The end of a year, and the beginning of a new one, has always been a moment when it seems appropriate to review the past and look forward to the future.
In ancient Roman mythology, the deity that became associated with the first month of the year was the two-faced god, Janus. This is, of course, the semantic origin of the month January. Janus oversaw ends and beginnings, and thus became a metaphor for the change in the years.
Lakota traditions, based on a thirteen-month lunar calendar, placed more significance on the return of Spring as the start for another year. This is sensible for a people with a strong connection to nature, as once again grasses turned green, the weather warmed, precipitation changed from snow to life-giving rain, animals brought forth young, and the world felt renewed and filled with promise.
At the end of this calendar year, we of One Spirit would like to embrace the meanings of both traditions: reminding ourselves of what has been a very productive year for our various programs to help empower the Lakota of Pine Ridge Reservation to help themselves, while looking forward with anticipation to more progress in the new year.
This is also a good time to remember that, without the generous ongoing support of our One Spirit family, we would not be able to continue helping the Lakota help themselves. This core principle informs all of our activities: offering enablement and support, rather than simply handing out charitable aid. One Spirit seeks to help build self-reliance and growth among the Lakota themselves, in order to help them achieve greater independence, health, and economic stability, while maintaining a profound respect for their unique and wonderful cultural traditions.
During 2018, the Charging Buffalo Facility was finally completed, inspected, and opened, providing a future source of fresh protein for the oyate, employment, and the possibility of profitable marketing of buffalo products. The food program continued to grow, as donations would allow, to now provide nutrition for over 6000 Lakota. Some of this food was produced on the Rez, some donated, some purchased, but all to help provide some of the nutritional needs of the Lakota with an emphasis on healthy choices. Thanks to the generosity of new wood sources, the wood program has been able to grow and provide more fuel for homes that often rely only on wood for heating during the cold South Dakota winters. This also provides some employment to gather, cut, split, and distribute the wood.
We initiated a wood stove program, to try and get funds to provide safer wood stoves and chimneys to reduce the unfortunate house fires that devastate some homes on the Rez during the winter. The Allen Youth Center provides programs for young Lakota (and some for the entire community) in a safe, supportive environment. We have made advances in fostering more production of organic produce on the Rez, once again with the goal of improved, healthful nutrition.
Allied with Everybody Solar, we now turn to 2019, as we work to provide solar power to create electricity for the Charging Buffalo Facility, the Allen Youth Center, and to provide electricity for the homes of Lakota that do not have it, to say nothing of enabling electric heat for homes now limited to wood only. Again, this also provides employment. Currently we are working with the Lakota to develop a Lakota Solar Field that will provide power to homes throughout the Reservation.
As a corollary to the food box program, we intend to develop a food center on the Rez that can be a focal point of food distribution and increase availability. We will also continue and grow the running program and other youth activities, try and provide needs from the Okini List that allows families to request specific items desperately needed, and support the ongoing efforts to raise more buffalo for tribal consumption and possible sale.
In all of this, and in keeping with our philosophy (and that of our wonderful supporters), the aim remains to help this noble people help themselves achieve economic, nutritional, and cultural self-sufficiency. With a growing sense of pride in who the Lakota are, it is possible to imagine a future when the current poor health, addiction, and unemployment issues that dog the Pine Ridge Reservation will be greatly reduced, and hopefully disappear.
Our fellow American citizens of the Oglala Lakota have been downtrodden for far too long. Their loyalty and service to our country has been unwavering, as can be seen by the many veterans among them. We need to recognize this and feel grateful.
As we look forward to a new year, we thank all of you for your continued support, and look forward with hope for more successes in 2019.