As we all look forward to the Thanksgiving celebration and its indulgent pleasures, it is important to remember that many of our fellow American citizens face a far bleaker prospect. Nowhere could this be more true than on the frigid, wind-swept prairie of the Pine Ridge Reservation.
This writer was raised nearby on the plains of Wyoming, and can recall the frigid gusts that cut through clothing and chill to the very marrow of one's bones. In my case, I could rush out of the gales into a warm, well-heated and insulated house where warm food awaited. For many of the Lakota on Pine Ridge, the story is far more grim.
This Isn't Some Third World Country
Remember that 97% of the Pine Ridge population lives below the federal poverty level. Bear in mind that this not only includes nutritional challenges, which we of One Spirit try to help alleviate: it also means substandard housing, poorly insulated and in many cases heated only by a wood stove, lacking even basic necessities like a warm blanket or even a warm coat to wear as nights with temperatures sometimes 25 degrees below zero lurk just outside the door. See the CNN video about One Spirit from February, 2017
You are not reading about some third world country. You are reading about fellow American citizens in our own country suffering such dire conditions, even as we sit down to a feast surrounded by family and friends.
The One Spirit Family
Your generous donations have helped provide food assistance to many Lakota families, and One Spirit also helps obtain firewood when possible, but there is also urgent need for warm clothing and bedding---from blankets and sleeping bags to the "luxury" of a pillow. Since many of the homes on the reservation do not even have electricity, or enough electric power to operate a space heater (if they had one), and the people cannot afford propane to run a furnace (again, if they had one), without warm clothing and bedding, there is little to protect basic health. Every year, elderly Lakota face the prospect of death from hypothermia, when donations of unneeded coats, long underwear, other warm clothing of all types, and bedding could spell the difference.
One Lakota Family
An example of the sort of desperate straits a Lakota family can find itself in during the brutal winter season illustrates the urgency of these needs.
Joseph (a pseudonym to protect privacy) has reached out to One Spirit for help. His family includes his wife and five children ranging in age from 12 to 4 months. They recently had to move into the home of his elderly father, owing to his failing health and weakened physical condition. He has to wear several layers of clothing to try and keep warm, while Joseph and his entire family huddle together in a single bedroom, with only the infant's blanket between them all.
While we are thankful for a huge feast in a warm home, this Lakota family would be thankful merely for a few blankets, comforters, or sleeping bags; their Thanksgiving would be even better with just a few pillows. The contrast between what many of us have for this holiday and the family of Joseph could not be clearer. And they are not an isolated case.
Two Ways to Help
If any of our One Spirit family can help this family with material donations, as well as the many other Lakota families in similar need, please refer to our Okini List for items urgently needed and the way to make contact with us for delivery arrangements.
If you can help this family and the many others waiting for assistance with monetary donations, you can donate via PayPal or you can mail a check or money order to:
PO Box 3209
Rapid City, SD 57709
Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!