Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Leaving My Heart on the Prairie

It's good to be home.
I have been traveling for the past two weeks and it was good but it is always nice to sleep in ones own bed, something we take for granted here in the U.S. at least most of us.  
 But there is a land in the U.S. that most do not have a bed or even a mattress, it is a land in the middle of rich farm land and prairie as far as the eye can see but the people there go to sleep hungry. 
This land is in South Dakota... 
but this is not the South Dakota I knew as a child, 
spending summer days chasing sheep through plush pastures and watching the wind making waves over golden wheat fields on my grandmothers farm.
  The smell of apple pie drifting through the house and the call of the mourning dove waking me in a bed soft with down.

This is the South Dakota I have always held dear to my heart, 
but now there is another South Dakota 
that is in stark contrast... 
it tugs at my heart and brings me to my knees. 

It is one of endless prairie and beauty but no food grows here, there are no fields ripe, the earth is hard and rocky, it is ruthless, harsh and the wind sweeps poverty .

 This land once bowed it's head to the  Oglala Lakota Sioux and they lived in harmony with it but we the United States broke that union and stole the best from them and changed their way of life forever... 

We told them how to dress, took the nomadic lifestyle from them 
and in the name of God and Christianity cut their hair
 and punished them when they spoke their native tongue. 

We tried to wipe them from the face of the earth and 
those that survived were stripped of all they once knew. 

Wounded Knee Cemetery

We took the land that was most sacred to them and gave them land no one wanted... 

Ah, you say but that was so long ago... 

So, I thought when I first visited
 the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. 

I thought I had stepped back in time... or was in another country, this cannot be the United States.
 If you visit here... and talk to the Lakota people 
you will find them still in mourning. 
They are still trying to climb out of the hole we put them in a hundred years ago,
 "they are a forgotten people in a forgotten place".

They have no voice... 

Today they do not have adequate housing, the government built cluster houses but way too few, it also sent up FEMA trailers with black mold problems.
 It is common to find trailers sleeping 15 people because those with homes take in whoever needs a roof over their heads.
 Many homes are without running water or sewer. 
The water they do have is tainted with Uranium from the Black Hills mining and has been declared not safe for drinking by the epa.
There are children suffering from drinking water...

And then there is the alcohol problem even though the reservation is dry the 85% alcoholism rate is paralyzing. 

Just outside the reservation, in the bordering town of White Clay, Neb. alcohol is legal. Though only fourteen people live in this neighboring town, each year 4 million cans of beer are sold. 
They have a best seller called Joose, one can contains a whole bottle of wine, fruit flavored and is up to 12% alcohol. 
They thrive off the sickness the Lakota people have with alcohol. 

There are on the average 65 homeless living on the streets of White Clay...

And yet in the midst of so much heartache there are the faces that walk through my dreams... the bright faces of survivors, 
the faces that hold a warriors heart.

Nupa White Plume taken from Nat'l Geographic

The faces of those who get up every morning and face a day with insurmountable obstacles... yet smile bright and live life with an open  heart to what life gives them. 

Nupa and his twin brother Zuya White Plume

Beautiful playful children having fun with squirt guns unmindful of their surroundings...

Lovely Meghan and Zuya's daughter

Proud daddy...

Annie May

Beautiful faces... beautiful hearts
Beautiful people of the Pine Ridge Reservation

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning...
Lam. 3:22

Please join my journey as I bring more of my Pine Ridge trip to you over the next couple of posts.