Last week’s column.
No one can argue with the fact that life on the Pine Ridge Reservation is poverty stricken. This has been a factor since the reservation was in existence because of the way it was all set up by the government. It was never set up for us to prosper. We were given trust land to farm while we were never farmers. Much of this land was sold by grandparents back in the day because they had to feed the children. The land also has been and is leased out to white ranchers while tribal members collect lease check for ridiculously low amounts. My sons’ dad had a lease check mailed to him for 0.01. Who would even cash a check for a penny? The IRA government is not our traditional form of government and someone tell me when it starts working. As a people it is hard to move forward when no one looks ahead, instead they are all looking at each other, pointing lips and fingers, and laying blame.
So while the reservation continues with staggering statistics and non profit organizations swoop down like buzzards to help in the form of “band aid” help, painting houses, doing repairs, skirting trailers, building outhouses, etc. Everyone wants to help the poor, their heart breaks, yet no one wants to offer solutions, only a fresh coat of paint.
While our reservation is rich in history, people still suffer from the many statistics. So the draw to our reservation is our history. Our famous chiefs and leaders. Wounded Knee happened twice and today much of our people still take stands and fight for what is right. People from all over the world are drawn to that fighting spirit. Where, despite our struggle we still have fight in us, we still have laughter, and hope. Because we have no choice but to still hope for a better tomorrow for our children.
At this same time, we need to be aware of people who exploit us for a profit. One such case being a book written by a lady from Connecticut who had a six month relationship with a tribal member. Now much of this book is very offensive to a Lakota person. Especially a Lakota woman, as she describes how women are put in their place here on the reservation. She is very judgmental and talks on a radio interview about how she wrote the book with no judgement. She talks of how we stack cardboard together with rusted tin and tarps to build houses for our families. I could go on about other things described in the book, but I choose not to offend anyone. My book review can be found at http://www.justarezchick.wordpress.com.
This lady, who goes by her Indian name Little White Bird, claims to be an honorary tribal member, had a turbulent 6 month relationship with a Chief of our tribe by the name of Two Bear Paws. She does describe the fact that he “isn’t really a chief but a headsman.” She lived on the reservation for six months and lost memory of it for seven years she claims. She also claims hers is a story of survival and book of truth. Which it could all almost be credible to any outsider who didn’t know that there truly are no motels in South Dakota with no running water, except for one thing I caught in her podcast interview on Ravenspeaks radio.
She talks of how this publishing company took a chance on her and they also let her do the cover art. She speaks of how lucky and fortunate she was to find a publishing company that would do that. On her twitter account she converses back and forth with her publishing company. The company, Passer Press was founded by Shelly Ott. Shelly Ott is also the artist given credit for the book cover. Shelly Ott, publisher and Little White Bird, author are the same person. She is her own publisher. Which is fine, as long as you don’t lie about it. So it makes you wonder how much of the “memoir” and “story of survival on the reservation is true?
We need to be aware of people who prey on poverty looking for a profit. There are many true stories of survival on our reservation by people born and raised there and we are perfectly capable of telling our own stories. Rather than someone who watched Dances With Wolves 49 times and wanders on the rez looking for a story as rich as our Lakota history.