Wanblee Visit

As promised, Janet who works with me on the Sew For Kids site, volunteered to share her thoughts about her recent July visit to Wanblee , SD .  Janet may not say much on the site but she works tirelessly behind the scenes, checking the blogs, and advocating and procuring items for the needs of the children we help. Thanks Janet for sharing your visit with us and for all the work you do for our cause.

“Throughout  the many blog postings here on SFK you’ve heard us speak many times of Jerome and Theresa High Horse, the couple we primarily work with in Wanblee on Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. A dream was fulfilled this past July when we (myself, husband Dave, SIL Ruth and BIL John) had the opportunity to finally meet the High Horse’s when we stopped at their home on our way to Glacier National Park in Montana. We had our two vehicles loaded to the top with clothing, tools, bedding, a sewing machine, household items and school supplies we’ve been gathering for months.  We’ve planned to visit the Rez for many years but something always seemed to come up and thwart our plans so the dream was eventually moved to our “bucket list”.  This year however was different, everything just fell magically into place and we were finally able to make the trip.

To say Wanblee is remote would be an understatement and this coming from someone who lives 7 miles from the nearest grocery store or gas station and has very few neighbors. I suppose the thing you notice most having come from the Midwest is the absence of trees and the vast expanses of rolling grasslands.  I guess some would find it desolate but our group found it to be beautiful, almost spiritual as you imagined what it must have been like before the Europeans arrived, teaming with buffalo and Lakota villages filled with people going about their daily lives. There’s something about Pine Ridge that gets under your skin and makes you not want to leave, it’s a place you can’t forget.

We arrived at Jerome and Theresa’s to find a flurry of activity underway….. a group of young volunteers were hammering and sawing away putting the finishing touches on Roland’s house, preparations were under way in the back yard (including erecting a teepee) for the wedding of Jerome and Theresa’s daughter that weekend, Theresa was attending to details everywhere and making sure the work staff were fed and Jerome was supervising the crew and preparing to take a visitor to a Sundance that evening. Let me tell you the High Horse residence is one busy place!  All this activity going on and Jerome and Theresa stopped what they were doing and warmly greeted us with a smile and a hug and invited us to “come on in and sit down”!  Well we felt a little guilty disrupting things but couldn’t help ourselves as we had waited so long to meet them and they were so warm and gracious we just couldn’t resist.  

For the next couple of hours we were mesmerized by Jerome as he spoke on a broad range of subjects including sundances, his native religion and customs, the community they work so hard to help, the past and persistent prejudices they still deal with every day, their family and their enduring faith and hope for the future. He expressed almost disbelief at the amount of help they’ve been getting from everyone. They moved back to the Rez a few years ago to help their community pretty much on their own never thinking there would be anyone else that wanted to help. They are so grateful for all the generous donations from everyone, they now have the resources to help so many more families.  

While we were there one of their grandson’s had a dog he was hoping to persuade his mother to let him bring home. Theresa explained to us Jerome had rescued the dog earlier that day when someone was going to shoot the poor thing because he was just a stray.  They had received a call earlier that day from a couple that needed help to stay in a Rapid city hotel because their family member had just been taken to the hospital and they wanted to be near them. Earlier that week Judy C. had sent a really nice afghan and it was already in the hands of a very grateful elder, diapers had also arrived and they too were gone in a matter of hours. Jerome was talking about these big fleece mitts someone made and how the woodcutters loved them, I told him they were made by one of our volunteers from Wisconsin, Beulah, who wanted me to convey her greetings and best wishes for the work they are doing and how she hopes to visit someday soon. One of the young volunteers came in the house for a break and gave Jerome a big bear hug and she told us he filled the role of her father while being away from home, you can tell right away how much the kids love Jerome and Theresa.  Jerome was going to Crazy Horse school, where they were staying, to give a talk about the Lakota culture later that evening.  We wondered how they were able to fit it all in and still eat and sleep.  I’m sure this was just a normal day for them but it seemed so extraordinary to us.

Not one of us wanted to leave, we could’ve stayed there the rest of the night taking it all in, but we still had a 90 mile drive to make to visit the elder I sponsor in Pine Ridge.  Although we had a vacation to Glacier ahead of us everyone knew the best part of our vacation had already occurred. Theresa and Jerome were just as we thought they would be, but when you meet them in person and see their commitment and dedication to all those in need, well it’s just humbling and we all felt we were in the presence of “angels on earth”.  We’re honored to call them friends.   

Your donations are going to the right place with Jerome and Theresa, they’re getting them into the hands of people that truly need help.  We will continue to do what we can, it might not drastically change anyone’s life but it can certainly make it a little easier.  We encourage you to visit if you can, it’s a trip you won’t soon forget.” Janet

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