There hasn’t been too much news to share lately because the pandemic and recent snow storms have severely limited activities of the Rez organizations we support. The border is still being monitored by resident volunteers to keep nonresidents from entering unless they’re providing essential services. On the vaccine front tribes are getting shots into the arms of their communities at near double the rate of South Dakota according to a recent analysis by NPR. In fact across Indian Country vaccine distribution is being done at far faster rates than U.S. averages. For further reading about the history of vaccines and past injustices done to Native Americans on health issues read the Washington Post article here.
SFK members have been sending clothing and other goods to the domestic violence shelter at White Buffalo Calf Women’s Society (WBCWS) in Mission, SD on Rosebud Reservation. Many staff members at the shelter were former clients of the shelter themselves having once suffered domestic abuse. White Buffalo Calf Women’s Society, was founded in 1977 on Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota as a non-profit organization and in 1980 became the first women’s shelter on an Indian Reservation in the US. They provide services to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking. They can provide safe shelter for up to 36 women and children, they also serve teens ages 11-21 and men who’ve been abused. Men are provided safe shelter at local hotels as well as women with male children over 14. They also have 2 residences where they can house families which has been very helpful during the pandemic. Covid cases have been declining so some of the activities that were on hold are beginning to resume. WBCWS provides many educational programs and material goods for the community as well as for the clients in the shelter. SFK is currently working on baby bags, books, school supplies, toys and games for children in the shelter. Current shelter needs are here but they have made a special request for clothing, underwear, socks, shoes, etc for teen boys, they never seem to have enough for this age group.
Another organization we help is RST Maternal and Child Health, a tribal government program located in Mission, South Dakota. This organization serves women with high risk pregnancies (about 30 per year) referred to them by the medical community or other health program. Clients are followed by visiting nurses throughout their pregnancy and after delivery receiving health and well being checks for both them and their babies, education and referral to other programs and resources as needed. Home visits begin two weeks after delivery and continue on a regular basis until the baby’s second birthday when they’re turned over to other programs. Shipments to RST have been suspended since the pandemic began last March when they began operating on a limited schedule. We will resume sending packages to them once they have normal operating hours, until then they’ve been getting resources for their clients from goods SFK and other groups send to WBCWS. Since there is only a Dollar Store in Mission residents have to travel quite a distance to buy groceries and other needs. Thankfully the tribe was able to give families food and monetary assistance during the toughest times.
Rosebud schools are still closed but plan to reopen in the Fall of 2021. Hopefully the staff will be vaccinated by then as well as some of the students. Students have attended school virtually and have suffered for it, hopefully they can make up for some of their losses when they return. Our partner organization “For The Children of PRR and Rosebud” have been sending books, school supplies, etc. to be given out to families on homework delivery days.
Jerome and Theresa High Horse continue to be busy with the many projects that arise in the community. Jerome and the Woodchucks have been cutting and delivering wood and picking up any supplies or food boxes that come from Running Strong in Manderson SD that have been shipped in from their organization on the Cheyenne River Reservation. Jerome also picked up two truckloads of food in Nebraska one recent weekend and had his volunteers sort and then deliver to families in need. The winter was a little warmer than usual but they still had their share of snowstorms which means Jerome and his men were out helping dig out people stuck along the highway, thankfully the truck has snow tires!
The High Horses are so appreciative of all the donations that have been coming in and have been distributing your generous gifts to those in need, including to a family of 15 in Corn Creek. They saved some of the donations received in the past few months to give as gifts to children at the Easter party held last weekend and since they couldn’t hold an Easter party last year they still had those donations to use. They decided not to hold the traditional Easter egg hunt as people are still worried about the virus and being around anyone outside their immediate family. Theresa and women from the community cooked an Easter dinner and meals were packed into takeout containers so families could pick up their meals and eat at home. All the food was provided by the new minister in Kadoka who recently purchased the previous minister’s home in Wanblee. Jerome also picked up 200 food boxes for Easter from Running Strong to give families as well. Lakota Friends Circle provided the candy for treat bags delivered to kids at their homes, fuel for pickup and delivery of food boxes from Running Strong and takeout food containers for the dinner.
Currently Jerome and the LFC Board have been discussing the community garden with the South Dakota Extension Program. Wanblee received approval from the extension office to be one of their registered gardens so can receive help with seeds, tools, help setting up the garden and education on nutrition, canning, etc. LFC has funds from a very generous donor to purchase fruit trees for the garden so we’re hoping that can be accomplished this year too. The garden site must be prepared which involves amending the soil, fencing the site and hooking up a water supply. We’re anticipating a hold up with the water since anything that involves the tribe means waiting. One of the trailers is on the garden site and will be a great place to prepare coffee and snacks for the workers. Also on the same site is the food pantry which should be finished by June. More in a future blog on these projects as work begins. We will need the help of our partner groups once this project is in motion.
Bright Start is a home visiting program of the Office of Child and Family Services. Registered nurses meet with at risk families during pregnancy and until their child turns 2 or 3 years of age. They provide prenatal, maternal, infant and toddler health assessments, health and safety education, parent support, developmental screening, and links with community resources. We work with Nurse Mary Mousseau on Pine Ridge Reservation. Mary sees her clients weekly in Pine Ridge, Martin and Kyle until the baby is two weeks old and twice a month thereafter. She has between 20 and 30 clients, many in their teens and first time mothers with no resources for their new baby.
Mary has been receiving lots of beautiful items from SFK and partner groups. It’s a great program as moms and babies get beautiful, much needed essentials and education at Mary’s twice a month visits. Currently some of the members are working on diaper bags, clutches and changing pads that we plan to fill with goodies in our June projects.
Child Placement Center
The Child Placement Center (formerly the Emergency Foster Care Home) in Porcupine South Dakota, has finally opened their doors again after nearly 2 years of being closed. The center can hold up to 12 children at a time, infant through age 12, exceptions on age limit occasionally. It has taken a long time to open the center as they had to be state approved, acquire insurance and have staff members trained, vaccinated and screened. When the pandemic hit last spring the move was delayed again by the frequent lockdowns. Children come to the center through Child Protective Services, they’re so thankful to have another place to send kids in need of a safe place to live. Children are tested for Covid prior to admission and can stay up to 30 days while a safe, permanent home is found for them.
It didn’t take long for the center to start filling up, they currently have 7 children, all coming with their special issues. They have 6 staff members covering all shifts and are looking for a Director to replace Barb Dull Knife who is 74 years old and has agreed to be acting director until a replacement is found. Barb founded the organization due to an incident she was affected by (see blog) and felt she must do something to give kids a safe place to live in times of crisis. They’re also hoping to have parenting classes in each district which will be done with Child Protective Services (CPS). When CPS receives a child they try to find a relative, no matter how distant, to take the child. Sometimes they need a few days to make arrangements so the child will stay at the center until then. Some children may stay longer as they might have trouble finding a home for them or they’re hoping at the end of the month the parents have been able to change the conditions that brought the child into protective custody. Many of the foster relative families do not have the resources they need to take care of immediate needs such as clothing so SFK likes to give them some things to get them started. A family member fostering a child only receives a one time $150 stipend, a non relative receives a monthly stipend. CPS makes every effort to keep Native children on the Rez where they will learn their language, culture and live with their relatives and other Lakota.
Sew For Kids members have been trying to supply some of the center’s needs since opening. Immediate needs supplied were new pots and pans, dish soap, laundry detergent, bleach, paper towels, toilet paper, larger size diapers and pull ups. Toiletries, socks and underwear and some clothing was sent as well as towels and wash cloths. Staff are still going through the bins of clothing stored from our past donations and will make a list of needed sizes. Snacks for kids were sent, baby biscuits, animal crackers and baby bottles too. Some of our members are working on diaper bags, clutches and changing pads. Barb needed a diaper bag to take kids to the doctor and to send with children being transported, our members filled that need. Although immediate needs have mostly been filled all the above items and more will be ongoing needs as more children come through the center. They do need books for smaller kids currently. We asked Lakota Friends Circle to help with propane and also a changing table. Some SFK members also generously donated funds through LFC for a staff member and social worker to pick up an ill child after medical treatment at a facility off the Rez. Barb Dull Knife is making her wish list as she sees a need which we’ll post in an upcoming blog.
Marty Indian School
The kids at Marty Indian School are back full time in the classroom. It took a while before they could open as workers students and their families came down with Covid. All teachers have been vaccinated. Students were tested as soon as they returned and despite receiving school packages each week, have fallen behind and need to work hard to catch up. School ends the third week of May, students can attend the Boys and Girls Club until the end of June and thereafter they’re planning to hold 2 summer sessions in July and August before the new school year begins. One session will be for the students in grades 3-5 who will do basic skills in the morning and cooking in the afternoon. They will make a shopping list, figure out the amount of food they need, follow recipes and measure ingredients. They’re hoping students will have fun while learning to cook and use their math skills. Students K-2 will attend the second session where they will brush up on reading and other skills. Sew For Kids members have sent lots of books so they could set up a library in the elementary school and we’re thrilled to tell you kids are using the library! We’re hoping to purchase three more bookshelves for the library. Currently the Feather Store is well stocked. The room parent program is still active but very different due to the closures, they’re helping teachers and students with classroom needs. .
Kimmie Clausen who headed the Sacred Shawl and WBCWS ,domestic abuse centers for women and their children, is no longer Director of either program . There are reasons why she is not continuing in these centers, some not under her control. Currently she is helping to write a grant for a fire station for the Rez with Oglala Sioux Housing. She said it took a pandemic to get the government to see the needs of Native Americans and their reservations. She is still thinking about her next project but has to take some time off for family medical issues that need her attention. We will see her back in a new endeavor once she gets through the next months. Stay tuned!
April and May projects for Sew For Kids is Summer Clothing. Items can be sewn or purchased new or gently used. Please send your donations to Wanblee, White Buffalo Calf Women’s Society, Child Placement Center, and Bright Start. Bright Start needs are clothing infant through 3T and can be sent now although June is devoted to restocking their baby supplies. Shipping addresses can be found here.
- Clothing – Sew or purchase summer clothing and sun hats for toddlers through teens. Shorts, capris, dresses and skirts, lightweight pants, leggings, T-shirts, tops, light jackets and summer weight PJ’s in sizes toddler to 16/18 or adult size small for all areas. Baby/toddler size only for Bright Start.
- Shoes – Sandals, flip flops, tennis shoes and other summer shoes, all sizes, all areas.
Well that’s all the latest news for now. Please join us on Facebook at Sew For Kids Volunteers. You can check out the non profit Lakota Friends Circle here, Sew For Kids is one of the partners working under them. We hope you have all read what was accomplished by Sew For Kids in 2020, if not you can read about it here.
Thanks as always from Sew For Kids.