One Spirit Wood Program is Heating Up
by Bamm Brewer
It gets cool in the evenings and mornings and that coolness is a reminder of what lies ahead in Lakota Country. On the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation the One Spirit wood cutting crews are starting with wood cutting for those elders and families with wood stoves. The wood is out there and it is a great source of heat in the extreme South Dakota winter. Many of our elders use wood stoves for heat; it is their only source of heat. The winter is very cold, however we have some time to get ready.
The days are hot but the evenings are cooler as we cleaned up the chain saws and checked all of our gear. We gassed up and hooked up the wood hauling trailer. The area we are cutting had a big fire last year and there is a lot of wood out there perfectly cured out and dry. Our One Spirit crew has been cutting off and on for a week but the hot temperatures were creating some difficulties. The extreme heat here makes you want to head for the nearest swimming hole. In a way everyone was still in summer mode, however it is time to get ready for old man winter.
The chain saws fired right up but we discovered the chains were dull, so we got out our files and sharpened up everything. The wood is heavy, we cut two loads, and it kind of breaks you in the first day. The smell of the great outdoors and wood cutting is a neat memory as I have done this about all my life. It was good to be back in the woods. The cold would be tough on our elders and if we don’t build up our wood supply there will be some cold nights ahead for them. As we cut the wood into small stove size pieces I remembered about five years ago, the blizzard that hit us with three foot of snow. There was no getting out in the woods after that. If you ran out of wood you might as well start burning your furniture. It was deep and it was also a big lesson to get the wood ahead of time when there is no snow on the ground.
That is why it is so important for us to cut right now. We are in a cool down time of the year and after the snow flies it could be difficult getting to the wood cutting areas. Our difficulties have come with just keeping a crew out there. What we need is a full time crew out cutting every day but it’s difficult to keep them paid. Keeping the crew fueled up is the main problem, a task that is easily fixed with some gas funds. Sometimes we are ready to go out but no gas or oil. The wood is out there and our goal is to get as much as we can for this winter, or it could mean a cold night for an elder.
Sometimes we get an "open" winter where we can go out to the timber most of the winter. It is best not to count on it and be ready for the worst. The fact remains that our wood program is looking better than ever with the new saw and splitter sponsored by Tad and Linda King and also the big Chevy truck we are set to cut wood. Our main goal now is keeping our crew fueled up and out there cutting.
Thank You sponsors for keeping our wood program operational. We are looking forward to keeping our elders supplied with wood.
$150 provides enough wood to keep an elder warm for three weeks in really cold weather and helps the men earn money for their families.
ONE Spirit is a Native American service organization founded to assist and support American Indians. We are proud to think of our organization, ONE Spirit, as a group of people who exchange friendship with American Indians. At present, our focus is on the Lakota Sioux in South Dakota. We invite you to become part of ONE Spirit’s network of sponsors, partners, friends and volunteers, to dream with the Lakota people a new dream - and to help the dreams come alive!
Please continue to keep visiting our website at www.nativeprogress.org for ongoing updates about our programs! We are a very busy organization, and we invite you to join us in our mission to help the Lakota on Pine Ridge Reservation!
What is the Sponsorship Program?
Volunteer sponsors send gift boxes directly to a Lakota individual or family who has requested help. Sponsors are given the name, address, and phone number for the family. Gift boxes are created by the sponsor and sent directly to the family.
What does the gift box have to include?
The sponsor and the person being sponsored make this decision. We recommend that the gift boxes include:
- Seasonal clothing
- Socks and underwear (t-shirts and long underwear are important!)
- Shampoo, toothbrush, toothpaste, soap
- Laundry detergent (powdered is best through the mail)
- Something personal for the recipient to simply enjoy
How often are boxes to be sent?
- At least once a quarter, perhaps with change of season
- Christmas or birthdays
- As often as you, the sponsor, would like and can do with consistency
Is there a particular amount I should spend on the boxes?
No! Remember that you are responsible for shipping costs. Most of the items that we recommend are not particularly expensive. But shipping costs can add up. We recommend that you look into the flat rate boxes offered by the Post Office. They are not large, but creative packing can fit a LOT into the boxes.
What about sending money of gift cards to my sponsored person?
Never send money to the reservation. Theft is a huge problem, even from the mail. Gift cards are not practical because of the distance to a store that accepts them. Substance abuse is also an issue, and there is no way you can be certain who is using the card or how it is used. It is possible, if the sponsor wishes to help with electricity or propane, to do this directly through the electric company or through One Spirit for that purpose.
If I live outside of the United States can I still be a sponsor?
Yes, we have many overseas sponsors. Shipping is very expensive, though. We recommend that you order online from companies in the US and have the items sent directly to the sponsored person. Or, you can participate in the Food Program, providing monthly food packages for your sponsored person. If you live in France, our sister organization PRES (Pine Ridge Enfance Solidarité) will help you with the process. We refer all French citizens to PRES first. We also have a new sister organization in Germany for our German citizens that can help you with this process: One Spirit Germany
How are sponsors and recipients matched?
When you send your checklist (with basis contact information and interests typed in), the form is sent to one of the Area Service Coordinators. The Service Coordinator will contact you to further explain and explore what you want to do. Then you will be given the name and contact information for a family or individual. The ASC (Area Service Coordinator) will let the family know that you will be contacting them. You will then contact the family yourself to introduce yourself and see how best to help.
What is the End Hunger Project (Food Program)?
Once a month, One Spirit purchases large quantities of foods from commercial farmers, meat packers, or other vendors. The food is delivered directly to the door of the sponsored person. An email alert is sent to sponsors in the food program, showing the food items available for the month. The sponsor purchases the food through One Spirit, and the food is delivered to the reservation. Lakota volunteers sort the food into packages and deliver it. Food packages vary from month to month, but we try to keep the cost between $30 and $50 a month for a very large quantity of food.
Because diabetes and heart disease are so prevalent on Pine Ridge, we make sure the food includes as much fresh seasonal produce as possible, along with the leanest meats we can get.
What is the Wood/Heating Program?
Winter is very harsh on the Northern High Plains. There is heat assistance available through the tribe, but this is limited. People often run out long before the winter is over. Through sponsor support, One Spirit was able to purchase equipment for several Lakota men to cut and deliver loads of wood. This provides a way for them to make money to support their families, as well as emergency heat. Donors and sponsors can send money to purchase loads of wood for a specific family or for any family who needs help. One Spirit is also able to acquire electric space heaters that are UL approved. Sponsors and donors can purchase one of these heaters. It is often the only heat the family has.
What if I don't like the person I'm sponsoring or can't make contact with them?
Let the ASC know Immediately so that the problem can be resolved. You can simply sponsor someone else.
How will the person that I'm sponsoring react to me?
Keep in mind that the Lakota are a naturally reserved people. History has taught them to treat outsiders with some lack of trust. It is also natural to be embarrassed by one’s own situation. It is not unusual for sponsors to be met with brief and stand-offish responses at first. Be patient with this. The best way is to be friendly, but businesslike. Then follow-up with your sponsorship box as soon as possible. This will go a long way toward establishing trust. If your sponsored person continues to treat you in a stand-offish manner or does not initiate any contact with you, let your ASC know. We make every effort to work things out. One of our goals is to improve intercultural exchanges.
Sponsors sometimes become discouraged because the Lakota sponsoree does not respond or acknowledge a gift. It is the most common problem and what causes sponsors to leave the program. Don’t keep this to yourself! Tell your ASC right away if your gift was unacknowledged. We need to figure out whether the item was stolen or whether the recipient simply needs to be informed about Western good manners. Sadly, those in most need are often the least able to express what we consider gratitude. You, as a sponsor, need to be prepared for this. Decide in your heart why you are offering this help, and whether you can still help even if your help is unthanked. Please KNOW that we at One Spirit will do all we can to help the Lakota recipient understand why it is important to acknowledge gifts. But because gifts are sent directly to the Lakota recipient, we don’t have any way to know that you sent it!
Can I visit my family on Pine Ridge?
Many sponsors have been invited to visit their family on Pine Ridge and are treated with great friendship and respect. We recommend that you not go until you are invited or until you feel sure that you are being accepted by the family as a friend. Pine Ridge has few resources for you to stay there, and it will be unlikely that you could stay with your family. But be assured that it is a great honor and joy to visit Pine Ridge
What about clothing drives or used clothing?
In general, we do not encourage clothing drives because delivering the items is so very difficult on Pine Ridge. Used clothing that is clean and in excellent condition can be donated through the Okini (Sharing) program.
What is Okini?
Okini is the Lakota word for "sharing". The Okini manager maintains a list of specific clothing or household needs for families on Pine Ridge. Donors are able to view it and send the needed items directly to the families listed (Okini List). Household items include dishes, towels, sheets, diapers, cleaning supplies, and soaps. Basic personal items are also needed (such as sanitary napkins, shampoo, toothpaste, and underwear). This is an excellent way to help whoever needs help the most, without making a commitment to a specific family for a long period of time.
What about tax receipts?
We are in constant discussion with our accountant about how best to handle this. At this time, donations sent directly to the sponsored person cannot be receipted. We simply do not have a way to know who sent what to whom with our direct sponsorship. Money sent to One Spirit for any purpose is always receipted for tax purposes. This includes one-time donations, donations toward programs, purchasing food packages, purchasing heat, or any other money sent to One Spirit. You will receive a receipt at the end of our tax year.
Can I talk to other sponsors?
There is a One Spirit Sponsors group on yahoo.com. This is a place where we post information on projects, and where sponsors can discuss issues. We ask for people to request to join to keep out as much spam as possible. It only takes about a day to get the invitation. One Spirit is also on Facebook and Twitter. Go to the bottom of the frontpage at www.nativeprogress.org to find the link.
Can I make donations in any amount?
One Spirit welcomes all the help we can get! Donations of any amount for any purpose can be made through our main website at www.nativeprogress.org, by clicking on the “Donate Now” button. You can make payments through Paypal, credit card, or check. All money goes to a certified public accountant, and you can earmark what the donation is for.
As a One Spirit sponsor or donor to Okini or the Food Program, you will be given the private information of a Lakota person. This is a real person and we require that the information be held in strictest confidence. All pictures must have permission to use. All names and contact information must be carefully respected.
Religion And Politics
One Spirit is neither a religious nor a political organization. It is our deep conviction that the Lakota have been done injustice in the name of religion and in the name of politics. Beacuse of that, we require that sponsors refrain from sharing their own religious and political beliefs as part of their work with One Spirit. While we welcome sponsors of all backgrounds, the Lakota have already have their own deep and rich spiritual belief system. We encourage you to find out more about this. There is much to be found out about this on the internet, and it is readily available. Religious or political proselytizing is not welcome in One Spirit.
What To Do Next
Keep in contact with our programs at One Spirit. Check back frequently with the website. And read, read, read about the Lakota people and Pine Ridge Reservation! The best sponsor is an informed sponsor!
Thank you for your interest in the Sponsorship Program. We look forward to hearing from you!