Laundry Day on The Rez

Laundry, that weekly pain in the neck chore we all have to do whether we like it or not.  What would I rather be doing than laundry?  Anything!!  But I do feel guilty complaining when I have an energy efficient washer and dryer in a nice laundry room and all that’s required to wash clothes is to toss them in the washer with a little detergent, maybe spray a few stains, then throw them in the dryer. This weekly ritual with our power machines is something we all take for granted, we can’t imagine what this chore would be like without them.

Doing laundry is just a little more complicated on the Rez.  Most people can’t afford the laundry detergent let alone a washer.  Very few have dryers as they increase electric bills that can’t be paid with their meager monthly income which increases the risk of utilities being shut off.

So what do they do? If they have a friend or relative willing to share their washer they’re in luck. If not they travel off the Rez to a laundromat, that is if they have enough money for the machines, soap, gas for the car if they have one and if not enough food stamps left to swap for a ride. If leaving the Rez is not an option washing is done in bathtubs unless water is being rationed due to frequent dry spells in which case the laundry will just pile up until another opportunity comes along.

Wet clothes are either hung outside weather permitting or in the basement to dry on racks or a clothesline.  Outside clothing is exposed to many hazards including dust caused from high winds and arid weather, or smoke from a neighbor deciding to burn wood or old tires (no environmental regulations on burning) or they may simply disappear taken by those who are in need of free articles of clothing, sheets, towels, etc. Houses are overcrowded and there just isn’t room to store everyone’s clothing in a closet or dresser (even if they had them) so they are usually piled up in a corner of the room. Clothes are rarely ironed, most people don’t own one. My kids rarely iron either, wrinkles are in!

Adults can manage with a few pair of pants and shirts for a week but most do not have enough socks or underwear which are two of the most requested items when asked. If one is lucky enough to get a package of socks sent to them they are shared with other members of the household, likewise for underwear if sizes are comparable. Clothing and underwear may have to be worn several days before being washed.

Children, especially babies and toddlers are an issue as they need laundry done frequently and parents never have enough clothing, blankets, diapers, socks, etc. to keep them clean. Sew For Kids is trying to provide  clothing and other items to help with this problem.  Parents are often embarrassed about the clothes their children have to wear and will delay the child starting school until the next payday comes around so new clothes can be purchased.

Please help us in our efforts to supply some of the clothing children need by sewing simple garments or check resale/thrift shops and garage sales for items in good condition. Don’t forget to add a package or two of underwear and socks, the kids will thank you.

Maybe you will look at laundry day a little differently now after reading about the hardships people on the rez have to endure just to get clean clothes.  I have a new found respect for my washer and dryer and intend to complain less about this weekly chore.  Next blog will highlight some easy patterns for children’s clothing.



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