades of oppression and forced destruction of their cultures, to bring their citizens back to a life of self-respect and self-sufficiency in today’s world.

In the meantime, these words will serve simply to dispel a few illusions and make public part of that which is hidden away, out of sight, out of mind, in the richest country in the world.  It seeks to dispel the arrogance of ignorance.


 Demographic Information
  • The Pine Ridge Oglala Lakota (Sioux) Indian Reservation sits in Bennett, Jackson, and Shannon Counties and is located in the southwest corner of South Dakota, fifty miles east of the Wyoming border.
  • The 11,000-square mile (approximately 2,700,000 acres) Pine Ridge Reservation is the second-largest Native American Reservation within the United States.  It is roughly the size of the State of Connecticut.  According to the Oglala Sioux tribal statistics, approximately 1,700,000 acres of this land are owned by the Tribe or by tribal members.
  • The Reservation is divided into eight districts: Eagle Nest, Pass Creek, Wakpamni, LaCreek, Pine Ridge, White Clay, Medicine Root, Porcupine, and Wounded Knee.
  • The topography of the Pine Ridge Reservation includes the barren Badlands, rolling grassland hills, dryland prairie, and areas dotted with pine trees.
  • The Pine Ridge Reservation is home to approximately 40,000 persons, 35% of which are under the age of 18.  The latest Federal Census shows the median age to be 20.6 years.  Approximately half the residents of the Reservation are registered tribal members of the Oglala Lakota Sioux Nation.
  • According to the most recent Federal Census, 58.7% of the grandparents on the Reservation are responsible for raising their own grandchildren.
  • The population is slowly but steadily rising, despite the severe conditions on the Reservation, as more and more Oglala Lakota return home from far-away cities to live within their societal values, be with their families, and assist with the revitalization of their culture and their Nation.

Employment Information
  • Recent reports vary but many point out that the median income on the Pine Ridge Reservation is approximately $2,600 to $3,500 per year.
  • The unemployment rate on Pine Ridge is said to be approximately 83-85% and can be higher during the winter months when travel is difficult or often impossible.
  • According to 2006 resources, about 97% of the population lives below Federal poverty levels.
  • There is little industry, technology, or commercial infrastructure on the Reservation to provide employment.
  • Rapid City, South Dakota is the nearest town of size (population approximately 57,700) for those who can travel to find work.  It is located 120 miles from the Reservation.  The nearest large city to Pine Ridge is Denver, Colorado located some 350 miles away.

Life Expectancy and Health Conditions

  • Some figures state that the life expectancy on the Reservation is 48 years old for men and 52 for women. Other reports state that the average life expectancy on the Reservation is 45 years old.  These statistics are far from the 77.5 years of age life expectancy average found in the United States as a whole.  According to current USDA Rural Development documents, the Lakota have the lowest life expectancy of any group in America.
  • Teenage suicide rate on the Pine Ridge Reservation is 150% higher than the U.S. national average for this age group.
  • The infant mortality rate is the highest on this continent and is about 300% higher than the U.S. national average.
  • More than half the Reservation’s adults battle addiction and disease.  Alcoholism, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and malnutrition are pervasive.
  • The rate of diabetes on the Reservation is reported to be 800% higher than the U.S. national average.
  • Recent reports indicate that almost 50% of the adults on the Reservation over the age of 40 have diabetes.
  • As a result of the high rate of diabetes on the Reservation, diabetic-related blindness, amputations, and kidney failure are common.
  • The tuberculosis rate on the Pine Ridge Reservation is approximately 800% higher than the U.S. national average.
  • Cervical cancer is 500% higher than the U.S. national average.
  • It is reported that at least 60% of the homes on the Pine Ridge Reservation are infested with Black Mold, Stachybotrys.  This infestation causes an often-fatal condition with infants, children, elderly, those with damaged immune systems, and those with lung and pulmonary conditions at the highest risk.  Exposure to this mold can cause hemorrhaging of the lungs and brain as well as cancer.
  • A Federal Commodity Food Program is active but supplies mostly inappropriate foods (high in carbohydrate and/or sugar) for the largely diabetic population of the Reservation.
  • A small non-profit Food Co-op is in operation on the Reservation but is available only for those with funds to participate.


Health Care
  • Many Reservation residents live without health care due to vast travel distances involved in accessing that care.  Additional factors include under-funded, under-staffed medical facilities and outdated or non-existent medical equipment.
  • Preventive healthcare programs are rare.
  • In most of the treaties between the U.S. Government and Indian Nations, the U.S. government agreed to provide adequate medical care for Indians in return for vast quantities of land.  The Indian Health Services (IHS) was set up to administer the health care for Indians under these treaties and receives an appropriation each year to fund Indian health care. Unfortunately, the appropriation is very small compared to the need and there is little hope for increased funding from Congress. The IHS is understaffed and ill-equipped and can’t possibly address the needs of Indian communities.  Nowhere is this more apparent than on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

Education Issues
  • School drop-out rate is over 70%.
  • According to a Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) report, the Pine Ridge Reservation schools are in the bottom 10% of school funding by U.S. Department of Education and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
  • Teacher turnover is 800% that of the U.S. national average.


Housing Conditions and Homelessness
  • The small BIA/Tribal Housing Authority homes on the Pine Ridge Reservation are overcrowded and scarce, resulting in many homeless families who often use tents or cars for shelter.  Many families live in old cabins or dilapidated mobile homes and trailers.
  • According to a 2003 report from South Dakota State University, the majority of the current Tribal Housing Authority homes were built from 1970-1979.  The report brings to light that a great percentage of that original construction by the BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs) was “shoddy and substandard.”  The report also states that 26% of the housing units on the Reservation are mobile homes, often purchased or obtained (through donations) as used, low-value units with negative-value equity.
  • Even though there is a large homeless population on the Reservation, most families never turn away a relative no matter how distant the blood relation. Consequently, many homes often have large numbers of people living in them.
  • In a recent case study, the Tribal Council estimated a need for at least 4,000 new homes in order to combat the homeless situation.
  • There is an estimated average of 17 people living in each family home (a home which may only have two to three rooms).  Some larger homes, built for 6 to 8 people, have up to 30 people living in them.
  • Over-all, 59% of the Reservation homes are substandard.
  • Over 33% of the Reservation homes lack basic water and sewage systems as well as electricity.
  • Many residents must carry (often contaminated) water from the local rivers daily for their personal needs.
  • Some Reservation families are forced to sleep on dirt floors.
  • Without basic insulation or central heating in their homes, many residents on the Pine Ridge Reservation use their ovens to heat their homes.
  • Many Reservation homes lack adequate insulation.  Even more homes lack central heating.
  • Periodically, Reservation residents are found dead from hypothermia (freezing).
  • It is reported that at least 60% of the homes on the Pine Ridge Reservation need to be burned to the ground and replaced with new housing due to infestation of the potentially-fatal Black Mold, Stachybotrys.  There is no insurance or government program to assist families in replacing their homes.
  • 39% of the homes on the Pine Ridge Reservation have no electricity.
  • The most common form of heating fuel is propane.  Wood-burning is the second most common form of heating a home although wood supplies are often expensive or difficult to obtain.
  • Many Reservation homes lack basic furniture and appliances such as beds, refrigerators, and stoves.
  • 60% of Reservation families have no land-line telephone.  The Tribe has recently issued basic cell phones to the residents.  However, these cell phones (commonly called commodity phones) do not operate off the Reservation at all and are often inoperable in the rural areas on the Reservation or during storms or wind.
  • Computers and internet connections are very rare. [written in 2006]
  • Federal and tribal heat assistance programs (such as LLEAP) are limited by their funding.  In the winter of 2005-2006, the average one-time only payment to a family was said to be approximately $250-$300 to cover the entire winter.  For many, that amount did not even fill their propane heating tanks one time.

Life on the Reservation
  • Most Reservation families live in rural and often isolated areas.
  • The largest town on the Reservation is the village of Pine Ridge which has a population of approximately 5,720 people and is the administrative center for the Reservation.
  • There are few improved (paved) roads on the Reservation and most of the rural homes are inaccessible during times of rain or snow.
  • Weather is extreme on the Reservation.  Severe winds are always a factor.  Traditionally, summer temperatures reach well over 110°F and winters bring bitter cold with temperatures that can reach – 50°F or worse.  Flooding, tornados, or wildfires are always a risk.
  • The Pine Ridge Reservation still has no banks, discount stores, or movie theaters.  It has only one grocery store of any moderate size and it is located in the village of Pine Ridge on the Reservation.  A motel just opened in 2006 near the Oglala Lakota College at Kyle, South Dakota.  There are said to be about 8 Bed and Breakfast or campsite locations found across the Reservation but that number varies from time to time since most are part of a private home.
  • Several of the banks and lending institutions nearest to the Reservation have been targeted for investigation of fraudulent or predatory lending practices, with the citizens of the Pine Ridge Reservation as their victims.
  • There are no public libraries except one at the Oglala Lakota College.
  • There is 1 radio station on the Pine Ridge Reservation.  KILI 90.1FM is located near the town of Porcupine on the Reservation.

Transportation

  • There is no public transportation available on the Reservation.
  • Only a minority of Reservation residents own an operable automobile.
  • Predominant form of travel for all ages on the Reservation is walking or hitchhiking.
  • There is one very small airport on the Reservation servicing both the Pine Ridge Reservation and Shannon County.  It’s longest, paved runway extends 4,969 feet.  There are no commercial flights available.  The majority of flights using the airport are Federal, State, or County Government-related.
  • The nearest commercial airport and/or commercial bus line is located in Rapid City, South Dakota (approximately 120 miles away).


Alcoholism
  • Alcoholism affects 8 out of 10 families on the Reservation.
  • The death rate from alcohol-related problems on the Reservation is 300% higher than the remaining US population.
  • The Oglala Lakota Nation has prohibited the sale and possession of alcohol on the Pine Ridge Reservation since the early 1970’s.  However, the town of Whiteclay, Nebraska (which sits 400 yards off the Reservation border in a contested “buffer” zone) has approximately 14 residents and four liquor stores which sell over 4,100,000 cans of beer each year resulting in a $3,000,000 annual trade.  Unlike other Nebraska communities, Whiteclay exists only to sell liquor and make money. It has no schools, no churches, no civic organizations, no parks, no benches, no public bathrooms, no fire service and no law enforcement.  Tribal officials have repeatedly pleaded with the State of Nebraska to close these liquor stores or enforce the State laws regulating liquor stores but have been consistently refused.


Water and Aquifer Contamination
  • Many wells and much of the water and land on the Reservation is contaminated with pesticides and other poisons from farming, mining, open dumps, and commercial and governmental mining operations outside the Reservation.  A further source of contamination is buried ordnance and hazardous materials from closed U.S. military bombing ranges on the Reservation.
  • Scientific studies show that the High Plains/Oglala Aquifer which begins underneath the Pine Ridge Reservation is predicted to run dry in less than 30 years due to commercial interest use and dryland farming in numerous states south of the Reservation.  This critical North American underground water resource is not renewable at anything near the present consumption rate.  The recent years of drought have simply accelerated the problem.
  • Scientific studies show that much of the High Plains/Oglala Aquifer has been contaminated with farming pesticides and commercial, factory, mining, and industrial contaminants in the States of South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas.


Sovereignty and Tribal Government
  • By Treaty, the Tribal nations are considered to have sovereign governmental status.  They have a special government to government relationship with the United States.  Interactions with the U.S. Government and the Department of Interior (and its Bureau of Indian Affairs) are supposed to be through Treaty negotiations and most Federal programs (such as Indian Health Services) were purchased by the Tribal nations (usually with land) and guaranteed by Treaty.  This is specifically true for the Oglala Lakota (Sioux) Nation of the Pine Ridge Reservation.
  • The Oglala Lakota (Sioux) Tribal government operates under a constitution consistent with the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 and approved by the Tribal membership and Tribal Council of the Oglala Lakota (Sioux) Tribe. The Tribe is governed by an elected body consisting of a 5 member Executive Committee and an 18 member Tribal Council, all of whom serve a two year term.


Hope
  • Currently, there are various efforts underway to implement innovative techniques and solutions to Reservation problems.  These projects include community volunteer groups, alternative education programs, wind or water energy initiatives, substance abuse programs, cultural and language programs, employment opportunities, cottage industries, promotion of artists and musicians, small co-op businesses, etc.  However, funding for these programs is highly limited.
  • There are several very small projects now working to help with the housing shortage.  Some of these involve using donated mobile homes, community-built sod housing, other community-built housing (such as Habitat for Humanity), exploring possible use of unused FEMA mobile homes, and other alternate solutions.  Unfortunately, funding is highly limited.
  • The Tribal Council Housing Authority is working as hard as it can to build new homes and repair existing structures but it is limited by the small, limited amount of funding available.
  • There are a few reputable small non-profit organizations attempting to sincerely assist the people of the Pine Ridge Reservation in their efforts to resolve and mitigate existing problems.  However, funding for these programs is currently highly limited.
  • There is one small independent (non-IHS) clinic on the Reservation at the community of Porcupine.  It was founded and is controlled by the Lakota community.  It just recently obtained its first dialysis machine and runs an aggressive program to combat diabetes.  However, funding is very limited and is obtained locally and through grants.
  • The Oglala Lakota are a determined, intelligent, and proud People who are working hard to over-come their Reservation problems.  Against all odds, with minimal resources, they are slowly working to re-claim their self-sufficiency, their culture, and their life.

These statistics concerning the Pine Ridge Oglala Lakota (Sioux) Reservation were compiled from Political, Educational, Government, Non-Profit, and Tribal Publications.  An earlier version was published by the same author in 2002 entitled, Hidden Away, in the Land of Plenty.

By Stephanie M. Schwartz,

Freelance Writer and Native Village advisor

Member, Native American Journalists Association

© October 15, 2006   Brighton, Colorado

SilvrDrach.homestead.com

H/T cacamp’s (Carter Camp)comment deserves a whole diary.

The conditions described above are from 2006 but they haven’t changed much. They are most likely worse due to two more years of Repub cutbacks and contributed to the tribal emergency declaration of 12/09. It’s important to remember what we are dealing with when we try to make things better for our reservations. Many of them are in almost the same condition as Pine Ridge. In addition to the teen problem of suicide there is also the gang problem.

Our team at Native American Netroots wants to focus on the section above about Hope but to begin that journey we need to understand the demographics.

Eagle Feather



Native American Netroots Summary of Our Efforts Since Feb. 1, 2010

The GOOD NEWS is:

The NOT SO GOOD NEWS is:

  • The majority of the online donations above benefit only one tribe.
  • LIHEAP assistance for northern states was cut so southern states (including Puerto Rico) could receive help. This terrible decision was based on unemployment levels. South Dakota’s unemployment rate is 5%. This decision ignores the 85% unemployment rate on many reservations.

    Already, lawmakers from northern states are lobbying for the remaining $100 million in emergency funding.

    Next winter’s funding is also being reduced. See ACTION links below.

  • You and I have to watch and make sure that any promised funding actually makes it to the reservations.
  • We are still waiting to hear from the producer Keith sent to South Dakota. I hope this isn’t the end of his coverage. We are sending positive energy in Keith’s direction to give him strength to deal with his father’s illness.
  • Many reservations across our nation need assistance with heat right now.

While the author above is not making a plea for charity, I am.

HOW YOU CAN MAKE A DONATION TO BUY PROPANE

Leave me a comment if you telephone and make a donation during this week, we are keeping track of matching funds.

I feel like I’ve tapped you guys out regarding emergency propane deliveries to Pine Ridge and Rosebud reservations. We need someone big to step in and give all our reservations some immediate assistance with heat. The problem will be on going until the warmer weather arrives in May or so. Our team is going to divide up and prod the large charities to release their funding STAT to help with heating resources. We need your help in putting pressure on government to increase LIHEAP funding for next winter, not reduce it as is planned for our reservations. Unemployment levels on reservations are often much higher than state levels.

Carter Camp has also mentioned that there is a huge need for a massive housing effort, one like the Marshall Plan that rebuilt parts of Europe after WWII. We are going to work on smaller plans like Habitat for Humanity but also the larger effort that Carter describes.

HOW YOU CAN TAKE ACTION

Contact Information for State and Local Officials

Federal Agency Contacts

Media Contacts

Special thanks to our new group of researchers, advisors and diarists who make up NATIVE AMERICAN NETROOTS:

4Freedom, Aji, bablhous, Bill in MD, Chris Rodda, Deep Harm, exmearden, KentuckyKat, Kimberley, Kitsap River, Land of Enchantment, No Way Lack of Brain, Oke, ParkRanger, Richard Cranium, Soothsayer99, swampus, TiaRachel, tlemon, translatorpro, Diogenes2008, birdbrain64, lexalou, marthature, meralda.

Advisors:



Rosebud Reservation
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cacamp

SarahLee

lpggirl

Pine Ridge Reservation Photobucket

Autumn Two Bulls

Kevin Killer, State Rep. Pine Ridge SD Dist. 27

     

Native American Netroots Web BadgeCross Posted at Native American Netroots

 An ongoing series sponsored by the Native American Netroots team focusing on the current issues faced by American Indian Tribes and current solutions to those issues.

                red_black_rug_design2

Criticizing Indian Affairs: SD Winter Storms

Keith Olbermann tells us (quoted in navajo’s “Dakota’s Rezs Winter Heating Funds Ran Out In December”)


“If anybody wants to go further, the chairman of the tribe tells us the consciousness of politicians is as important as donations right now.


FEMA has yet to declare the region a disaster area, and there’s something else that could kill about 40 birds with one stone there: They’ve patched much of the water and power infrastructure back together but they really need an overhaul and something in the jobs bill, or some stimulus money, could not only protect power, heat and water there, it could also put some of the thousands of unemployed Native Americans to work in their own communities. So you could call, write, or e-mail your congressmen and or senator.

To reiterate, “The consciousness of politicians is as important as donations right now.”


http://www.congress.org/congre…

Indian Affairs Committee

Address: 838 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 20510

Phone: (202) 224-2251   Fax: (202) 228-2589

Email: comments@indian.senate.gov

Web site: http://indian.senate.gov

Committee Chair

Sen.

Byron L. Dorgan (DEM-ND)

Ranking Member

Sen.

John Barrasso (REP-WY)

Democrats (9)

Sen. Daniel Inouye (DEM-HI)

Sen. Kent Conrad (DEM-ND)

Sen. Daniel Akaka (DEM-HI)

Sen. Tim Johnson (DEM-SD)

Sen. Maria Cantwell (DEM-WA)

Sen. Jon Tester (DEM-MT)

Sen. Tom Udall (DEM-NM)

Sen. Al Franken (DEM-MN)

Republicans (6)

Sen. John McCain (REP-AZ)

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (REP-AK)

Sen. Tom Coburn (REP-OK)

Sen. Mike Crapo (REP-ID)

Sen. Mike Johanns (REP-NE)

So, let us begin enlightening “the consciousness of politicians” with some required reading from the Consolidated Indigenous Shadow Report, which “The International Indian Treaty Council (IITC), in coordination with the Western Shoshone Defense Project, submitted a Consolidated Indigenous Shadow Report to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (UNCERD) on January 6th, 2008.”


III. Indian Reservation Apartheid

“Apartheid” is certainly a strong word. And certainly, there are recognized tribes in the U.S. that are now achieving certain levels of relative prosperity primarily due to federal law allowing them to operate casinos, But the data contained in this section as well as others in this report (see, e.g., Violence Against Women, The Right to the Highest Attainable Standard of Health) reflect what only can be described as a system of Apartheid on many Indian Reservations, where Indigenous people are warehoused in poverty and neglect. By purpose or effect, their only option is forced assimilation, the abandonment of their land, families, language and cultures in search of a better life.

The Shadow Report Outlines the following: critical things the U.S. Periodic Report omitted that were supposed to have been reported to the Human Rights Committee; Un – recognized Indigenous Peoples of which “many have waited decades” for recognition; the “Indian Reservation Apartheid;” the “Life Expectancy on the Indian Reservation” with its “high rate of infant mortality, cancer, diabetes, and heart disease;” poverty and unemployment, overall problems with justice;  “Racially Discriminatory Constitutional Foundations;” religious freedom as it relates to access to sacred lands; “Environmental Racism and  its effects on Indigenous Human Rights,” that “you cannot damage the land without damaging those who live upon it;” “The Denial of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms in the Political, Economic, Social, Cultural, or any Other Field of Public Life;”  “Racist Science and the Collective Right of Free, Prior and Informed Consent;” “Articles 6 and 7,” which mention the devastation of Indian Boarding Schools and “Racist Sports Mascots and Logos;” and finally, “The United States and its Transnational Companies and Violations of the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples Abroad.”

Continuing with enlightening “the consciousness of politicians” in this most current example wherein “FEMA has yet to declare the region a disaster area,” let’s focus on “But the data contained in this section as well as others in this report (see, e.g., Violence Against Women, The Right to the Highest Attainable Standard of Health) reflect what only can be described as a system of Apartheid on many Indian Reservations, where Indigenous people are warehoused in poverty and neglect.” What are the enlightening questions?

Why has “FEMA has yet to declare the region a disaster area” in a location(s) where “Life Expectancy on the Indian Reservation” is:


Mortality rates and life expectancy on the reservation are not reported by the US in their Periodic Report. Neither is comprehensive data collected for Indians on Reservations. The grossly disproportionate poverty that Indigenous Peoples experience in the United States is accompanied by disturbingly low life expectancy as demonstrated by the few scattered statistics available. Recent research on diverse racial-geographic population groupings in the United States has shown “disparities in mortality experiences” to be “enormous.”[10] Among those found to be most disadvantaged in this major national study were American Indians who live on or near reservation lands.

For that matter, why hasn’t John McCain of the Indian Affairs Committee done anything?

McCain(was) Instrumental in Removing Dine(h)-Navajo Tribe




A public research website: http://www.cain2008.org has brought together diverse historical elements of factual proof that Senator John McCain’s was the key “point man” introducing, enacting and enforcing law that removed Dineh-Navajo Families from their reservation on the Black Mesa in Arizona.

Perhaps the reason why McCain hasn’t, is that it’s not over yet.


Although there’s been a recent victory against the reopening of the Black Mesa Complex, the Kayenta mine is still operating and elders on the front lines fighting the continued impacts of coal mining and forced relocation efforts are still requesting support.

When “the consciousness of politicians” allows for “…the largest forced relocation of U.S. citizens since the relocation of Japanese-Americans during World War II,” then they needn’t be sought for help, but helped to the Hague. So what might be pragmatic?

Obama can make the apology he signed public with an actual statement.


“I am concerned about people doing political calculations in the White House, looking at it that way,” Brownback said regarding an apology resolution Obama quietly signed Dec. 19 – to no fanfare.

What would that do for “The consciousness of politicians?” As much as this apology did in 2000.


“This agency participated in the ethnic cleansing that befell the Western tribes,” Gover said. “It must be acknowledged that the deliberate spread of disease, the decimation of the mighty bison herds, the use of the poison alcohol to destroy mind and body, and the cowardly killing of women and children made for tragedy on a scale so ghastly that it cannot be dismissed as merely the inevitable consequence of the clash of competing ways of life.”

Concluding, while the “consciousness of politicians” motivates them to ignore the devastation that winter storms have brought to many Tribal Nations, I have but one question for them – “”What does it mean to be civilized?”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/…

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