Friday, December 7, 2007

Struggling to be heard

These drummers sing and play rhythms that were silenced for decades by the US authorities, together with their native language and a voice to protest countless injustices. This appeal is to raise awareness and support for the Lakota Sioux Native Americans living on Pine Ridge, Rosebud and other Lakota Reservations in South Dakota USA. Efforts to have their traditional culture restored is only part of the continuing struggle for human rights the Lakota endure since Reservation boundaries were imposed on Native land more than 140 years ago.

Your help is desperately needed!

Today, descendents of families who defended their land at The Little Big Horn and those who escaped the Wounded Knee massacre live with the legacy of the atrocities. They endure hardship, neglect and extreme poverty. Reservation housing is severely sub-standard, healthcare very poor. Basic needs are not being met and funds are desperately needed. Especially for heating. Please see the urgent fuel appeal.

These Lakota drummers are singing for the 'Protection of Sacred Sites'. The Lakota struggle is neglected by the media and support is needed to raise awareness. Read my blogs, check my links and make donations! Become a Facebook friend and help me to organise events to raise awareness and funds. Come on! Retune your heads - lets drum.

Thanks, Dave

Picture: beebe_gzb's photostream

Housing: an un-natural disaster

The small BIA/Tribal Housing Authority homes on the Reservations are scarce and many families live in old cabins or dilapidated mobile homes and trailers, with many trailer homes acquired through donations. Even though there is a large homeless population, most families never turn away a relative no matter how distant the blood relation. Consequently, many homes often have large numbers of people living in them, maybe as many as 17 in 2 or 3 rooms, and you will find many homeless families often using tents or cars for shelter.

It is reported that at least 60% of the homes on the Pine Ridge Reservation need to be burned to the ground and replaced with new housing due to infestation of the potentially-fatal Black Mold, Stachybotrys. There is no insurance or government program to assist families in replacing their homes.

Source: Stephanie M. Schwartz - Arrogance of Ignorance.
Picture: Kalpesh Lathigra - Lost in the wilderness.

Life expectancy and healthcare

Some figures state that life expectancy on the Reservations is 48 years
for men and 52 years for women. Other reports state that the average life expectancy on the Reservations is 45 years. These statistics are far from the 77.5 years of age life expectancy average found in the United States as a whole. According to current USDA Rural Development documents, the Lakota have the lowest life expectancy of any group in America.

More than half the Reservation's adults battle addiction and disease. Alcoholism, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and malnutrition are pervasive. The rate of diabetes on the Reservation is reported to be 800% higher than the U.S. national average. And as a result diabetic-related blindness, amputations, and kidney failure are common.

Preventive healthcare programs are rare. Many Reservation residents live without health care due to vast travel distances involved in accessing that care. There is no public transportation available on the Pine Ridge Reservation and only a minority of Reservation residents own an operable automobile. The predominant form of travel for all ages is walking or hitchhiking. Additional factors include under-funded, under-staffed medical facilities and outdated or non-existent medical equipment.

Source: Stephanie M. Schwartz - Arrogance of Ignorance.
Picture: Kalpesh Lathigra - Lost in the wilderness.

Urgent fuel for Elders appeal

Lakota Elders, the sick and disabled suffer badly with the extreme winter weather conditions in South Dakota. Over 60% of homes on the Pine Ridge Reservation are severely sub-standard, many without running water or electricity. Winter low temperatures average 9*F (November through February) and this is made worse with bitter wind-chill factors and record temperatures reaching -44* below 0*F (1996). Lakota people have died from hypothermia due to inability to pay for heating.

Lakota residents heat their homes or trailers with propane gas or wood burning stoves. Some residents may even use their oven for warmth.

You can help to fund the supply of wood and propane gas which is always desperately needed by making donations on-line to The Link Center Foundation (LCF). LCF is a non-profit organisation which deals directly with companies to supply emergency fuel to Pine Ridge, Rosebud and other Lakota Reservations to the Elderly, Disabled and ill.

Please check my link to LCF and make a donation today!

Picture: Kalpesh Lathigra - Lost in the wilderness.

Hazardous waste - health risk

The Lakota have campaigned in defense of land rights for over 140 years and their struggle never decreases. Reservation land is now contaminated by waste from abandoned uranium and gold mines and other commercial waste. This causes appalling health problems to Lakota families with high rates of cancer, miscarriages and birth defects.

Many wells and much of the water and land on the Pine Ridge Reservation is contaminated with radioactivity, pesticides, heavy metals, and other poisons from farming, mining, open dumps, and commercial and governmental mining operations outside the Reservation. A further source of contamination is buried ordnance and hazardous materials from closed U.S. military bombing ranges on the Reservation.

Scientific studies show that the High Plains/Oglala Aquifer which begins underneath the Pine Ridge Reservation is predicted to run dry in less than 30 years due to commercial interest use and dry-land farming in numerous states south of the Reservation. This critical North American underground water resource is not renewable at anything near the present consumption rate. The recent years of drought have simply accelerated the problem.

Source: Stephanie M. Schwartz - Arrogance of Ignorance.
Picture: Kalpesh Lathigra - Lost in the wilderness.

Comment and thanks

Pine Ridge and Rosebud are home to the Oglala and Sicangu Lakota respectively. The poverty that traditional Lakota and many other Native Americans suffer is the result of land seizures in the 1800s and a shameful Reservation system that followed and remains today. Pine Ridge and Rosebud are controlled by the US Department of the Interior - Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). Injustices meted out to the Lakota over many decades have resulted in lifetimes of misery. In this adversity however, the Lakota people are finding the means to hold on to family tradition and culture.

My name is Dave Terrey a UK drummer and I've created ‘drummersuk’ to support this struggle. My blog pages are only a snapshot of the poverty that Pine Ridge, Rosebud and many other American Indian Reservations endure so please go to the links for a fuller understanding of the suffering. Thank you in advance for your support.

My special thanks go out to the following:

Stephanie M. Schwartz

Former freelance writer and member of the Native American Journalists Association (NAJA) who died Aug 2009. Kindly allowed me to use her first-hand information and statistics concerning conditions on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Please check the link Arrogance of Ignorance which will also take you to her website.

Kalpesh Lathigra
Kindly allowed me to illustrate the poverty with his very personal images from Pine Ridge. Please check the link Lost in the Wilderness which will take you to his website.