Monday, November 17, 2008

The Neighborhood Supply Drive Experiment

Can one person really do anything significant for the victims of a natural disaster? There are, of course, many organizations out there designed specifically to go into disaster areas with supplies and such to help out.

Often, the American Public rallies behind the cause to support these groups and the victims. Hurricane Katrina, the big Tsunami half way around the world, forest fires in California and such. But what happens when disaster strikes a part of America that Americans seem to prefer to overlook?

I'm talking, of course, about the blizzard that smashed into the Lakota Indian Reservations on November 10th, knocking out power all over, dumping crippling snow, forcing the residents to gather at places like Crazy Horse High School to try and ride out the worst of it. And by gather, I don't mean hop in the family car and trek down the roads. There were people who walked miles through the snow to get there. Young and old alike. They were made refugees by the storm. Forced to flee their homes, or stay and freeze and/or starve. If it happened anywhere else in the country, the media would have already been all over it.

But our Indian Reservations have for years been shuffled under the rug by the media, and thus by the Public. Theirs after all, is a very different culture than ours. The stereotypes of the modern Native American are not flattering. So people go about their own lives. Warm in their homes. Full tummies before climbing under warm blankets for the night. Their kids well fed, well clothed and well schooled. Oblivious to the third world country right here within the borders of our own.

Why don't they get jobs? I've heard that asked. The unemployment rate on the reservations is between 40 -60%. Compare that to the national average of 4 or 5%. There are no jobs.

Why don't they go where the jobs are? A question asked by those who have never had to figure out how to do that. I had a period in my life where I had to do that, and it is really very difficult to do. Surprisingly so. Not to mention that their education system is nowhere near as nice as most of the rest of the country.

So we have a large group of people living in substandard housing, without appropriate clothing for the seasons, without much food to eat, without heat for the coming winter. Then a blizzard hits to add insult to injury. So, what can one person do about it?

More Later

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