No --- I'm not angry at you!
I'm upset that we are in the dawn of a new millenium and the Native Americans are only a little better off than when we were forced onto reservations in the 1800's
We continue to suffer at a rate that no other Americans experience. Think of it--- White man came to the shores of America, pushed the Indians west to a virtual wasteland and killed those who resisted them.
Then the white men became more civilized and made peace treaties that were never intended to be honored.
Finally, they shoved the First Americans onto reservations-- left over land not fit for white man.....and surrounded the tribe with a massive bureacratic system that today makes it impossible for the Indians to support their families or find Social Justice.
I know- because I am dedicated to helping the Rosebud Sioux here on the reservation. And I see their pain every day.
I wonder if you share my anger?
Why do people continue treating us as if we are children who can't manage our own affairs?
Many Americans - especially the bureaucrats - have no idea of the severity of the problems the Indians are facing, nor do they really understand the Indians.
For example, look at the problem of medical care. If it's a problem for white people......it's a scandal on the reservation!
Many Indian men, women and children aren't lucky enough to have access to the quality of healthcare that white people all over the country take for granted.
It's common knowledge that the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation comprises the seventh poorest country in all the United States. Todd Country has a median income of $5,063 per capita.
There is limited, inadequate heath care. Local studies support evedince that a Rosebud Indian is 10 times more likely to die by age 45 than counterpart in white America.
The teenage pregnancy rate is three times higher than national statistics and the infant-mortality count is double the national rate.
Alcoholism is the number one problem on the reservation. When you face racism, poverty and powerlessness you drink to forget. Alcoholism is one of the top ten causes of death among Indian people. "We will be annihilated as a race within the next century if we don't solve the acoholism problem. Then the Indian problem is settled-- genocide without firing a single bullet."
To overturn a people's land and destroy their way of life is an injustice... not to provide some kind of an alternative is perhaps an even greater injustice!
Believe it or not, the unemployment rate here on the Rosebud Reservation runs as high as 80%. That's much worse than it was ten years ago. This is because there are no factories, or large shops, and no big industries on this barren land.
There's nowhere to seek a better job... or any job at all! And the people simply can't live off the land- it's too poor- just like the people.
I'm sure you can understand how the cycle of poverty, despair and hopelessness perpetuates because life is so difficult. The Lakota people are struggling just to survive. And I'm trying to do something about it all.
We work hard to find employment for the Lakota people. This way they can begin to help themselves, regain a sense of dignity...and stop having to depend on inadequate government subsides.
In fact this letter was printed by the Lakota who we trained and provided with equipment. And they are just a few -- of the many-- whom, I'm proud to say, that Little Sioux and the St Francis Indian Mission have helped over the years to get jobs and rise out of poverty.
We've been there for people who needed treatment for drug and alcohol abuse, spiritual guidance and we were instrumental in providing daycare facilities for working parents and college students.
It's hard to keep a mans spirits high when he has to worry about money to feed his family and it's hard to keep faith alive in a woman who's home is a nightmare.
I must close this letter but before I go I want to leave you with words I believe...
Will you help the Lakota people live and prosper in justice? To express my apperiation for your generous gift of $20 or more I will send you a special limited edition of commerative stamps depiting famous Sioux Chiefs.
It will be a special reminder of how you've helped the Sioux in their struggle for social justice. I 'll deeply appericate knowing I can count on you as one of my friends.
Ron Seminara, S.J.
St Francis Indian Mission
P.S. One of our friends said she posted the Indian Prayer in her bedroom. It's a great way to start the day!
Grant that I may not
criticize my neighbor
until I have walked a
mile in his moccasins
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