Friday, October 14, 2011

Lakota children of Pine Ridge

The challenges faced by the Lakota children of Pine Ridge will be covered on tonight's episode of 20/20 on ABC at 10pm/9c. We encourage everyone to tune in and get glimpse into the realities of life on the reservation. Further information can be found on ABC's website.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Letter from a sponsor

This letter from a current ONE Spirit sponsor is typical of the feelings expressed by so many who help our friends in need on the Pine Ridge Reservation . . .

Hi Everyone

I hope everyone is enjoying the upcoming Christmas season.

I finally got my shopping done and my boxes mailed to my elder. She received them on Wednesday. I had included blankets and gloves, clothing for her and toys and candy for her grandchildren. This is my second year of sponsorship with my family. As usual, the family is so thankful and so grateful for anything they get.

It is such a blessing for me. I went into sponsorship because I have always felt so strongly about Native Americans, I wanted to help, but every single time, I am the one that receives the blessing. I am the one whose life has been enriched, I am the one who has been shown such kindness and reminded on a daily basis how thankful I should be. I am the one who has been given the greatest gift of friendship and acceptance. My meager gifts of food and gifts have been nothing compared to the blessing of my family. If you are thinking of sponsoring, I can assure you, the blessings are abundant.

Thank You One Spirit and the many folks that work so hard every single day to provide a honest and love filled organization so that we can help. Without you all, none of this would happen. There is always kindness, always willingness to answer questions and everyone goes way above what would be their "duty". I cannot speak highly enough of the people of One Spirit. You bless us all.

I wanted to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and May everyone be blessed.

Michelle J.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

ONE Spirit sponsor visits Pine Ridge

From time to time sponsors receive invitations to visit their families on Pine Ridge. This is always an eye-opening experience. This weekend Regina Hay, Sponsorship Program Manager for ONE Spirit, received the following letter from a sponsor who recently made her first trip. The letter was so wonderful that she got the writer's permission to share it with all of you.

When I told friends that I was heading up to South Dakota, the first question from each person was, "Why?" Some of my military friends had been stationed in Rapid City and hold horrible memories of the winters. Others simply view it as the boring middle section of the country. There was still puzzlement after I explained that I was going to visit the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. No one talks about Native Americans these days, and, if you know anything about Pine Ridge, it's equal parts forgotten and overlooked.

I fell in love with Pine Ridge.

I grew up in a major city but have always had a soft spot for open spaces and rural countryside. Living in Texas now for the last 10 years, I've been as up close and personal with everything huge and country that's possible. But even this didn't prepare me for the overwhelming HUGENESS of the rez. The Badlands spill onto the rez, or vice versa; I wasn't sure. Driving from one road to the next, it's easy to blur the boundaries since the entire landscape has an amazing other-worldliness that's difficult to describe. I just remember cruising along a two-lane road and seeing the "Entering Pine Ridge" sign materialize on my right.

The vastness of the reservation was quite sobering. Isolation seems like a completely logical feeling for anyone who lives on the rez. It's another world but for reasons other than the landscape. From Kyle, where we were staying, to the nearest gas station in Sharp's Corner is roughly 8-10 miles. Without any public transportation, the most basic activity, be it groceries or church or work, can be a logistical struggle for someone without access to a vehicle. Winters can only be a nightmare.

On the way to Pine Ridge "town", I noticed we were almost out of gas. Based on our maps, it was closer to travel off the rez for gas, to Gordon, NE, than to head back to Sharp's Corner or Kyle. There are roughly nine "townships" on the rez, and only a few of them have convenience stores or gas stations. My friend lived in Manderson, which was over 40 miles from my hotel. When the roads are usually under construction, closed or unpaved, a morning or afternoon can go by quickly!

The people on the rez were very open and welcoming. Our first stop was the Wounded Knee site, and the folks at the makeshift "information" booths across the street were talkative and friendly, answering any questions we had. I wasn't quite sure how to compose myself, and I'm not sure why. It wasn't my first time on a rez; I'd visited the Dineh once many years ago, and they were just as gracious. I imagine the Lakota are used to receiving tourists on a daily basis, and I wasn't sure how they regard this. But I got the feeling that they understood our genuine interest, and they were more than proud to share their history with us. One lady spoke to me for almost a half hour about the story of Lost Bird, who is buried at Wounded Knee. She had such a soft voice and quiet earnestness, and I felt like I could stand there all day listening to her.

One fellow at a booth told us his story about coming home to the rez after years in Colorado City. The "white man's world" was too much for him, he told me, because it's too hectic, too stressful. There is little time for silence or quiet contemplation. Here, on the rez, the sun is his clock, and he knows that when the sun sets, it's time to head home. To someone on a much-needed break from a 9-5 job, I couldn't have been happier to hear such a sentiment.

Bette's Kitchen is a definite must as far as food. Not only is she the most accommodating restaurant owner I've ever met, but her fry bread, reportedly a recipe coveted by several media outlets, was so delicious that we purchased a bulk order to munch on during the long periods in the car. The Oglala Lakota College is another recommended stop. The Development Coordinator took time out of her day to guide us through The Heritage Center and, unexpectedly, through the entire campus. The Veteran Memorial behind the school bears the names of all the Lakota war veterans in every conflict since WWII. The Chamber of Commerce, in Kyle, also has lots of information about efforts to revive small businesses on the rez, with a focus on local artists.

The poverty on Pine Ridge was expected but not any easier to deal with. I deferred on taking any photos of my friend's home or any other home on the rez. When I arrived, she welcomed us in but apologized for the mess. Her humility was moving, but I certainly didn't want her to feel self conscious--especially when I'm wildly disorganized myself! We had a bin full of school supplies and toys for the kids, and this time I didn't take pictures simply because I forgot to. It was too much fun to watch the kids play. She's battling some personal struggles these days, and it made me rethink the issues of poverty on the rez. The spartan living conditions capture the attention of the public, but they seem almost secondary compared to the alcoholism and unemployment plaguing the families.

The wide open spaces of prairie land, sunflower fields, and breathtaking sunsets give Pine Ridge, a rez with definite challenges, a surreal and sublime atmosphere. There is certainly enough time to think during the endless hours of driving, and you can't help but take stock of the simple things when you're surrounded by sky and earth. Yes, Pine Ridge has grave issues such as suicide, gangs, and indigence. But it also has a lot of heart, and you can see it all around.

One thought that kept coming to me over the course of the week was an encounter with another Texas couple on my first day. Pine Ridge has been, they told me, their go-to "spot" for the last 20 years. It sounded so peculiar to me at the time. But as I was making the long drive home on my last day, I easily understood what they meant. All I could think about was when I could return.


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Response from another ONE Spirit friend who's been to Pine Ridge

For those who have never been to the reservation and actually seen the way many people have to live, it is hard to imagine that conditions like this exist in 21st century America - but they do. Last year I was asked to take pictures of an isolated, dilapidated, one room home with no electricity or running water, while the owner was in hospital suffering from an infection. I cannot post the photographs at this time, but taking them was a very difficult thing for me to do. It was the most desolate living space that I had ever seen - although very likely not the worst in the area.

In 2007 a man froze to death in his house a couple of miles from where I was staying. There was no reporting of this incident and an elderly Lakota told me: "So many people around here die untimely deaths that no one pays any attention any more."

Betty is right that none of us will be able to bring a permanent solution to the overall situation, but we can help provide food and warmth and the knowledge that somebody cares. The youth programs we support are also very important. The young people hold the future in their hands and they must have something to hope for if this epidemic of suicide is to end. Without hope it is very difficult to have life. We are making a difference, both now and for the future.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Thoughts from a ONE Spirit Area Services Coordinator

Hello One Spirit friends. I have not posted since I took over the position of Area Service Coordinator for Oglala and Pine Ridge this past summer. As you might imagine, it has been a busy time, getting to know both the residents of those areas on my lists and the many wonderful people who sponsor them.

The time also included a trip by my husband and me to the reservation, in October. We have been there several times before, but usually to visit friends. We certainly did that again, but we also used this visit to meet some of the families I had spoken to over the several months before the trip.

In 5 days, we put 950 miles on the rental car while driving from place to place on the reservation! For those of you who have not been there, our high mileage was caused by the great distances separating the settled areas. For example, the distance from our room at the Lakota Prairie Ranch Resort in Kyle to Pine Ridge was about 35 miles.

During our time on the reservation, we saw many things that were very difficult to see. While our philosophical discussions on this board are interesting, my focus is on the immediate needs of those in jeopardy, especially the children and elders. I don't believe that I, or anyone else from the outside, will be able to solve the "whys" and "hows" of permanent improvement on Pine Ridge Reservation. But together we can keep the children warm and fed until those with more resources step in to more permanently solve the problems.

We all know there is deep, grinding poverty on the reservation and, if we are in this group and on this board, we care very much about that. But I would have to say that this visit hit me harder than have my prior visits. Perhaps that is because we saw a wider variety of homes and people this time. We learned there are varying degrees of poverty. Some houses and trailers were small and spare, but well kept. We visited the apartment of a woman who is confined to a wheelchair and I wondered how she could possibly maneuver the chair in that space, it was so small. We visited a trailer that I thought would blow over in the next good gust of wind (and there is plenty of wind in South Dakota). We brought food with us on our visits. We were given small gifts in return. We were treated warmly and welcomed wherever we went.
I had hoped to take photos of the places I went and people I met. But I could not – not because anyone objected, but because my heart would not allow me to expose the pain and poverty of the people to the world. It seemed intrusive and felt like an invasion of their privacy. However, our friends allowed us to take photos of the house they are living in – (rented for about $500 per month). I had prior photos of what it looked like when they moved in. It has improved – slightly. This is their story . . .

They had a family of 5 (2 adults, 3 teen girls) living with one of the grandmothers in a small house with at least 7 others persons. They wanted/needed a place of their own. However, on Pine Ridge, you can be on the housing list for 10 years and still not get a place of your own. There is a dire shortage of adequate housing. So when a cousin lost the tenants in a house he had, he offered it to them at the price noted above. The little blue house has 2 bedrooms, a bathroom and a larger room that includes both "living room" and "kitchen."

In the smaller bedroom, there is a queen-sized mattress on the floor (because there is no room for a bed in the room). With the mattress pushed up into one corner of the room, there is only about 6-8 inches of space between the two open sides and the opposites walls--- barely room to walk around the mattress, let alone place any other furniture. No closet. In the larger bedroom, there is the queen-sized bed with perhaps a couple of feet of space free. In that space there are boxes filled with the family's clothing and belongings. Windows are covered with blankets – less for decoration than to keep out the cold. The bathroom door has been boarded up and sealed with duct tape to prevent drafts. It isn't needed, since there is no running water in the house at all. No indoor toilet, just the outhouse. The kitchen has a couple of cupboards and a sink that again has no running water. For almost a year, until they finally obtained a water storage tank from the tribe, they had to cart all the water for their use from a family member's home in empty milk jugs. There was no stove or refrigerator for a year, until we managed to find them a second hand fridge. The electricity in the home is most certainly not up to code and fuses blow if too many things are plugged in at once.

The back door of the house is boarded up with plywood because the door was falling apart. So they have only one entrance/exit. We were able to replace the front door, which was also falling apart, on our recent visit. Their only heat source consists of 2 small electric space heaters, including one of the ones One Spirit was supplying last winter. There had been a wood stove in the house when they moved in, but it was so damaged by the prior tenants that it was unusable and had to be removed.

What moves me most is that these were not the worst conditions we encountered! I hear stories all the time about how people are trying to live and to raise their children.

The president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe recently declared a State of Emergency on the Pine Ridge Reservation because of the "overwhelming numbers of suicides and suicide attempts." In the 11 months between Oct 2008 and Aug 2009, the tribal Public Safety Dept responded to 96 suicide attempts or completions. In November 2009 alone, EMS responded to 17 suicide-related calls. That's more than one every other day! Many are teens, who see no hope living in these conditions.
As I said before, none of us can solve all these problems. But we can help supply the basic needs of food, clothing and shelter to those who are in need of those things. Everywhere we went, people thanked us for helping and told us how important even the seemingly little things, like soap, shampoo, toilet paper, shoes and cleaning supplies are.

I will try to post more often in 2010 (my New Year's resolution). I hope that the things I share will help you realize how important your small gifts and your caring are to those who receive them.

Betty B.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

ONE Spirit booth at 'America's Hometown Thanksgiving Celebration' Plymouth, MA

photo of Ed Broken Feather Chandler & Jeri Baker

This past weekend ONE Spirit volunteer and advocate Ed Broken Feather Chandler once again set up to vend on behalf of ONE Spirit in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Billed as 'America's Hometown Thanksgiving Celebration' the event draws overs 100,000 people for a parade, the Air Force 'Tops in Blue' Band, crafts and food, and more.

This year ONE Spirit's director Jeri Baker and assistant director Diane Capalario were able to attend and visit and, along with Ed, talk with those who came by about the work of ONE Spirit.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Benefit walk for ONE SPIRIT to be held in Howth Ireland on Sat. Nov. 28th 2009

Do you live in or near Dublin Ireland or know someone who does?

Could you spare a few hours to do a sponsored walk for a very good cause. One Spirit Ireland was set up to raise funds for the OS programs that support the Lakota people and allow them to take care of their elders, families, and children.

The 12K walk will begin at the railway station at 11:30am, then the walk will continue along the coast road (the seafront), finishing in Clontarf. The walk should take about 3 hours, if walking a good pace. You may leave your car in Dublin and take the train to Howth, then after the walk, take the train for the couple of stops to Dublin. You may also drive to Howth, walk to Clontarf and then take the train back to your car in Howth.

For more information on the walk or on One Spirit please contact Sue at 087-7768956 or email onespiritireland@gmail.com for more information.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Note from a sponsor -Thanks for SHARE food program

Periodically we get notes from our sponsors that show just how special their experiences with the families the sponsor are. This one came today.
I have been honored to sponsor an elder for the last year with Share...Today, I received a phone call from my elder wishing me a Happy Thanksgiving and thanking me for the Huge Share Thanksgiving box that was sent to her and her family. She was clearly excited and conveyed to me how excited the children were to have turkey AND pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving.

I am so humbled and so moved today. How clearly we take so much for granted. I wish I could buy her the moon.

I wanted to say thank you to Share, all the people who work so tirelessly and diligently to put this program together for all peoples. It is such a huge blessing to both the giver and the receiver. I hope each of you involved in Share know that I, for one, thank you for all your hard work.

Happy Thanksgiving and many blessings everyone.
M. J.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The End of My Powwow Season!

Hi Everybody,

The end of my powwow season is rapidly approaching! Don't get me wrong, I could use a break in my hectic schedule, but the fact remains, that the seasons harsh winter weather is about to set in at Pine Ridge! If you keep abreast of the One Spirit website, you know the call has gone out to support my efforts to raise money for One Spirit, by supplying Native American items (No resin, plastic or chinese made items) for me to resell. It's absolutely necessary to focus on funds raised, because this, the most important time of the year, where the cold can bring about incredible difficulties, for families at Pine Ridge, we need to provide wood, blankets, food and other supplies that are so important to the survival of the Lakota people. I'm sure if you're reading this post, you're involved with One Spirit already and are helping in whatever way you can. But, if you have a native mandela, dream catcher, bow, arrow & quiver, wall hanging or other native items collecting dust in a closet, please know, that item could be helping our cause to raise money, to support our efforts assisting the Oglala Lakota Sioux become self-sufficient. If you have an item you're unsure about, e-mail me at brokenfeather@verizon.net to inquire about it. Please, I beg you from the bottom of my heart, that you can make a difference in the life of a Lakota family! I concider the people that support One Spirit, the finest bunch of people from all walks of life that simply care about a people that have been neglected by the United States Government since their mid 1860's treaty! The reality remains that a $1.00 gain, can provide $3.00 worth of fresh fruit or vegetables for a child or elder, that's not a normal part of their diet! Never ever think a dollar won't make a difference. Please, do you have an idea about raising funds to assist our cause, let us know! Please help!

Monday, July 20, 2009


Well it's been a couple of weeks since I've posted any information to this site, so I guess I need to spout off again!

I've contributed financially, to One Spirit for well over a year, maybe two. From what I've noticed, is that we're not growing as an organization! I have to ask myself why? If you contribute in any way,that means you must believe in One Spirit's cause of assisting the Oglala Lakota Sioux. Are you asking relatives, friends, church members, or just plain friends to check out what you do to assist Native American's and to join your efforts to assist? Are you a contributor to a local newspaper? Write a letter to the editor explaining your contribution to One Spirit, and the Lakota Sioux! Do you live in a area that has free advertizements in local newspapers? If so, write a small article about what you do for One Spirit. Who knows, it might get picked up by a National Broadcaster for publication. It simply doesn't do us any good to become stagnant as a charitable organization. We need to grow, in order to expand our efforts to help the Oglala Lakota Sioux!

An e-mail was sent out this morning to members, looking for people interested in assisting One Spirit Management! It all revolves around growing, and that we need to do! Do you have an idea how to expand our present membership? If you do, please offer that suggestion to Jeri. Do you have marketing experiance? we need all the help we can get! What about logistics and data management? Yup, you guessed it! The bottom line is this, we're alone in the world and we need global recognition for what we do on a monthly basis!

I personaly would like to see our membership ranks grow to the point where we could have area membership meetings! Monthly meetings can generate huge benefits to membership.

I certainly don't know what you are thinking, but I as an individual, and a financial contributor to One Spirit, need to say, that there are other area's that we could offer major contributions! But we need to grow, in order to make those other area's of contribution available to the Lakota. I would love to see a college scholorship fund, to help a Lakota child attend college! We as a charitable organization owe this to at least one Lakota Child, to begin with. Hopefully, with backing, this program could be expanded to include other Lakota children! This is the real first step to breaking the cycle of poverty on Pine Ridge! You don't have to be a rocket scientist to understand the logic behind this potential program!

Write to us and tell us what you think, we want your suggestions and thoughts! The Oglala Lakota people are depending on us for their ultimate self-sufficiency, and we need to act now!