Let’s label June: Fellows’ Catchup Month. COVID-19 directly impacted the Native Hope fellows and their hopes for their fellowships. However, throughout June, several of our fellows started their long-awaited projects.
Native Hope Fellowships enhance the dreams of those working to create a lasting impact on Indian Country.
Elva Sticker, 2020 fellow and member of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe (Kul Wíçasa Oyaté), is a member of the
Isnatí Awica Lowanpe (Brave Heart Society). The society teaches teenage women about the Lakota ways through preparation for and participation in the traditional Coming-of-Age (Isnatí) ceremony. With the help of her Native Hope Fellowship, Elva wanted to help teenage girls prepare for and experience the Isnatí ceremony, to bridge the cultural gap between generations. On June 7, she held an event for some of her girls and their parents in Lower Brule by the Missouri River. Those speaking at her Native Hope sponsored event were Nick Estes and
Faith Spotted Eagle. At the end of July, Elva and the young ladies will travel south to Lake Andes to participate in the Isnatí ceremony on the White Swan ceremonial grounds. Congratulations, Elva and girls, for your perseverance in working to accomplish your goal!
The same week, Dennis Metcalf — a 2021 fellow, member of the Hunkpati Oyaté, and student at the Institute of American Indian Arts — met with Joy Brinton of Giving with Joy and Native Hope team members. The group spent the week on story development for a graphic novel to promote indigenous storytelling in a positive voice for Indigenous Values. This graphic novel features a Dakota heroine who visits the past to create change in the present. Dennis will create concept art and develop character outlines this summer. While Dennis is new to the story-development process, his classes at Institute for American Indian Arts (IAIA) and love for this genre equip him for the challenge. The writing group hopes to convey a powerful story inspiring the reader to learn more about their heritage and its role in shaping the future: “A breakthrough in one generation creates an inheritance and momentum for the next.”- Bill Johnson
Next, our partner through the height of COVID-19, PAZA, Tree of Life, kicked off their Back to Our Roots: Healing Gathering. The gathering was to help promote healing of the wounds between Natives and non-Natives to bring about unity and reconciliation. The event began in Wounded Knee, South Dakota, at the burial site of those who lost their lives in the Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890. Granddaughter of Chief Alec High Hawk, Debbie Day, spoke to those in attendance. Debbie mentioned that every time she comes to the gravesite of her grandparents and relatives, she is overcome by grief. “As we drove up to the site today, I asked myself, ‘I wonder which way they ran?’” she shared. This question hit the group — Wounded Knee community lays in the middle of a vast field with a small creek bed winding through it. There are few trees, only miles, and miles of prairie, leaving nowhere to hide. After recounting the events of that fateful day in December of 1890, Debbie concluded, “I wanted to be here to meet all of you, to thank all of you — this is a special day.”
The next stop for the healing gathering was Hot Springs, South Dakota, where many of the attendees enjoyed a dip in the hot springs, which the Lakota and Cheyenne consider sacred. Following this, we traveled through Custer State Park to experience an up-close view of the buffalo (Tatanka) and other game on our way to share a meal in Deadwood, South Dakota. At the banquet, Delwin Fiddler Jr., co-founder of PAZA, Tree of Life, performed a healing bear dance, and elders from other nations, including Navajo, Cherokee, and Pueblo, offered songs, stories, and prayers for unity and healing. PAZA, Tree of Life honored the Native Hope team with a plaque for our COVID-19 Response partnership in 2020-21.
Sturgis, South Dakota, and Bear Butte were the next stop for our team and PAZA's event. Native Hope teammates, fellow Dennis Metcalf, and Joy and Mathew Brinton (Giving with Joy) climbed Bear Butte, a sacred mountain in the northern Black Hills. There, we tied prayer bundles to trees and offered thanks for such a glorious experience for all. We joined PAZA's group for tree planting on the grounds of Bear Butte. The rest of the day, elders shared stories of the past and their hopes for the future. While Delwin and his friends continued to Spearfish Canyon, South Dakota; Devil’s Tower, Wyoming; and Little Bighorn, Montana, our crew finished our Black Hills tour catching up with our fellow Beverly Running Bear in Rapid City, South Dakota, and visiting the Crazy Horse Monument.
Beverly Running Bear — an Oglala Lakota, Black Hill State professor, and fellow — met with us to plan her July 21 Language Preservation Meeting. There are fewer than 2,000 fluent Lakota speakers. Last year, the Lakota people lost several elders to COVID-19. Bev’s goal for her fellowship is for 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. Look for more on her event in next month’s Hope Report.
Finally, fellow Jason Goodface of the Kul Wíçasa Oyaté, recovering meth addict, speaks openly about his addiction and his journey to sobriety — which wasn’t easy. Jason intends to spread meth awareness and remind those on the same journey that recovery is possible. On June 26, Jason completed his first meth awareness walk in Bullhead, South Dakota— he attended, walked, and spoke at the Rock Creek Meth Awareness Walk sponsored by Rock Creek: American Legion Post 324. His goal is to host his own Meth Awareness walk in conjunction with the Lower Brule Drug Court in Lower Brule on July 23. Congratulations to Jason on his progress — #WeDoRecover.
On the last day of June, we wrapped up in grand fashion with multiple deliveries on the same day. It was a day to rejoice as the trip a celebration — joining us on the trek were three newbies to Native Hope Outreach:
Emme Barrett, Community Outreach Coordinator and Native Hope’s newest employee; Eduardo Aguiré, Native Hope’s Social Media Coordinator; and Hope McCloskey, Native Hope and St. Joseph’s Indian School summer intern and Augustana student.
The first stop in Lower Brule, South Dakota, was the Restoring Hope Shelter to see Vicki Her Many Horses, shelter director. The first thing we noticed was the new fence protecting the shelter from view. It was exciting to see as Native Hope donors provided funding for this invaluable asset. Vicki greeted the team members with warm thanks. She explained her plans for the newly protected yard and shared the gratitude of the shelter’s women and children for this space. The fence keeps the children safe, so they can play outside without being watched or taken by a perpetrator.
After hearing Vicki explain this, Hope shared, “I’ve had the fortune of never thinking that about front lawns, but now it’s something that will linger… It’s nice knowing that someone like her works there and cares so much about the people and families who pass through there.”
Next, we stopped at Toni Goodlow’s, a drug and alcohol coordinator for the Lower Brule Drug Court. She requested medicines, sweetgrass, and sage for those attending treatment. “These items help them know someone cares about them,” Toni shared. “Many have nothing to take with them. We make sure they have clothes, shoes, toiletries, and more.” Our visit with Toni was terrific. We joked, laughed, shared a few serious thoughts, and visited about new General Education Degree (GED) scholarships Native Hope is sponsoring through the Lower Brule Community College.
The final stop was the Boys and Girls Club. Melissa Johnson, youth program director, and Tonya Derdall, executive director, took the team on a tour of the newly built and newly furnished youth center tour. Hope mentioned, “It was one of the nicest Boys and Girls Club buildings I’ve ever seen.” It features a large day room with wall-hung folding tables (murphy tables). The tables allow for the room to have multiple uses throughout the day. We were happy to deliver the funding for the tables that day. Thank you to our donors!
Additionally, the new club has a big kitchen, a gaming room, and a reading room. We delivered a variety of Native American books for various reading levels to fill their bookshelves. The Boys and Girls Club was grateful for the donation, and we are thankful for those who make rewarding visits like this one possible.
With much appreciation for our donors and supporters, Native Hope celebrates the expansion of our horizons last month and looks forward to continued growth. Philámaya to those who contribute to our efforts across Indian Country — you make all of this possible.