|A house on the Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota.|
Prisoner of War Camp #334 was an official U.S. government designation for the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Yesterday I talked about some of the horrible conditions on Pine Ridge. The conditions are no better in any of the other reservations in South Dakota.
In the town of Eagle Butte, on the Cheyenne River Reservation, a brand-new state-of-the-art medical center is about to open, replacing a facility that was built in 1959. Up to now, women have had to drive 90 miles to Pierre to have their babies, but now they can have them at the new medical center – if they agree to have a scheduled delivery. Apparently, the new center still doesn't have enough facilities to accommodate the number of live births on the reservation, so the women will be asked to have labor induced. If this were the case in any other community, it would have made the national news by now.
When construction was begun for the medical center back in 2009, the locals would stand and watch construction, seemingly to assure themselves that this promise from the white men might actually be kept. That's a pretty sad commentary.
There are other issues I didn't mention yesterday. There's not a lot of choice about where people can shop for food, and on a yearly income of only about $4200, the median income, there's not a lot you can afford. The food isn't exactly fresh at the local markets, and it isn't cheap. According to a person who worked on the Pine Ridge Reservation, a small jar of Gerber's Beef Baby Food is about 99¢ at your local market. At a store on the reservation, it costs $1.33. To get to a Walmart, for example, where prices are lower, people have to travel 100 miles to Rapid City, or 60 miles south to a town in Nebraska.
On the Cheyenne River Reservation, the town of La Plant, for example, has a 99% unemployment rate. Many families cannot afford fuel to heat their homes, or warm enough clothes in a climate where winter temperatures drop to –50˚F some winters, and the wind blows hard, so even if the air temperature is much higher, the wind chill factor is fierce.
One in three American Indian women is raped in her lifetime. There are, on average, 3-7 suicide attempts each week on the Cheyenne River Reservation. Many homes have not only no electricity, but also no access to running water.
There are any number of charities that say they are helping the folks on the reservations, but many, if not most, of these charities are fraudulent. If the money goes to anyone on the reservation at all, it goes to certain families or friends of the tribal leaders. Here are two charities that are not only on the up and up, but which have earned the trust of the Lakota people on the reservations.
One Spirit is an organization that is known on the reservation and word has gotten around as to their honesty and sincerity. They have several different programs, including one in which you can "sponsor" an elder or a child on the reservation. What is unique about their program is that once you sponsor someone on the reservation, you can have direct contact with them. One spirit also has programs that help the Lakota People become self-sufficient. They also participate in the SHARE program which delivers good food and produce to people of the reservation.
Friends of Pine Ridge Reservation also has many programs available. Like One Spirit, they have developed a trust with the different places on Pine Ridge and are held accountable for their actions. They even have groups of people that knit or crochet, then donate the items to those who need them on Pine Ridge Reservation. Items are normally mailed directly to the organization on the reservation that needs the items. I noticed that on this organization's web site, there is a phone scam alert that says if you receive a call from someone asking you to donate for the Pine Ridge Reservation, consider it a scam, since reputable organizations do not solicit donations this way. (After ABC News ran their story about the Pine Ridge Reservation, a lot of scam artists kicked into action, as they do whenever there is a story like this on TV.)
If any of the information I've presented yesterday and today has made you uncomfortable – and it should – then please consider doing what you can through the organizations above or research for yourself how best to help. Perhaps you can organize a knitting circle in your community, organize a clothing drive, or form a group to make quilts for winter. Whatever works. :-/