Saturday, May 12, 2007

If you ask for it, they will come.

"I want to help the people...the Lakota people"
I hear people say that all the time. They come in groups, in droves starting about now to "help the people." They come all summer long. I see them fixing up people's houses just to see those houses go back to what they were before. I see them handing out donations of anything and everything. Only to see people selling that stuff the same day. I once heard my sister's friend in Minnesota tell her "We went to Pine Ridge with our church group one summer to "help the people." She was looking at her with wide eyes as if she went on a wild safari and saved some rare animals. I see people from other reservations come here and say they want to help the Lakota people. Getting jobs here with that intent.
Everyone wants to "help the people" here.
It's great for me. I sell beadwork like crazy...but after all the years of people coming to help...people wanting to help, people rebuilding people's houses and the truckloads of stuff people bring...we are still the poorest county in the nation with the highest infant mortality rate and lowest life expectancy.
It makes me wonder...
What kind of "help" we really need.

*All opinions are appreciated and the longer the better. i will respond to each one.


Josie said...

I believe the help that is most needed is the kind that will come from within the people, not without. People there have to want things to change within their families and communities. Otherwise it's like slapping band-aids on war wounds. Quick-fix cosmetic improvements may brighten things up a little and bring a few smiles, but in the end the system has to change before anything else can. I'm not a fan of "do-good" groups bringing THEIR solutions on how to make things right. How can they know what's really needed uless they have lived their lives there? I think the history of outside "help" from the government and others, speaks for itself. Sometimes the hand-out mentality creates more problems than it solves. I like to think that real friendships are the best thing we can build between us. Friendship leads to better understanding... it helps us realize our common humanity, and begins to rebuild the trust which long ago was broken - so we can work together to build a safer, saner world for the children.

Dorid said...

eh, I think that the problem isn't with the help, but for the lack of respect. How do people who come in to "help the people" expect their gifts to mean anythin when they act like they are on some "wild safari and saved some rare animals."

One of the problems with many of the People is the lack of self respect and confusion brought on by the stripping of culture. Now in some places poverty and drunkeness are seen as cultural features.

Sure, money and goods STILL have to come from outside. We are haldly left with land or resources enough to be self sustaining nations. It seems that only the Navajo have been able to be profitable without totally relying on gambling and cigerettes.

So what to do? Some of the help has to come from within: Restoration of national pride, and awareness of the individual's place in the society. THEN we can respect what we have.

I would like to share a story with you, it's a true story out of 5 nations. I can't tell it as well as it should be told, but I can give you the gist of it (next post)

Dorid said...

Out on the edge of the rez lived an old Iroquois man. His house was near another house, which had long ago burned down. Between the houses was the remains of an old fence, the posts sticking up among the wild weeds and the cross bars rotting on the ground.

One day a white man came and told him his home and property was a disgrace. He should fix the fence and make it better, and that would improve his property. Then he went away.

Some time later he came back, and again spoke to the old man, telling him again his property was a disgrace and he should fix the fence. The Iroquois man listened and nodded agreement.

Again after some time the white man came to the old Iroquois man's property and spoke to him. He was very angry, since the old man had agreed to improve the property.

The old man listened to the white man's anger, then said "but I did improve the fence." and pointed.

There on one of the rotting fence posts was a colored rag with several feathers fluttering from it.

There are times when White and Indian expectaions are very different. Sure, the People need food, shelter, and good medical care... books, better income... and other STUFF. But none of that is useful when the recipients don't have self respect. What I think Pine Ridge may need is a healthy dose of Tradition and Lakota Pride. (IMHO)

Dana Dane said...

Josie~I feel the same way. Not that i don't appreciate what people are trying to do for the people here, but I would like to know WHY THEY DO IT? I think I have a good topic for the column here? And what will they do to see what they did in later years? Will they care? In a way it feels like a badge for the boy scouts or something....I mean that is how I see it. I think people here expect TOO MUCH is a good example...last year a man from Wqashington, D.C. read my column...he was in town on a Mission of Hope or something if the sort and i was asked by the editor to cover it. It was a truckload of supplies and stuff sent down here. Now i went up there to cover it but when i got up there he totally wanted me to grab "what i can" for me and my kids and I was like "NO" as it was I was embarassed at the pilfering...or what seemed like it, going on. But he was like "No you have kids take what you can...I took one box and he ran another one over. i was embarassed because some of the people there were looking at me like "Who is she?" Anyway i think people get to used to shit like that and well, how will they ever learn to NOT feel like that? i don't you know what I mean?

Dana Dane said...

dorid...i totally agree...i am just wondering how to make this you guys think i should post something in the column about it? I want the people that come here to know this....i just seen a couple of vanloads today at the grocery store and they were all fired up about being here...then some drunk guy came up and asked them for change and they retracted and withdrew like he was poison and not that I was offended but I was thinking...."Why are they here? To paint someone's kitchen and get a notch closer to heaven?" I don't know. i don't know.
Anyway....thanks for the story...i loved it.

Josie said...

I'd love to see this issue in a column. I think it will be a hard one to get accepted, since it could step on a few toes. I want to believe that most folks who come start out with good intentions, however at times misguided - I've made a few mis-steps too. But I agree that there seems to be much ego feeding in the process. "How awesome I am to help these poor folks." I've watched some of those donor "giveaways" and I can't help but feeling the people there are demeaned in being encouraged to rummage like dogs thru the boxes and piles to grab what they can that might be of use. I'm also aware of truckloads of donations of old clothes and stuff that no one can use - but someone deemed "good enough for those folks". That really sickens me. If someone wants to give something, first find out what's really needed, and then find a way to do it with respect, not in a way that requires grovelling. One of the saddest cases I know is a lady who coordinates nation-wide drives to collect things for various rez agencies...yet she won't come near the rez herself - it scares her. WTF?! I also go crazy when I hear people say "they don't want to work" or "why don't they move", as if it was really that simple. It's so easy to know the answers for everyone but ourselves.

I'm curious to know where you think change should start - how would it begin? I see one samll step in your picking up trash as you walk along roadsides. You are teaching your children to be caretakers of the earth and each other.

Josie said...

In fairness to the people and groups who come to "fix things"... it's very heartwrenching to see people living in third-world conditions. When I first told my coworkers I knew of children who regularly go to bed hungry and live in uninsulated homes that often are without heat or electricity, they thought I was making it up. No one wants to see children suffer.

Missy A said...

whats that saying give a man a fish and he will be back for more fish tommorrow, teach a man to fish and he will fish by himself for the rest of his life
Something like that anyway and thats the thing what these do gooders are doing isn't helping its giving there is a difference they aren't doing to help 'the people' they are doing it for thier own self satistaction if they really wanted to help and actually do something they would be showing how to do it or learning something for themselves
You seen the show 30 Days? thats the only way some people learn how the other half realy lives and thats live in thier shoes

You don't need do gooders you need doctors and teachers from your own community so you can 'fish' for yourselves

Dana Dane said...

Josie I don't think i would quite write it like I did up there...i would have to find a way to write it where toes only get stubbed. I do know they mean good. I just see so much of the help being "unappreciated" maybe because it is expected. i don't like seeing the conditions here....I don't like seeing children suffer....then again I think in a way all the help the comes through also helps worsen conditions...because some people think...oh it's summer someone will come fix my house and pick my garbage soon. We do need to help ourselves...anyway I think maybe those who always reach for the help may not be ones who read my column...we not only have Lakota Country Times here we also have Lakota-Dakota Journal, Indian country Today and National Enquirer...derr, i mean Black Hills Peoples News. So much competition...fpr one rez.

Dana Dane said...

Missy, that is so true I also think that we need this within ourselves. Gosh i wished I could work with the youth again. i worked with troubled and runaway youth but the tribe can't stay in compliance long anough witht he Youth Shelter to keep it pen. As it is it had been closed for almost 2 years and it has been over a year since I lost my job. That is where tomorrow is....with the youth...even and especially the runaway youth. Instead of worrying about them the tribe was into politics or whatever and the 2nd time I worked for the youth shelter and the second time it was shut down and I was laid off. We need to put our future in these children, especially the troubled ones because they are the strongest of heart. When I worked with them i talked to them like I was their older sister, not a parent and they respected that I didn't assume that authority. I don't know how mnay of them appreciated that and the fact that I took the time to teach them to bead. It just pisses me off that this ongoing battle to open it back up is such a long drawn out process. WE NEED THAT SHELTER because to ship these troubled youth off to foster homes and boot camps is not helping. Some of the kids were just homeless and don't need any disciplinary actions taken against them for the fact that their families abandoned them. But that is our future right there and if I could snap my finers for them to show the kids who they are or what they hold in front of them I would. But of course the shelter is still up in arms.

Anonymous said...

ahhh...home sweat home!

Dorid said...

Dana, I think there is a problem with those who come in to help if they think that helping means never getting their hands dirty. Sure, they are going to see things that are unpleasant and unhappy. This expectation that everyone who is poor is beaten down, grateful, and gentle is kinda silly. Some people are going to fight back against poverty and oppression with anger and alcohol, some with withdrawl deeper into tradion, and only a few will become beaten and have that charity poster child doe-eyed innocence that for some reason we think all the poor have, like Oliver Twist begging, "Please, sir, may I have another?"

Dorid said...

ok, having read through the comments, I have something else to add...

I think a lot of times people help because they really WANT to help, but they don't know how to help or what to expect.

Having been horendously poor myself and having been homeless, I think I have SOME experience in this.

You go to the food pantry and they give you bread, cakes, and a dozen packages of hotel soap (many of which I'm allergic to) and more toothpaste than you know what to do with. Then you get two cans of veggies, a can of beans, three packages of Ramen noodles, and a can of tuna. This is supposed to feed the family for two weeks.

For some reason people DON'T tend to donate things people REALLY need. There is always a rush at pantries for diapers. TOILET PAPER is something EVERYONE NEEDS but no one donates. How about if you can't store meat, donate tofu? There are even boxed meat flavored dehydrated tofus. PROTIEN is seldom addressed, except for Thanksgiving and Christmas, where you actually will see turkeys given out.

The problem is, giving a child a donut isn't goint to make things better, and giving a child a box of donuts MAY make him happier but NOT healthier.

People who donate, whether it be repair work, homes, food, clothing, books, eductaional supplies, etc... they need to understand the NEEDS OF THE PEOPLE they are giving to, not just pile a bunch of STUFF on them.

You see, THAT'S what's wrong with charity. They give what makes THEM feel better, not what neccessarily helps those who are in need.

Dana Dane said...

Jase, not talking about Rapid Valley here.
Dorid-I loved that last comment and can't really say anything except...I totally agree, plus I am out the back later to add if I can add to that.

Dana Dane said...

here's something i can add...i have been to many many food shelf places and just because poor people go to them....doesn't mean they ALL like Ramen noodles...not that i am bitching but Ramen is po folks staple food....when people donate something to a food shelf they always tend to donate Ramen...I however when i do donate I will throw toilet paper in that grocery cart that sits at most supermarkets....because i know the needs and most of the time can make a meal out of Ramen 30 different ways and always have it in my cupboards...even if it is the only thing....thanks to that iron chef Ramen blog I did asking for alternative Ramen recipes.
LMAO...funny how this blog came down to Ramen for me lol...always gotta be about food.

DeeAnne said...

Late but....perhaps it is not somuch help that is needed but hope. For people to have and to want all these wonderful things that people would bring, give, or assist must have hope that there is a purpose for it. Once one has hope, then comes the self-respect and all those other things that start to mean something.

Just my opinion, and I know I don't know squat...

DeeAnne said...

Read through the comments again and wanted to add...Dana I do believe that you ARE helping your people. By passing on traditions, speaking out on pride and issues, and by being an inspiration to you OWN children youa re still doing your part to create a better place. Might not break any world records, change things overnight, or even change things a lot but it will make a difference for a few.... maybe someday if time and circumstances permit you could somehow expand that. Teach beading classes, have a boys/girls club where you teach traditions..I don't know...but I do know your voice IS heard.

Dana Dane said...

thanks deanne and thanks for still reading