A letter from Bamm
In the light of the early morning there was a haze, our house smelled like smoke. I woke up to the thunder of my son’s truck coming down the hill to the ranch.
I thought, “What’s he doing out all night.” Well, he wasn’t out all night, he got up and went and checked the pasture after he smelled the smoke. He was on top of the situation. There is a fire in the Black Hills and a grass fire in Wyoming and the wind is blowing the smoke this way over the reservation. It was still dark out so I laid back down and thought “I don’t want to get up this early, it’s going to be a long day”. I laid down but you know how that is – you can’t seem to get back to sleep. I tried and no going back to sleep for this cowboy, so finally I just got up and it was getting light out. I stepped out on the back porch and the haze was something. It smelled alright not too bad, but I hoped it wasn’t going to be another summer like before. We’ve had some big fires in the past, and this summer has been dry, real dry. I had my coffee maker on, and here we go into this Food day.
Photo Courtesy of the US Forest Service
On the Reservation life goes on. It’s sun dance season and there are many going on, and some have many dancers. Up in Montana the Little Big Horn riders are finishing up another horse back spiritual victory ride. In Manderson, South Dakota, Kiza Park horse races were happening and there were walks and celebration runs and different activities to bring about awareness of a very important victory at a place up in Montana called the Greasy Grass Battlefield. Our Wounded Knee folks were having a Big Horn Commemorative feed and One Spirit was sponsoring the hot dogs and lemonade.
Photo courtesy of Tom Hehlogeca, Wounded Knee
Friday, I drove to Chadron Wal-Mart to pick up some food day groceries and wow was that a big load. You don’t know what shopping is till you go shopping for One Spirit. The whole store is checking me out. People walk by and say some crazy stuff, “where’s the barbeque?”, I just say, “Follow me,” and laugh. Then we get the truck loaded and I just want to go straight on down the Highway for home. It's hot out now about 95* and it feels like 100*. There is a small crew waiting at the garage, cleaning and waiting to unload and we quickly put the burgers in the freezer. It is the day before food day and now we are ready. This place is Indian Action garage all month and now the crew transforms it into Jeri’s kitchen, and it’s is set for the big day.
L to R: Isabella, Ohitika, and Jeri, May 2016 Food Distribution
It was about two days before that I started calling the drivers, and I could tell we were going to face some challenges. One of our main challenge would be the heat. After 3 years going on 4 it's kind of developed into a regular routine for us, the crew all know their part. I noticed as the men unload the truck, the women are making boxes and I didn’t even have to mention it. They all are interested in helping the people but a day job is the hope too. There is a crew in the garage that knows what they are doing to the point of not really needing to be told. I always go to the bank after opening the garage and checking on the crew to make sure they’re all there or on the way. Our friend and neighbor who lives by the garage is Roman Swallow. He lives over in the house on the corner, where there is no electricity or running water. Roman is one of the main guys who always checks on the garage for us. He is a father of two with a pregnant wife. Roman has a tough life but he puts his struggle aside to come help feed the people.
Mike Markus, a Marine veteran and my main helper, is a great guy. He is the only one of his family here on the reservation. He does have relatives but his life led him down the trail alone somehow. He stays at the garage and camps out in the sleeper of his truck and when food day comes he looks at it with pride, because he believes in what we do to help the people. Mike knows he’ll have all kinds of company on this day. Wasu Duta, aka James Franko, is also a big help. Big guy with good strength, he is a treaty Indian - I think that’s how he refers to himself. He also has no relatives around. The days have been tough on him after his woman left him for dead along side a reservation back road. He said she left him for another man but I think her eyes just came open. Joe Charging is a cousin and a great helper too, we have to hunt him down and keep him with us. His struggle is with alcohol. He is the youngest out of the whole crew. Jaba Rabbit was also there to help. She is a mother of one small baby girl, Adela; they live out west in the White River area. She’s a good mother and she needed a food box and I hired her to help to help her and Adela out. They live out about 15 miles and to get to town she hitchhikes on the road with her baby. The trailer she lives in has one half the outer paneling off it, and no FEMA help at all.
Mike Markus, 2016 Crazy Horse Ride Staff Bearer
Red Shirt Area, Tyra “Banks” Two Bulls is dedicated to her community Red Shirt table, but I call it Red Deer Table and she gets a big kick out of that. I do that cause that’s what they called Red Shirt table on the movie “Skins”. Tyra is really nice and she and her husband do the Red Shirt route. This route is about as far away as it gets and I have never heard a complaint out of there. I would maybe do a closer look out there just to make sure we are good.
Oglala area was delivered by Wasu Duta. He had big trouble too said no one answers their phones and he didn’t know the route but Ohitika had truck trouble and was unable to make it this month. I knew we seemed a little short on help and drivers but the crew in the garage laid out 250 boxes and filled them so it became “get it done”. There’s meat in them boxes so we got to get it out there.
Ashley Rabbit broke down while delivering food to Allen.
Allen route was covered by Ashley Rabbit. Her truck broke down and I had to go out there, was going to pull her back but John Dubray came over and helped. She just sat there and called everyone, told them where she was and they all slowly came walking over to her and got their boxes. She broke down in the housing area out there. When I got there the vehicle just started right up. Ashley had about three boxes left and after her vehicle started she wanted to finish up her route and she did.
Porcupine area was covered by Skip Sully, Vietnam veteran. It would be his first time and he seemed to do well. He came back with a good expression of how many people really needed that box. He said “they were waiting for me.” We stood there and listened to every one who is new because it brings that new back to all of us and we remember those first times out on a route. Manderson, we heard nothing from Maria helper this month. I would like to say she was probably at the KIZA Park happenings. We had help from Chevonne Two Bulls who has been on the routes before and seems to do well. I will double check today.
Kyle area is covered by an elder and he brings along Bernie Shots, former tribal council member. They are on their second month doing the Kyle area.
At Wounded Knee we will have no problem there as a former driver had come back on the scene, Eugene Sage Picker. He did call back with a couple of people not home. One or two picked their box up at garage too.
Loading food boxes
For the drivers, once they get out the door, it is probably a peaceful adventure out on their own. Meanwhile back at the garage is where the drama was starting to get heavy. We started out slow and then we seemed to get swamped with walk-ins. As we had no Porcupine driver the food supply was slowly diminishing and Mike and Warren started a mild argument about the Porcupine boxes. It was kind of funny. I looked back there and saw Mike holding off Warren saying, “These are Porcupine’s.” Warren was trying to give out those to the people walking in. I heard Mike say “go make your own” and I heard Warren say back “Ok Sargent”. I just let them handle it themselves. The funny thing was there was a line of about 10 people waiting, all watching my crew getting frustrated. It was about this time of the day when it got really hot in the garage too. I just looked at the line of people and said, “We’re behind and running out of stuff”. After the 10 walk-ins waiting in line were given boxes, I had to cut off the walk-ins. We were needing some time to make more boxes and catch up. It was causing the crew frustrations. In the first place Mark came with 250 boxes we were short, but I think he counted on us using the second rate boxes from the produce he brought. We needed 300 boxes, the other second rate boxes could have been for the walk-ins. We had to cut off our output and stop before the people stopped coming! Wow!! This was a first.
The day was long as usual. I love the pressure of getting something big done, no task is too big and the morning after I reflect on the day of my crew doing this deed that One Spirit and sponsors have bestowed upon us. It is a good day today. Over the hill from my house is a Sundance - I could hear the drums and cries of the singers. It’s the time of sacrifice for the people so that we may live - so that our people will not suffer. I remember our meaning of unity and peace helping each other in a beautiful way - “One Spirit.”
Before the sun rises in the eastern sky look for the morning star and together no matter how far away we all may be, we are all One Spirit people of the morning. ~Bamm Brewer
Video of Food Distribution Day
by Edward Wilson
Recently, friend and supporter, Edward Wilson made a short video of a One Spirit food distribution day. Though it only shows a fraction of the actual work it takes to distribute food across the reservation, you will get a sense of the Lakota community and One Spirit volunteers working together to End Hunger.