July brought Native Hope and the surrounding communities many opportunities for outreach and flourishing connections. The team traveled nearly 1,500 miles around the state to attend fellowship events and provide assistance for programs and organizations to, in turn, provide for their communities.
Our monthly travel began July 9. Native Hope delivered a van full of necessities to Carol Quilt at the Episcopal Church in Fort Thompson, S.D. We unloaded boxes with smiles and laughter. Carol, family, and friends prepared the garage for storage and helped the Native Hope team unload when we arrived. With much appreciation, Carol emphasized how thankful she and the community are for Native Hope’s generosity and offered a donation in return.
On July 15, we headed to the Pine Ridge reservation. First, we delivered various Native American books to the BEAR (Be Excited About Reading) Program and distributed a fellowship check to Yvonne “Tiny” DeCory – an Oglala Lakota and Native Hope fellow in Pine Ridge, SD. Tiny is the founder of the BEAR Program on the Pine Ridge Reservation, which she created to discourage and fight the suicide epidemic amongst youth and adults in Indian Country. Tiny’s 2021 fellowship will fund valuable talking circles for at-risk teens who require support. She also hopes to offer children a sense of identity and leadership-building skills. The BEAR Program team provides these assets by promoting literature and encouraging artistic expression. Native Hope is confident that the books will be thoroughly loved in their new home.
We then made our way to deliver a trailer full of essential items to the LaCreek CAP office in Martin, S.D. A crew of helpers was ready to unpack boxes full of various household items, furniture, clothing, and more. Those from the community who helped unload were excited while they made a game out of unloading.
Next on our agenda was a quick delivery on July 19 to Toni Goodlow, a drug and alcohol coordinator for the Lower Brule Drug Court. Two members of Lower Brule Drug Court were leaving for rehabilitation centers and needed clothing and hygiene products. The two didn’t have anything but the clothes on their backs at the time, and Toni mentioned, “I don’t like that these men don’t have their things, so it’s nice to have you guys help us out.” A week and a half later, we provided extra clothing and hygiene for the men, who successfully arrived at their rehabilitation centers earlier that week.
On July 20, the Native Hope team spent the morning in Fort Thompson, first delivering snacks and drinks for a Youth Wellness Fair hosted by Indian Health Services at the Wellness Center on Wednesday, July 21. The event was open to the community and offered activities such as inflatables and a face painting station for the kids. We provided snacks for the attendees.
Ending the morning of July 20, we met with St. Joseph’s Indian School staff to brainstorm on building the new Crow Creek baseball field in Crow Creek, S.D. Investing time in this exciting project includes the City of Chamberlain, Crow Creek Housing Authority, St. Joseph’s Indian School, and Native Hope. The primary goal for the day was to see what needs to be done and get the ball rolling. We are thrilled to start breaking ground and hope to take action within the coming months.
That afternoon, Native Hope staff packed to attend a Lakota Language Conference, Tokatakiya Lakota Iyapi Woanwanglake, in Rapid City, S.D., organized by Beverly Running Bear — an Oglala Lakota, Black Hills State professor and Native Hope fellow. The language preservation meeting was Wednesday, July 21. Bev hosted a successful turnout of Lakota-speaking elders who discussed protecting and sustaining the Lakota language for future generations.
The number of remaining Lakota speakers is concerning. Roughly 11.8% of tribal members speak the language fluently. Last year, the Lakota people lost several elders due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Bev’s goal for her fellowship is to work with Lakota elders who wish to find traditional ways to save the Lakota language and discuss the language’s future. Bev hopes to create a history of authentic, fluent speakers to serve as a tool for the youth to carry on the Lakota language and culture.
Native Hope started Friday, July 23, in Fort Thompson, S.D. We delivered hotdogs, buns, condiments, and chips to Stacey Shields, a Staff Support Assistant for BIA Social Services in the Crow Creek Agency. The event was titled Honoring Parent’s Day, which invited community parents to attend with their children. The purpose of the event was to instill confidence and recognize the importance of parental presence. While observing the crowd and listening to those who shared their stories, Stacey relayed that watching the parents share their stories is encouraging and helps other parents relate with their community. Attendees shared good times and bad times, but most importantly, provided validation and support for the children and guardians.
Fourteen miles across the river to Lower Brule, Native Hope fellow Jason Goodface held his last Meth Awareness Walk for his fellowship lineup. Jason, a member of the Kul Wíçasa Oyaté, is a recovering meth addict who speaks openly about his addiction and his journey to sobriety. Jason accomplished his goal of spreading meth awareness to remind struggling community members that the path to recovery is possible. #WeDoRecover.
Joseph Montana of the American Legion, Post 324, briefly spoke on the importance of the Meth Awareness Walk and how the next few hours would look – four paths, nourishments, and voluntary speakers.
Following Joe, Antoine “J.R.” American Horse stood surrounded by participants and addressed the drug epidemic’s effect on our Native community:
“Our Seventh Generation is here, and the enemy attacking them is drugs. It is difficult to see young people struggle with this disease… To the young men: Who are you? Be strong and stay together. Protect the family. Protect the little ones. Too many men have turned their backs on their families. There are so many missing women today. We can prevent our women from being stolen if we protect our [families] like we are called to do. Support our children in academics. Education plays a big part in this life. Today is a special day, so let us pull together. We can’t do it alone, but we have to do it as a family, as a tribe – as a nation. Today, we are up against something that comes full force. Tȟuŋkášila, we ask you for your grace….”
As the prayer commenced, everyone fell silent and reflected on the mission at hand – to fight against addiction.
On July 26, Native Hope delivered supplies to Shared Waters in Stephan, S.D. Shared Waters is a tribal maternal, infant-and-early-childhood-home-visiting program that assists both Crow Creek and Lower Brule tribes. Native Hope provided adult and baby hygiene, clothing, breast pumps, play furniture, a car seat, toys, and diapers to the newly launched program. La Costa McGhee – Program Director – Gail His Law and Denise Campbell are working to help new mothers and fathers find confidence in parenting. When asked what their hope is for the communities, and individually, La Costa responded:
“My hope for the two communities is having that extra resource for them… We want them all to be successful in life. We are the first responders for families in helping them become their child’s first and foremost positive influential teacher.
“My hope individually is to be able to help another by other means of resources in our communities. Many people do not know of any resources in their communities, let alone know that they can get assistance from a program, like Native Hope, that is not on the reservation. I want [Shared Waters and Native Hope] to have a
long-lasting relationship. We can advocate for each other.
[My team and I are driven by] seeing first-hand how much is needed here in our communities, and also experiencing it myself when I became a first-time parent… I now try to spread the good word of the positive work other agencies do. I try to make sure I have contact numbers and names. I even try to introduce [new families] to whoever they need.”
Finishing July activity, Native Hope brought a Suburban full of supplies and appliances to Potato Creek, S.D., on the Pine Ridge reservation. Our delivery included school supplies, toys, kid and adult clothing, hygiene products, bedding, towels, kitchen utensils, cleaning supplies, and gardening tools.
We are incredibly thankful for our donors and supporters who help supply the means for these types of opportunities. Our Donors provide an inspiring fulfillment for Native Hope and those who confide in our contributions.
Philámaya for your ongoing support.
Each day presents new challenges, but because of you, we can help and inspire hope.