Welcome to the fourth edition of First Nations News & Views. This weekly series is one element in the "Invisible Indians" project put together by Meteor Blades and me, with assistance from the Native American Netroots Group. Last week's edition is here. In this edition you will find an update on the Cheyenne River Reservation Okiciyap project , this week in American Indian history, five news briefs and some bullet links. Click on any of the headlines below to take you directly to that section of News & Views or to any of our earlier editions.
Okiciyap (we help) the Isabel Community
It has been 182 years since the Indian Removal Act was signed into law by President Andrew Jackson. With tribes then and for decades afterward being forced onto reservations, and no Marshall Plan to help them rebuild after the Indian Wars, Native people are still struggling to stay alive. Many don't make it. Fighting against all odds-of poverty, 80 percent unemployment, hunger, government bureaucracy, societal indifference-a few people stand as warriors to help their communities of limited means even when they themselves often don't have enough means, living as they do on fixed incomes of $260 to $460 a month.
One of those warriors is Georgia Little Shield (Lakota). She was the director of Pretty Bird Woman House, a women's shelter on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, from 2005 until 2010 when health problems forced her to quit. In 2007, the Daily Kos community helped raise more than $30,000 to keep Pretty Bird Woman House running.
In 2011, Little Shield's health improved. On the Cheyenne River Reservation in north-central South Dakota due south of Standing Rock, she saw an important need for a community-strengthening program to fight poverty, hunger and the epidemic of teen suicide.
So she founded Okiciyap, the Lakota word for we help, in Isabel, a reservation town of about 250 people. Okiciyap (we help) the Isabel Community's (501c3) first project is a food pantry "trying to keep families alive for one more winter." The group has plans to build a youth center with a GED program "to keep our young people's souls and spirits alive, too."
Last summer, Okiciyap set up a temporary office in a small trailer. Later, a modular 40-foot by 60-foot building was donated. But it was located 30 miles from Isabel. Ten thousand dollars were needed to transport it, set foundation forms and skirt them. Another $10,000 is needed to set up utilities for one year until Okiciyap can obtain grants to keep the facility running on its own. Under the auspices of AndyT and betson08, netroots fundraising began in late October to pull together the needed $20,000. By the end of December enough money had been raised to transport the building to Isabel. The trek was completed Jan. 30.
The building being transported
The building arrives
Within Lakota culture everything is shared. There is great pride and pleasure in giving away any abundance of food, clothing and other possessions. There is traditionally no social hierarchy of haves and the have-nots. So even though Little Shield doesn't always have much to share, she shares it anyway.
After Thanksgiving last November, betson08 discovered that Little Shield didn't have enough money to buy a turkey for her own family, but she still cooked what she had and invited people who needed food. The week before Christmas betson08 learned the same thing was going to happen. The Daily Kos community rallied again and raised enough for Little Shield to provide a holiday banquet for the community plus provide toys for the kids.
The Okiciyap fund-raising widget has now been stuck at $10,580 for a month. That $9420 still needed will allow Okiciyap to tie into the city's water and sewer system plus cover the cost of electricity and provide basic office equipment and supplies.
Little Shield's appearance below is one of satisfaction in watching the new building arrive. She's embarking on an ambitious new project that she hopes will help her community tremendously. The Daily Kos community has a stake in helping her succeed.
Georgia Little Shield watches as the new building arrives
This Week in American Indian History in 1887
February 8th marked the 125th anniversary of President Grover Cleveland's signing of the Dawes Act. That single piece of legislation had a more devastating impact on Native Americans than anything other than the century-long Indian Wars themselves. And it was initiated by people who actually believed they had Indians' best interests at heart. Before it and follow-up acts were effectively repealed 47 years later by the Indian Reorganization Act, 90 million acres had been wrenched from communally owned Indian land, leaving just a third of what the tribes had held in 1886, the year Geronimo, the last organized warrior, surrendered and was shipped off to prison. What land wasn't directly taken was "allotted" to individuals. Taking and dividing the land coincided with a stepped-up effort to destroy Native culture, religion and governance, in effect, "Indianness."
Sen. Henry Dawes of Massachusetts
(Library of Congress)
Named after Sen. Henry L. Dawes, who headed the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, the law was the culmination of practices toward Indians that had begun within a decade of the Pilgrim landing at Plymouth. Boiled down to their essence, those policies said to Indians: Get out of our way, or else. Even getting out of the way often wasn't enough to prevent the "or else." The Dawes Act itself arose at least partly out of the influence of a book written by Helen Hunt Jackson in 1881, A Century of Dishonor. It was the Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee of the 19th Century, documenting the bloodthirsty avarice and corruption that had suffused Indian-U.S. relations all those decades since the first war in 1788. Jackson didn't live to see the Dawes Act passed, but she would no doubt have approved.
(This Week in American Indian History continued below)