One of the touchstones, or foundational principles, of One Spirit has been, from the beginning, to help the Oglala Lakota help themselves. Instead of merely handing out aid as such, we have always tried to find ways to enhance the ability of the oyate to become more self-sufficient. This applies not only to improved nutrition, which our food program works to address, but to help create the means for the Lakota to work on solving problems on the reservation that respects Lakota traditions and culture.
Another example of this philosophy is embodied in the building of the One Spirit Charging Buffalo Facility (watch for the grand opening this summer) to enable buffalo and game meats to be processed in a USDA-approved environment for distribution to those in need, and potentially to make products for sale to help keep more income on the reservation, where it can do the most good.
Our youth, athletic, and cultural programs, at the Allen Youth Center and elsewhere, are also aimed at fostering a better life for the Lakota within the overarching umbrella of the proud history and culture of this remarkable people. While we realize that years of neglect and privation have made reservation life difficult, with suicide and drugs coupled with high unemployment and poverty of a level that is a national disgrace, we of One Spirit nonetheless cannot turn our backs and do nothing to try and make life better for the Oglala Lakota.
Jeri on the "Rez"
When our Director, Jeri Baker, spent some time on the "Rez" recently (including getting snowed in during a blizzard), one of her goals was to keep finding ways to keep our programs prospering and becoming more able to find sources on the "Rez" instead of having to go outside for some of the items we use in our monthly food box program, ably administered by Bamm Brewer. Bamm is an invaluable and tireless worker in our food programs, having recently spearheaded the drive to finish the Charging Buffalo Facility.
Between Bamm and Jeri, we learned of another organization, headquartered in Kyle (about sixty miles from Pine Ridge), called Oyate Teca (www.oyatetecaproject.org).
Headed by Rose Fraser, this non-profit has provided many of the same sort of services to the people of the Kyle area, especially the youth, as One Spirit tries to do in other parts of the Reservation. Since 1991,they have maintained a youth center, offer cultural classes and public family events, help with food and clothing needs, and have created a truly remarkable and growing gardening program.
The Medicine Root Garden Program
The Medicine Root Garden Program, under the guidance of Chet Marks, teaches both adult and youth gardening classes geared toward training families in sound techniques to grow their own food. In addition, they have a greenhouse, a 30'x95' hoop house, and a half-acre garden producing food for sale at their Farmers' Market. Additional plans include another three-acre plot to increase production for sale. Thus, healthy food options increase in what the USDA has classified as a "food desert" and the proceeds stay on the Pine Ridge Reservation.
Chet Marks is not only a master gardener and instructor, he also home schools his children and has a large organic garden from which One Spirit will also purchase vegetables for inclusion in our food box program as possible. A very interesting radio interview with Chet at KILI Radio may be found on Soundcloud.com.
Jeri was excited about the opportunity to supply at least some of our monthly food box needs from these outstanding projects that help keep the income on the reservation, a goal both of our organizations share. In addition, the produce is local, organic, and is a "win-win" for all concerned.
In this pilot project, which will grow in scale as any problems are resolved, Medicine Root Garden Program will provide five crops that will be purchased by One Spirit for inclusion in our monthly food box program. We will supplement this with items from Chet Marks, and fill in from Mark Rillings, the Pierre farmer who has supplied us for some time. His produce will help fill in any gaps during the summer and during non-growing seasons. Ultimately, our goal is to develop gardening in the Pine Ridge area, which, with produce from Medicine Root and Chet, will come to mean that all of the produce needs of the reservation will be produced on the reservation---a major step in helping the Oglala Lakota achieve the self-sufficiency that has always been a primary goal of One Spirit.
Please Help If You Can
Thanks to Medicine Root Garden Program and the opening of the One Spirit Charging Buffalo Facility, we are making major strides in achieving our goal of helping the Oglala Lakota help themselves. Without the kind support and generosity of you, our donors, these successes would not be possible. Now that tax time is past, we would like to request a special donation, if at all possible, to help support these new programs, as well as our Wood Stove Project begun last month.
In the midst of an unsettled world, we continue to strive to help our fellow citizens, the Lakota, achieve more of the health and well being they deserve. Without you, this would not be possible, and we thank you for all you do to support One Spirit!
In addition to helping the Lakota help themselves,
your gift will enter you in the drawing for these gorgeous Dream Catchers.
Think BIG and help us "catch" these wonderful dreams of self sufficiency!