The Power of Community

Aug 31, 2016 | Native Hope

When Julz Rich looks at the cross tattooed on her arm, she sees a reminder of the solidarity made while she attended school at St. Joseph’s Indian School in the '80s and early '90s. “The ties that I made there have made a positive impact on my life. They cared for me, and they knew I had potential that I didn’t know I had,” she admits. “Even though I didn’t believe in myself, the staff always believed in me.”

The staff of the school still believes in Julz. In fact, she received the Saint Joseph’s Indian School Distinguished Alumni Award for 2016 for her efforts on her reservation and the positive impact she has made within her community. (Read part one of Julz's story here, part two here and part three here.)

The butterfly floating above a rose lifts her spirit when she is low.

julztat2-1.jpgAndy, Assistant Director of Alumni, joked as he announced her name for the award. "Julie attended St. Joe’s from first grade to eighth grade, and around here and in St. Joe’s terms—that makes her a ‘lifer.’”

Obviously, being a “lifer” is something she warmly embraces, and she accepted the award with tears in her eyes and a huge smile.

Finding a cure for a nation

Julz does have a lot to smile about at the moment. After spending several months in jail, Julz’s eldest daughter, Jerene, has been released into her mother’s care.

Julz is thankful that her daughter is on the road to recovery.

“It’s getting really, really hard right now because I feel like it’s still coming out of me. For a couple of days, I’ve felt really ugly, and I’ve been crying a lot. I know it’s part of me healing and coming down off of it (meth),” Jerene Richards told Native Sun News.

Jerene plans to enter a treatment program to gain control of her life. She wants to be a good mother to her three children and knows that there is no room for meth in her life.

For the Richards [Rich] family, this single victory symbolizes the many who have received courage from M.A.M.A.’s fight.

Native Hope, together with our partners, recognizes Julz’s ability to speak out against meth and her power to take a stand for her people. Her strength represents the hope that exists on the reservations.

Julz wants the world to know that “Pine Ridge is more than just alcoholics and drug addicts. There is hope here. We have a lot of GOOD people—hardworking, traditional people who want to make a difference.”

Please join Native Hope as we seek to remind Julz that even though the battle is rough, there is hope for her people and that her efforts will make a difference for the next generation.