It's The Holiday Season - Where's My Soapbox?
Pine Ridge Reservation is located in South Dakota and is home to the Oglala Sioux tribe. The current population is approximately 40,000 people. The life expectancy on the reservation is the lowest in the Western Hemisphere, after Haiti. Infant mortality on the Rez is 300% higher than the national average. The teen suicide rate is 150% higher than the national average. The unemployment rate is usually around 80%. The average life expectancy for males is 48, for females it is 52. Every winter, Tribal elders die from hypothermia because they cannot afford to heat their substandard homes.
Adolph Bull Bear is a 78 year old full blood Lakota living on the Rez. He lives with his disabled son and his two grandchildren in a house in Kyle, S.D.. He is an Army veteran and was once a Tribal police officer. He is also my friend. Each month I send him a box of items to make his life a bit better.
When I ask him each month what he'd like he doesn't ask for things like Godiva chocolates or expensive cologne. Instead he asks for toilet paper. Laundry detergent. Would I be able to send him some salt and pepper? How about a pair of socks?
This weekend was a cold one in Kyle and Adolph is almost out of propane. The Tribe helps out with supplying propane but they've just finished having an election and nothing is settled, least of all who's going to get heating fuel. Adolph phoned me in a panic this weekend since he's only got another 7 days or so before he has no heat. Was there any way possible that I could buy him some propane. I reassured him over and over again that it would be no problem to make that happen and that he didn't have to worry. I'm still not sure he believed me, after all, white people often say one thing and do another.
An Army veteran. A proud Native American. Begging for toilet paper and warmth. It's a sad state of affairs.