We were hoping to have the blog up a week after the party but seems something always delay sour plans, this time we were waiting for a party report and pictures from Anne Fields, Director of Lakota Friends Circle (LFC), who made the long trip from her home in Georgia to Wanblee to help with the Easter party. Her return trip home took a lot longer than usual due to all the spring storms thankfully she arrived home safe and sound. Janet has been on vacation for two weeks and I’ve had a steady stream of company visiting so enough with the excuses let’s get to the news.
The party was a great success and everyone had fun adults included. There were over 150 kids aged 4-12 which is less than last year but there were lots of teens, parents and elders which brought the total attendance to over 300. The weather cooperated for once and they held the barbecue outside serving hot dogs and hamburgers with all the trimmings, fresh veggie cups for the children and watermelon for everyone. Thanks to all your generous donations there were enough funds to purchase fresh fruit and nuts for the kid’s treat bags. NAHA sent a pallet of candy and although we had discussed with the High Horse’s about offering healthy alternatives, the volunteers helping with the party thought it should be given out to the kids. It will take a while to change that mindset, they feel their kids don’t get the treats our kids do so when candy comes in they feel they should give it out. About half of the population on the Rez has diabetes (they have a genetic predisposition) and tooth decay and poor nutrition are constant issues with kids so candy isn’t really what they need but like all kids if they see it they want it.
The Easter egg hunt was held inside so they could better manage the different age groups participating, 4-6 went first with 7-9 following and then finishing with 10-12. We outdid ourselves in the gift category, there were fewer kids than expected so everyone got one of the cloth bags you made stuffed with more than the usual amount of goodies. NAHA came a few days before the party and their volunteers sorted items according to age and gender and then made up the gift bags with other locals pitching in. It was a busy week for the High Horses and their friends, not only did they have to prepare for the party and unload the NAHA truck, but they also had to drive to the village of Pine Ridge to pick up food packages for families donated by Running Strong, deliver them, then head to Rapid City to get food for the party. Keep in mind Pine Ridge is over 90 miles each way from Wanblee and Rapid City is over 100 not including all the added time and miles it took to deliver all the food packages. Thanks again to everyone who donated money for the food expenses and others who spent countless hours making or buying all the gifts for the party. We’ve heard over and over again everything sent by our group is of the best quality and beautifully crafted. We’re so lucky and grateful that our group cares to send the very best, thank you everyone!
A load of 35 afghans came in before the party donated by Halfknits, a volunteer crochet group from Dallas, TX, which were promptly delivered to White River nursing home in White River, SD where personnel gladly accepted them for their patients as they were in need of more blankets. I would not be surprised if they also took over some washcloths and soap that this group made. At present they’re trying to find funding to keep the doors open as they provide care for 40-45 seniors. They probably have many more needs and if we receive more information will post the list for you.
Recently Jerome connected with the Yellow Bike Project in Rapid City. This non-profit’s mission is to provide bicycles, tricycles, scooters, wagons, and exercise equipment to recipients throughout the Black Hills. The High Horses took a group of adolescents and adults to their workshop and repaired 18 bikes. Those bikes the kids fixed for themselves became theirs and the other 8 were given out at the party raffle. They had a great experience and will go again soon so more kids can “earn a bike”. One of the volunteers coming out this year from Youthworks is going to run a bicycle clinic teaching kids how to do basic repairs such as fixing flat tires and run a bicycle obstacle course teaching kids how to ride safely.
Jerome and Theresa’s friends Bob and Mary, who run the non profit Families Working Together, discussed building a community center to be used for activities for kids and their families. This non profit owns a plot of land in Wanblee so finding a location isn’t a problem. Due to the high cost of materials they’ve had to downsize their current building plans and will build in stages so they can get started as soon as possible. They’re currently trying to get a donation for a pole barn. Both Jerome and Bob, who owns his own construction company, have building skills so along with some of his work crew and local Rez volunteers they plan to build part of it this summer if they get enough donations for supplies. The Kennedy Hall is a great building but has too many issues, one being a $50 fee (which comes out of Jerome and Theresa’s pocket) each time the building is used, even for a few hours to process NAHA deliveries for the community. Since the Kennedy Hall is the current community building any pre-planned event will be canceled if someone needs the building for a funeral, etc.
The new proposed center could be used for many activities including education. Children in the area have three schools they can attend…Crazy Horse in Wanblee, Kadoka (off the Rez) and Little Wound in Kyle. The Kadoka school district had previously tutored students attending their school in Wanblee but the space they used no longer exists. They’ve offered to resume tutoring if a suitable place can be found which could be provided by the new building. Some kids may not need tutoring but do need a quiet place to study, something that’s hard to find in a small 3 bedroom home housing up to 20 people. Many students in the outlying areas may not have electricity for various reasons so they work by candlelight or if lucky by a solar lantern. Families Working Together has found computers for the center once it becomes a reality. They also want to have a soup kitchen so that any child who won’t be fed at night will be able to come and have a meal before heading home. There are still many issues to be worked out….how the center will be run, who’ll be in charge, ownership of the building, maintenance and operating costs, etc. so it’s not a done deal. Having rooms to teach sewing, cooking, and gardening, etc. and a place for community services would be wonderful as well. We’ll keep you posted as we see how this project unfolds. Families Working Together also plans to fix up a trailer and an older home, both in need of repair and in the future Jerome plans to add some beds to the storage trailer which will provide housing for volunteers from out of town, visiting the Rez and working on a project .
Crazy Horse school, according to Anne Fields from LFC, is advertising in the Lakota Times for many positions for next year. There are currently 260 students from K thru 12 attending. The middle/high school principal and several of the teachers are leaving as are some of the auxiliary staff, time will tell if all positions get filled. Many of the positions are filled by Teach for America, they come to the Rez with good intentions but working with kids from dysfunctional families, (a challenge off the Rez as well), lack of teaching supplies and living in an isolated area with nothing to do is too much for many to handle and they leave after the first year, some have even left in the middle of the school year.
There are gardening courses being held at the college through Cooperative Extension. Thirty-five people attended the last meeting and if they attend all meetings they will get their garden plot tilled, seeds to plant and help with any gardening issues. The lady teaching the gardening class also found funding to provide food for the Crazy Horse after school program. NAHA recently sent several pallets of garden seeds to Wanblee which were given out at the Easter party so there should be enough seeds for everyone that wants to grow a garden this summer. The land is dry and hard in Wanblee as there hasn’t been a lot of precipitation this year so tilling isn’t an easy job. Jerome tilled the community garden on his lot and said it was tough going, so he has to get some organic matter worked into the soil. I told him to get those chickens he wants and put them to work on loosening and fertilizing the soil, killing two birds with one stone as the chickens would produce eggs to sell locally. The chicken coop is built, water containers and incubators have been donated and the ranchers have offered some chickens to get them started. The High Horses will soon plant some of the cold weather veggies if they can get the soil amended. Horse manure takes 6 months to break down so that will have to wait until fall, I suggested growing some cover crops in the fall to till in the following spring for green manure.
Running Strong has tractors to till the land but they won’t come to Wanblee unless gas is provided so the Wanblee folks are happy to have this new resource available to help them. Speaking of gardening, Theresa’s daughter who serves lunch at Wolfe Creek school says they are serving salads at the school now in addition to their main meal and the kids love them and often come back for seconds. Here’s hoping the kids will see the connection between growing the lettuce (easy crop to grow) and the salad. One of the problems growers on the Rez deal with is the wild dogs and other animals who can tear up a garden as well as the hailstorms that seem to happen every year just as they get their crops growing.
Jerome and the Woodchucks have plenty of wood collected from local ranches but it still needs to be cut up for next winter. Many of the men have found work for now at seasonal, paying jobs but most will be unemployed once again when winter weather sets in so will be able to help when it really matters. Wood is still needed for heating and being given out as spring weather on the Rez can be unpredictable. The winter warmth program sponsored by Hearts of the Sacred Spirit( the non profit that SFK is under) ended for this year on March 31st, they helped people in many parts of the Rez with funds for propane and electric. Always needed for the Woodchucks and other workers are steel toed boots in men’s sizes 12-13 so if you see any on sale or at garage sales or have an extra pair sitting around, they would love them. Men go out to work in running shoes which offers no protection to those who work with heavy equipment or from the cold weather. Of course warm gloves, hats, and coats are always a need as theirs get worn out quickly (if they have them) from all the heavy work they do.
The sewing circle has had trouble lately getting together at the Kennedy Hall, there always seems to be some reason they can’t use the hall and the usual politics get in the way too. Ladies are sewing on projects at home using the donated machines, most are sewing pillows and blankets for their families. We’ll post a list of needs in the near future. Bingo has had the same issues of using the hall so is not being held now as often as they’d like. Originally Bingo was set up for the elders but many younger folks are showing up and demanding it be played at a faster pace. We’ll have to see if they can work out separate times for different age groups
During our recent conversation Anne told me about the local ambulance and firefighting departments in Wanblee, she also took pictures of buildings around town because she wanted you all to see what the community looks like and what if has to offer the people that live there. The ambulance service is really a barebones operation now, the tribe runs it but since they’re in debt you can imagine how a service like this suffers. Jerome and Theresa’s son-in-law John was instrumental in getting a volunteer fire department started in Wanblee, they didn’t want to get the tribe involved for obvious reasons. There are only three communities on the entire Rez with a fire truck capable of fighting grassland fires, Pine Ridge village, Oglala and Kyle which are all under the direction of the tribe. These fire trucks cannot fight structural fires, they can only put out the fire around the house and try to keep it from spreading to the house or structure. They depend on other areas off the Rez to come to their aid to put out house fires which can take up to an hour or more to arrive on the scene, by then many houses have already burned to the ground. There are about 20 men who have volunteered for Wanblee’s firefighting force and John, who has trained firefighters all over the state of SD, has succeeded in training the Wanblee crew to fight grassland and house fires with all trainees passing the state exam.
Currently Wanblee has an old 1970 fire truck with a pump and were recently given a newer truck with a flatbed which can carry a water pump and hose, they’re both used for grassland fires. The newer truck still needs about $600 worth of work to get it ready for duty. Since rainfall and snow were limited this winter, the area is drier than usual and they’re worried about grass fires this season with some already being reported. LFC has offered to receive money for the repairs if anyone is interested in helping. We already have a pledge of $100 from Janet’s mother who wants to donate the “cash back” bonus from her Discover card where it will do the most good. We agree with her choice and if you want to join her please send your tax deductible donation (no amount is too small!) to Lakota Friends Circle. Donations can be sent here to the 501c3 nonprofit organization, Lakota Friends Circle, thru paypal (email address- firstname.lastname@example.org) or by mailing to
Lakota Friends Circle
2415 Amberbrook Lane
Grayson, GA 30017
We will keep you up dated as donations come in. A fire to someone’s home, even a home that has many issues, is still a great loss to that person as they are now homeless. Ask your friends and family and coworkers if they can afford a few dollars to help the cause.
The firefighters can get a much newer truck from a department in West Virginia to fight house fires but they will need to go there to receive training and maintenance instructions. They’ve been holding some taco sales and other small fundraisers to earn money for the trip to WV. They will also have to find a place to keep the truck as it needs to be kept out of the elements. The director of LFC’s husband has a small foundation that donated the $750 needed to join the SD Professional Firefighters Association which will give them access to fire equipment for the men and the truck at reduced prices. Currently they have no respirator masks or protective clothing to fight fires and many come home with a bad cough from smoke inhalation which will lead to irreparable lung damage so they need to get funding to buy the fire suits that run close to $3000 for fighting house fires and $1300 dollars for grassland fires. Even if they only have a few suits for some to gear up, it will make the volunteer job safer. If you know of ways to help get equipment or clothing for a fire department please contact us here. Thank you!
During Anne’s recent Rez visit she was able to attend a meeting of the Wanblee Community Action team attended by representatives from various services in the area. One of the items they discussed was youth suicide and prevention. Unfortunately they’ve had two in the last month, a young mother with a two-year old child and a teen, breaking the three year suicide free record in their area. They mentioned that if a desperate youth has access to the web, he/she could get inspiration on how to commit suicide on the internet. While they know there’s value to the internet for a mentally stable person, it’s not a place where those with suicidal thoughts should tread. They’ve set up a local task force to find ways to locate the at risk youth and help them find mental health treatment and alternatives to suicide. They discussed providing positive outlets for their youth to give them hope in life such as spiritual counseling and fun activities such as movies, sports, crafts, homework help, etc. one of the reasons we ask for these items for Easter and Christmas. Life is tough and many kids live in homes where one caregiver or both may be addicted to alcohol or drugs, they may not receive the parental guidance and love kids need to grow up with good mental health so some kids look to gangs for their family, others may see suicide as their only way out.
Well that’s all the news for now, Theresa is upset that she’s behind on her thank you notes but wants you to know the gifts were appreciated and loved by the kids. They’ve had to deal with some health issues and are tired, they’re in their 60s so need some down time too, something I can relate to! For the next 2 months we’re making summer outfits for boys and girls so will share some patterns and ideas with you in the next blog. Thanks as always from Sew For Kids. Thank you for being such great volunteers as we celebrate National Volunteer Week!