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November 28, 2012
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 www.lakotafriends.org 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,
Janice Richards and I at the Porcupine College Center