The Lakota language is unique and varied, with various ways of saying something. The word "pilamaya" is often used for a simple "thank you," while "wopila tanka" has a broader, ceremonial usage to express gratitude for all aspects of life in a wider sense, and refers to a general statement of gratefulness that applies to a group.
As we start a new year here at One Spirit, we can only say "wopila tanka" to all of our wonderful donors who have truly embodied one of the four central Lakota values: generosity (wacantognaka). Thanks to your help, great things have been accomplished on the Pine Ridge Reservation - but there is so much more to do. This will require us all to try and reflect a second of the values: courage and compassion (woohitika). The challenges are great, but working together with our Lakota friends, we can truly help the Oyate (people) continue to develop the self-sufficiency they so earnestly desire while advancing the third value (respect: wowacintanka), which incorporates respect for all of nature and our fellow man. As we saw in the last year, this value is urgently needed in today's world. And we hope to achieve great things in 2018 in a both compassionate and wise manner. It is thus that our work will reflect the fourth and greatest Lakota value, wisdom (woksape) that entails having the sensitivity to remain humble and aware of what truly counts in life.
With your help and caring, here are some of the things that have been accomplished during the past year:
Completion of the One Spirit Charging Buffalo Facility
The building to house the program to provide buffalo and game meats to the Lakota, and eventually to offer products for sale to the public was completed. All needed equipment has been purchased, with the vital walk-in cooler soon to be installed. The USDA has held an inspection and offered a few small adjustments needed. We are also completing plans to make this a solar-powered facility. Please watch for an announcement of the grand opening of this outstanding opportunity for the Lakota to provide food, income, and employment.
Youth Programs Expanded and Enhanced
The Allen Youth Center has begun providing meals and development programs to young Lakota who need more options to avoid the pitfalls of the endemic poverty on the reservation. The Oglala Wild lacrosse team has been formed and attended a training camp and is practicing to begin playing this spring. The running program has also seen further development. We helped facilitate the youth of Pine Ridge in supporting the protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline as a way of learning to protect their heritage.
Food Program Continued and Expanded
Our core program continued to provide healthful food to over 500 homes every month. This means more than 5000 people are fed monthly, where previously families could run out of food or be restricted to one meal a day. One Spirit also began working with crop producers on the reservation to offer local and traditional foods to the people we support.
In-Kind Donations of All Sorts
The Okini Programs saw 983 donations to meet urgent needs of families, young people, and elders. The Christmas Okini yielded gifts for more than 520 children, families and elders. Hundreds of gifts were sent to the Rosebud Homeless Shelter and Bear Cave, while the Allen Youth Center received another 250 gifts and 200 Christmas stockings filled with gifts and food. In addition, we received donations of 18 bikes, five computers, a printer, internet service, and even Netflix service to further serve the needs of the young of Pine Ridge. Just think of how much all of these generous donations did to provide education, food, warm clothing, and so much more that simply would not have become available without our supporters.
More than 1500 Lakota were further aided by 533 sponsors who donated household needs and clothing. Many of these donors formed deep friendships that can provide families and young people cross-cultural experiences. This can be a great way for them to broaden their understanding of the world and help bring us closer together.
And in 2018…
The One Spirit Charging Buffalo Facility will begin providing meat to homes across the reservation through the Food Program, as well as by processing game harvested by Lakota hunters. Because animals formerly taken off the reservation will now be processed here, the money saved will contribute to the tribal economy and provide employment.
The Allen Youth Center will begin to offer art and music programs, as well as tutoring, parenting classes, and education about avoiding addictions. The lacrosse and running programs will continue, and a basketball court is in the works. There will also be the sadly needed suicide prevention program, but given the terribly high suicide rate on the reservation, this is also vital.
Solar Power will be installed in the Buffalo Facility and the Allen Youth Center.
Last, and so central to our One Spirit efforts, the Food Program will continue to grow as donations increase. We will do everything we can to obtain healthful food locally, include traditional foods as possible, and support local beekeepers and other food producers. We will continue our mission of providing food to needy families across the reservation.
Another Wopila Tanka
We of One Spirit are deeply grateful to all of our donors who help make our growth possible. The past year has seen some truly significant development in all of the programs we are able to offer the Lakota to improve their lives and achieve greater health and happiness while always respecting their traditional culture. The Pine Ridge Reservation is among the most poverty-stricken places in the country, and governmental aid is insufficient or lacking. Our mission is crucially needed.
We cannot do it without your loyal support, and we look forward to 2018 to achieve even greater benefits for the Oglala Lakota. They thank you. We thank you.