Die-abetes…the #1 enemy of our Native American people.

While it may sound a little harsh to use the word “Die” but it’s very true, Diabetes is one of the number one killers of our Native American people. Personally, I am extremely sick and tired of hearing that our Native people are dying from a disease that can be almost avoided if we take better care of our health and wellness. There are many harsh facts surrounded by this disease but one in particular from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Indian Health Service released the following statistic:

Native Americans and Alaska Natives have a 2.2 times higher chance of having diabetes compared to non-Hispanic whites. This risk factor alone should be enough to shake our Native population into shape and realize that we are damaging our culture by subjecting ourselves to this terrible disease.

http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/complications/native-americans.html

Is it just that we can’t avoid the disease or are there really ways to pull through? I know personally, I suffer from low blood sugar tendencies and my family has a history of diabetes on both sides of the tree. Eating healthy and paying attention to our level of exercise may seem like an unruly task but it’s honestly worth beating the fatal health risks that could end yours or your child’s future. Drinking soda pop, eating foods soaked in grease, and eating portions large enough for two or three people are not part of our historical roots of being traditional or positive role models for our younger generation. There is nothing “earthly” or “cultural” about soda pop and fried foods other than we become a part of the earth sooner than our Creator would have maybe wanted.  Let’s stop being a statistic!

We must take ownership in the grueling fact that Native American people are at a 200% higher risk for developing diabetes than many other life ending scenarios.  Putting high fat, high cholesterol and high sugar ingredients into our bodies is killing our people. Please, wake up as a society and recognize that our “Tiospaye” is being destroyed if we don’t get a handle on the sugar that runs deep through many of our veins.

CHALLENGE:

I WANT TO CHALLENGE YOU! Please comment and make a pact that you will make a change for you and your family to be a healthier and happier Native American. Let’s bring the statistics down and put the life back into our people and honor our ancestors rather than work against what they left for us.  Make a commitment today that you will help end the statistic of “Diabetes” in our people and bring back the health, wellness, and sacredness of our people. I personally have started a Wellness program that I would be happy to share with others and know for a fact that it is a PERFECT remedy for people suffering with risks of diabetes or literally living with the disease.  Together, let’s stop being a statistic! (475)

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Featured on thesouthdakotacowgirl.com website!

http://thesouthdakotacowgirl.com/2013/06/reservation-lakota-meet-danielle/

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My love for Native American Art

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Being a Lakota student on the Cheyenne River Reservation

For over 30 years, Presentation College Lakota Campus has been located on the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe PC Lakota Campus is sponsored by the Presentation Sisters and continues to be the leader in health care education on the reservation. The majority of the students who attend PC Lakota Campus are non-traditional students. These students are some of the hardest working people I know! They manage to juggle a family at home, finances, and a personal life all while attending college.

The student featured in the video is Echo. Echo is 19 years old and the mother of 3 year old Lydia. She is a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and will be attending her second year with Presentation College. She feels that Presentation College is a very encouraging and supportive place to be while living on the Cheyenne River Reservation. She says that education is very important in her life and feels that when you go to college, “you can teach the future generations that they can make such a better like with educating yourself/themselves.” She also enjoys attending PC Lakota Campus because it is a smaller college, you know each other, and the staff are very supportive. (945)

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Native American Artist: Irona Howe, specializing in her beautiful beadwork

Native American artist, Irona Howe is a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. 

I would like to introduce my beautiful Lakota friend, Irona Howe. She is a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe where she lives on the reservation in Dupree, South Dakota. Howe is a new and aspiring artist who makes beautiful beadwork with traditional Native American influenced patterns and designs. As a single mother, she has found her stay at home hobby to be quite popular and it has kept her so busy that she has developed a waiting list for her beadwork. She has made everything from beaded belts, bracelets, beaded horse tack, large beaded mirrors and other pieces of art that incorporate both leather and beads.

Every piece of beautiful art is made by Irona to be your very own.

Irona was first influenced by her parents who always seemed to find passion in working with leather or creating pieces of art with beadwork. Irona’s father owns his own saddle shop in which she uses his leather scraps to create her very own exquisite beaded masterpieces. Her mother also taught her how to bead the traditional Peyote stitch when she was 7 years old. Since then, she has also taught herself to use a beading loom for many of her art pieces.

These beautiful belts are beaded by Irona and the leather work is created by her father.

Howe knew that she loved working with beads and leather but she also had a frustration in seeing the same patterns and stereotypical designs by others that supposedly make a piece “Native American.” She creates her one of a kind beadwork because there is so much satisfaction in making art for each person. “They will wear it forever and pass it down to their family with a story to go along with it,” says Howe.

Howe feels that when she makes something she creates it especially for the individual so that they get their own personal fulfillment out of her art that will last forever. She tries very hard to create art that has meaning to the individual and strives to have no design like another.

It may be hard to believe after seeing her work but Howe never has a hard time letting a new piece of art go. She knows in her heart that it belongs to the person who requested it and it is for them to enjoy and cherish. “It’s for them now, they own it,” says Howe.

You can view more examples of Irona’s beautiful beaded artwork through her Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ironava . She is planning on creating a website in the near future to display her work. You can also message me if you would like more information regarding purchasing Irona’s work at www.reservationlakota.com  

Today I received my very own beautiful bracelet from Irona Howe. This bracelet displays the four traditional colors of the Lakota medicine wheel, Red, Black, White, and Yellow. I cannot express how honored I am to wear an original Irona Howe piece of art! This bracelet means so much to me including the two stars which represent my Lakota name, “Compassionate Two Star Woman,” and that it was made by such a wonderful Lakota woman!

Pilamaya ye (thank you),

Danielle

 

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Ziebach County: The importance in Pursuing a Higher Education for Native Americans

Everyday I wake up on the Cheyenne River Reservation and get excited about a new day to make a difference in my profession. I am responsible for recruiting new college students for our campus and helping them with the enrollment process. Having this responsibility is a rewarding job but it is definitely not always easy. According to the US Census, the Cheyenne River Reservation in Eagle Butte, SD is located in the poorest county in the nation; Ziebach County. There are around 2,800 people living in Ziebach County with around 2100 of that number are Native American. The median age for someone in Ziebach county is 25.4, with 76% High School graduates but less than 12% having an existing Bachelors or Associates degree.

Given these statistics, it is sometimes hard to recruit students who are able to attend college. It is not that the Cheyenne River community doesn’t have people who want to pursue a higher education, it has to do with living in an area of poverty and also sometimes having to take on the responsibility of more than your own family instead of attending school. It is hard living in an area of poverty where the annual income is the fourth poorest in the nation at less than $18,000 a year. Think about budgeting for tuition for 2-4 years. Someone who is pursuing a higher education has to consider the amount of tuition versus how much money they are pulling into the household. It is not always easy to consider that one may be in debt now and have to leave their family behind, but after achieving a degree, the amount of income could go up.

I came across this preview for a show that is going to be on PBS that may be able to explain the issue a little more in a similar area. Again, it is not that Native American people living in a poverty area do not want to succeed and pursue a higher education, it has to do with much more than that.  With the median age being 25.4, the number of jobs available on the Cheyenne River reservation are very low and the number of child care providers is also very low which makes being able to leave home and attend class a sometimes difficult task.

I give my students an extreme amount of credit because it truly takes a lot of dedication and strength to be able to leave home to pursue a higher education while knowing you may have to leave your family behind who depends on you. With a limited amount of resources in Ziebach County, we can truly consider these students positive and true examples of heroes who have beat the discouraging odds that the media continuously reminds us of. I can’t explain how good it feels to see a student succeed in the world of higher education and knowing that they are setting the pace for the younger generation to succeed. While there might not always be the support at home to attend college, they are helping change the community one graduate at a time by being instrumental in various areas of the Reservation.

While the issue of creating more accessible education resources on the the Cheyenne River Reservation can’t be fixed over night, we can still all help make a difference in our own backyard in being aware and supportive of one another and by reaching out to make our South Dakota Reservations better.

 

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Putting the word “Sacred” back into our Lakota Children

In the Lakota culture, we consider our children to be very sacred. They are a gift from the creator who hold the future of our Native American people. Lakota people believe that we are all gifted from the time we were created and we have a choice to share those gifts with others and make a difference.

In the Lakota language, the word “Wakanjeja (wah-ky-yeh-jah)” translates in the English language to “Child.” This word includes the Lakota word “Waka” which means sacred and “yeja (yeah-jah)” means gift.Our Lakota children originally were mostly raised by the elderly in the family because our elders are the wisdom of our people in which we hold the most respect for. They are in charge of passing down the cultural ways of our people so that are voice and actions are not forgotten but rather learned from.

Today, our Lakota children face a world that is more complex and divided than just 50 years ago. Our Lakota children are at risk more for sexual abuse and being emotionally neglected. Instead of being treated sacred, our children are being taken from their homes, stripped of anything they know, and put into homes that are not always a positive transition. I understand that many adopted or foster Lakota children are given a better life, but this is not always the case. Many non-Native American families who take in Native American children are profiting rather than first placing them into care under the Indian Child Welfare Act. By law, a Native American child is to be placed in a Native American home first. ICWA was passed by congress in 1978 due to the alarming number of Native American children being removed from their homes. So what’s the problem? Not all states are abiding by the ICWA Act and alarming rates ignoring the ICWA act are happening in my backyard; South Dakota. It is said that the state receives money for any child who is taken from their family, but more money is said to be given for Native American children. In this interview with National Public Radio, previous Native American foster/adopted children are interviewed as adults and many details are revealed on a year long investigation.

America, please wake up! Our own Native American children are at times being used as profit rather than sacred “Wakanyejas!” We cannot continue to allow our children to be subject to abuse, neglect, and removal when they are truly our gatekeepers of the future! We must come together and realize this! I do agree that many children should be placed in loving homes Native American or non-Native American, but they should be held to a standard just like any race or color. I do believe there are good people out there that want to make a difference in any childs life, but lets come together and restore our childrens sacredness.

Here is an amazing group called, “Wakanyeja Pawaciyapi,” which means, “Children First” out of Porcupine, South Dakota. This groups mission is to restore the true meaning of our sacred children and to help as many young Wakanyeja’s as possible to stay on the right path in live and to give them hope for a better tomorrow. Here is a message from the Wakanyeja Pawaciyapi and a YouTube video featured on the villageearth.org website.

http://villageearth.org/pages/global-affiliate-network/projects-pineridge-reservation/a-message-from-wakanyeja-pawicayapi-inc-porcupine-sd

My daughter and I

Deja is part of the success of the ICWA Act. She is biologically my cousin but to her I’m “mom.” We are both members of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe. She brightens my day everyday for the past 5 years and many more to come. I think the Lord everyday for bringing her in my life!

Pilamaya ye,

Danielle

 

 

 

 

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On to the Spirit World

When a loved one passes away in the Lakota culture, I have found that it is quite different than any other service or process that I have been a part of or witnessed. It is not just a time to mourn and bury the dead but it means more than that. This is a beautiful time to celebrate that our loved one is going on to a new life in the spirit world and leaving behind their journey for us to follow and learn from.

Recently, my uncle, Pat Spears passed away after a short but painful battle with cancer. He knew that this terrible disease was going to take his life but never once did this slow down his determination and drive to make a difference. Even after realizing modern medicine was not going to cure him, he continued to share his knowledge while fighting for his life as he was surrounded by the comfort of his family and friends.

Since my uncle was a traditional Lakota man, the week before his passing, a sweat was held for four days in a row as his loved ones prayed and sacrificed through the intense heat. This was a time for purification, prayer, and healing. My uncle’s children and loved ones came back every night after the sweat to the hospital to pray for him, sing, and be with him, never leaving his side for a second. It is a traditional belief in the Native American culture to never leave the loved one alone until they have completely left us onto the spirit world. It is important to comfort and reassure them that it’s okay to leave us all here and go on to a better place so that they can find peace.

My uncle was very active in his Native American culture and on his reservation in Lower Brule, SD. One passion that he was truly known for was being the co-founder and President of a company called, the Intertribal Council on Utility Policy (COUP).  This focused on energy improvements and advancements on Native American Reservations in South Dakota, North Dakota, and Nebraska and Wyoming. He worked diligently in the planning and educating others to put wind turbines on the Reservations among other energy renewing projects. He also gained support and honorable recognition from the Clinton Global Initiative and received the World Clean Energy Award for Courage presented to him in Switzerland. Knowing that my uncle was sick and there was no cure, it was very scary for him in having to face the fact that someone who have to keep his message and hard work alive and productive after he left for the spirit world.

So what exactly do I mean by, ”leaving behind his journey for us to follow and learn from?” I was always taught that when a Lakota leader or elder comes in our path, and paves the way before us that we should do everything in our efforts to make sure that their hard work never goes unrecognized. We should also make sure that it doesn’t cease just because the physical person has left us. My uncle worked hard for our environment and especially the Native American people no matter how many bullets to the chest or arrows at his back he had to take along the way. Even up to the last hours of his life on earth, he was still spreading the word and knowledge to loved ones around him about his mission and calling in life to better the life for our Native American people.

After my uncle left for the spirit world, he didn’t want any recognition, no elaborate send off, but to leave this world in a traditional way and have his hard work carried on. He didn’t want his body for the world to stare at and talk about but instead to be in the comfort of his own home surrounded by loved ones for his funeral services. He didn’t want anyone cutting flowers for his funeral but rather wanted those who found it important to be there present. He said, “If they can make it all the way out here, that’s good enough.”

We can all learn from the humbleness of my uncle who worked hard for every one of us, never worried about any recognition or a prize; just a change in our environment.

Here is an article featured on the Indian Country Today Media Network Website that shows how much one man accomplished while on Earth for such a short time.

Mitakuye Oyasin (All my relatives), Pilaymaya ye, (thank you)!

~Danielle Dx.

 

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Reservation Lakota Video

 

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Lending a Helping Hand

For the past three days, a group called Youth Works has been volunteering across the Cheyenne River Reservation offering their assistance in painting, mission work, and other areas to help make a difference.

Youth Works

We had the pleasure and honor at my workplace, Presentation College Lakota Campus, to have Youth Works come in and make a difference on our campus. This ministry group came from all over the United States with over 30 energetic people to help throughout the community. On our campus, they painted the decks, signs, handicap street markings, and classroom walls on our campus. I have never seen such eager and speedy individuals in my life ready to work their butts off! This is just one example of the many different entities that come to the Cheyenne River Reservation to make a lasting impression and visual difference in the community.

Giving the Classrooms a New look

6/20/2012

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