Wednesday, December 19, 2012


Logos and photos copyright of lakotafriends
November 28, 2012

Dear Friends,                                                                                      

When I made my annual trek to the Pine Ridge Reservation in October, I thought, maybe, it could be my last official visit. My friends and I are slowing down a bit, the books are getting harder to lift, and at times I wonder if I should quit. I thought this trip might bring me some answers and direction. Paying attention to the details of a day is quite easy for me, but still, I was surprised by a few–dare I say miracles that happened.

Twenty years ago I developed a bicycle program for recreation and work in Porcupine, a small town on Pine Ridge. We provided training for a few young people in how to repair bikes, and how to run a bicycle shop. It went well, kids and adults were excited, and everything was set to go. Then it became political and I had to walk away. I completely let go. Over the years I had no idea what became of all the tools that had been donated, or if anyone ever worked in the shop. 

During my annual trips I always visit old friends. I stopped to visit one whom I had met that summer twenty years ago. Janice runs the Porcupine College Center, and knew the man I had coordinated the bicycle project with. He, Duane Locke, died a couple of years ago. She told me that they had just held the second annual bike ride in memory of him. She said at the beginning of the race she talked to the gathered crowd and told them about Duane and me working together on the project and even though I had stepped aside, the project continued in one way or another. She was telling me that the project had made an impact on the community, and what had been started all those years ago had a lasting affect. I had no idea that she would remember my involvement and would honor me by mentioning my name. This was small miracle number one.

Small miracle number two: Next day–different school. I was having lunch in the school cafeteria when a teacher I did not know admired a Lakota-made amulet around my neck. This amulet holds inside a piece of dried up umbilical cord. I have one for each of my grandchildren. I thanked the teacher and told her I wore it for Thomas, who would be having heart surgery, and that wearing it kept him close to my heart and helped me pray for him. She had sort of a blank look for a few moments, then reached out a clenched fist. She said she didn’t know why she had brought her prayer stone to school that day, then paused and said, “It must be for you,” and put a perfectly round stone, the size of a marble, in my hand. I uttered a thank-you and she left me standing there, a little stunned.

Small miracle number three: It was the last day of my trip. I was racing down the road toward  Loneman School, listening to KILI radio, the voice of the Lakota Nation, and I heard a new rendition of Times Are A Changing. I didn’t know who was singing but I loved it–it was pulling at my heart. It so happened that I was passing the radio station which sits high on a butte, so I headed up the dirt drive to a small triangular building. The inside was dark, old looking, and a little dilapidated. The DJ was the only one there. We looked through the playlist but couldn’t find the title, I thanked him and left. Back on the road I turned the radio on again. The DJ had found the recording and was playing it for me. What a moment. Times are a changing for sure. My decision was made right then and there, on the road to Loneman, that we will not quit. I realized that our work in South Dakota, although not huge, is important. The people of Pine Ridge need the little that we do more than anything I might do back in my home area.

We will continue to gather wonderful books for the students of Pine Ridge. We will continue to send books to the schools and clinics and detention center. We will continue to give scholarships to Lakota college students. We will do all of this with your help, because your donations make it happen.  We are all volunteers and we love what we do.

Pilamaya, thank you, thank you, for all your help and encouragement over the past twenty years. We always enjoy your notes and comments. Please check our website which links to my blog. I don’t keep the blog up very well, but it’s worth a look.

Each year we produce a newsletter in the summer and the annual appeal in November. If you have already sent your donation, thank you, and please ignore the envelope that might be in with your letter.

Wolakota, Peace to all, 

Nancy Cayford

                                                                                                                              Janice Richards and I at the Porcupine College Center
                                                                                                                                                        October, 2012


Saturday, July 14, 2012

Native Americans in the Olympics

I can't seem to get into a regular schedule with this blogging bit. But, I'm reforming, and will try to put something up at the first of each month.

I've been inspired by the latest issue of the National Museum of the American INDIAN magazine, summer 2012. There are several articles about Natives in the Olympics, and the photos are wonderful, some never seen before.

One article, Not Just Jim Thorpe, is about a high point for Native athletes in 1912 at the Stockholm Olmpics. Tribal members from the US and Canada–Tewanima, Sockalexis, Keeper, Decoteau–turned in heroic performances, and Jim Thorpe and Duke Kahanamoku became legends.

Photo; Duke Paoa Kahinu Mokoe Hulikohola Kahanamoku was a Native Hawaiian swimmer, actor, lawman, early beach volleyball player and businessman credited with spreading the sport of surfing. He was a five-time Olympic medalist in swimming. 

Friday, February 3, 2012

Thanking PACE Brantley School

I had some great help with making a large banner for Ms. Sulewski's class at PACE Brantley School in Longwood Florida. My helpers were students and volunteers from Dublin, NH.

Photo at left, left-right:
Pauline, Florence, Bette, Caroline, Anita, Margaret
The sign reads, "Thank you Ms. Sulewski and the students who gave us books for Pine Ridge Kids.
You Are Awesome!!!"

Photo at right, clockwise:
Margaret, Bette, Anita, Florence

REMINDER: If you live in NH or VT, visit Hanover, NH and enjoy The Hood Museum.
This museum usually has an American Indian

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


As a result of ABC's 20/20 program Children of the Plains, our organization was found by a few people across the country. One of those special people was a teacher, Denise Sulewski, of the PACE Brantley School in Longwood, Florida. She contacted us and told us her students wanted to help the children of Pine Ridge.

Longwood, Florida is known for its large number of homeless families. CBS' 60 Minutes did a heartwrenching story on them in 2011. (  PACE Brantley School is a school for children with handicaps and learning disabilities.  Ms. Sulewski's students held a book drive for us, and 4 boxes of new books just arrived from them. Many copies of Diary of A Wimpy Kid, the Twilight series, picture books, and Harry Potter.

We are moved to tears and honored by the generosity of these children.
Their generosity is in the Lakota tradition.
To Ms. Sulewski and her students we send a sincere and huge Thank You.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

What We're Reading



 "In her new novel, Caleb's Crossing, Geraldine Brooks once again
  takes a shard of little-known history and brings it vividly to life.
  In1665, a young man from Martha's Vineyard became the first
  American Indian graduate from Harvard College. From the few
  facts that survive of this extraordinary life, Brooks creates a
  luminous tale of passion and belief, magic and adventure." Viking

  Be aware, the racism of the 17th century is hard to take.

Friday, October 21, 2011

What Makes Me Grumpy

There are many non-profits working with American Indians.  They are well-intentioned, and have good people running their organizations.  But, many of them enable the people they are helping by doing for them.  The people being helped should be involved in the process.

Be careful who you donate to. Find out who is doing what, and where the money is going. Are the organizations getting participation from those who are being helped? Last week I was told by a Lakota woman that churches bring their youth groups to Pine Ridge and these groups pick up trash along the roads. The woman was insulted by this. Ask what you can do to be useful to the community.

We want to be useful to American Indians - not harmful.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Our Annual Meeting

Board Members: Cassie Cleverly, Moira Burnham, Mary Loftis, Nancy Cayford, Jerry Goes In Center, Sherry Gould

To those who couldn’t come to the wonderful gathering of Monadnock Regional supporters we had on April 30, we are so sorry you missed it! The food was divine, the flute music and singing were an inspiration, and the presentation was insightful. We had a good size group of people who enjoyed the barbecued buffalo. The Friends Board of Directors had decided to serve only indigenous foods, so along with the bison meat, there were corn cakes, beans baked with maple syrup, fruit salad, wild rice, fry bread, and wojapi for dessert. Wojapi is a Lakota stewed fruit pudding—we combined blueberries and raspberries. The setting of the meeting/party was also beautiful, and many thanks to board member Mary Loftis and her husband, Paul Tuller, for letting us use their beautiful barn for the occasion. It was perfect.

Barry Higgins, Abenaki, of Greenfield, Massachusetts, played soulful and haunting music on his handmade flutes. My granddaughter said it was her favorite thing of the evening. Board member Sherry Gould, Abenaki, of Bradford, New Hampshire, sang a traditional honor song, and board member Jerry Goes In Center, Lakota, in her presentation, taught us that buffalo meat, being high in omega 3 fatty acids, is the “salmon of the prairie.” I spoke briefly about why our book project is so important to the children of the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, and I thanked everyone for their continued support. 

Members, if we do this again next spring, we hope you can join us. We’ll give you plenty of notice.