Posts Tagged With: Change

‘When you are on that horse, you are honoring life’

Note: I had the opportunity to photograph and visit with young people here on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation looking to create awareness about suicide and bullying. Below is the story I wrote (with some edits) that was originally posted on my day job’s website. 


Set on horseback, Pine Ridge Indian Reservation youth recently rode from Wanblee, SD, to Pine Ridge, SD, to speak up about the epidemic of suicide. The ride took three days with stops in between the nearly 100-mile ride.


Co-organizer Lauren Janis, a 16-year-old at Little Wound High School, started the organization Fight for Life along with fellow student Evelyn Quick Bear to raise awareness. They decided to launch Ride for Life as one of the events to do that. The suicide rate on Pine Ridge is more than twice the national rate with teen suicide at four times the national rate.

When the Ride for Life riders stopped in Kyle, SD, to rest and eat, Lauren spoke about their expectations of the event.

“We hoped that the turnout was going to be great and get the point across that suicide is not a way to go out and there is always someone who loves you. Events like this bring community, friendships and family together,” she said. About 20 riders participated. “Horses are sacred to us and fits into our culture. Suicide isn’t part of our culture. When you are on that horse, you are honoring life — not giving up on life.”


Lauren Janis

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A plan is just a blueprint

Around this time last year I was in California.


The above image is a screen shot of my gratitude app. Yes. There’s an app for that. (Ignore that “no service.” I tend to not have service much on the Rez!)

I’ve only been yapping about California forever. Well maybe not forever. Just a few years. Several years ago the California love struck me for the first time when I flew out to Gilroy for an interview at the town’s local paper. I didn’t get it. But I loved the few days I was there.

Since then I have been blessed to get out to the Bay Area a few times. This time last year was a trip I took with a friend to be absolutely certain I wanted to take the leap. I was certain but decided to head to South Dakota first. I mean when I asked the Universe for new experiences, I didn’t mess around!

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How to get over the savior complex you didn’t think you had…

When I moved to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation this year, I can safely say I didn’t have a grandiose idea of “saving an entire people” like I was a powerful force that could impact the kind of change that could undo generations of genocide and injustice.

There has been a history of people coming here and trying to do that. There are documentaries that don’t show you everything that is good on the Rez. There are people who come here who are supposedly well-intentioned, thinking they will show the world something that will create an impact — sometimes it does but not always a good one.

I came to the reservation to work and to gain experiences — that’s it. Take in the scenery, get away from the city and get to know people. And I just thought that I could maybe impart change in some way that could create improvement by either using the written word, creating awareness and passing on my own knowledge and experience in the area of health and sustainability. Just like anyone who  feels that they want to help people, I didn’t really think I had something called a “savior complex,” which admittedly I feel I could easily say some people who make the journey here may exhibit. I’m absolutely guilty of finger-pointing when it comes to that complex when really I should be looking a little more at myself.

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Making the best of it

I need to preface this post with: I am not miserable.

The title of this blog post simply implies that when challenged, you have to pull up your bootstraps and do the whole making lemonade thing or whatever cliche sayings you’d like. And that’s what I seem to do, week to week while making a little bit of a life in Kyle, South Dakota. Sure there’s physical isolation but most of the “bummer” stuff is the weather. We had even more snow after my post below this one. It just seems like yesterday I was basking in the sunlight and buffalo at Yellow Bear.


And taking in the sights of the Badlands…


But no. There’s more snow.


And cold. And it’s April. One thing is for sure, this place needs the moisture. Record drought conditions prove that, so in this case, the snow is welcomed I’m sure. However even South Dakota residents are ready to see a real spring. I’ve been told that this isn’t exactly normal and they have hit all-time record snowfall for April — even broke records.

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Categories: Change, Day in the Life | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Why we take convenience for granted

If you live in an urban or suburban community, you probably don’t think twice when you go to the store. And if you don’t find what you need/want at that store, you get in your car or take the bus to the next one. When you get there, you will be lucky to find a variety of fresh foods and confident you don’t have to discover that the person cutting your meat or checking your items out at the counter is smoking.

You also probably have a cell phone. And it pretty much works wherever you go with a few possible minor disturbances like not finding WiFi or your first text message didn’t go through. More than likely you probably don’t have to go far if you need something fixed like your computer. And maybe you have a long list of folks to call if you need an exterminator at home.

These are conveniences that I currently haven’t had in over three months. I will admit I absolutely took that for granted. Because now it’s a 90-mile drive to do these things. And when I spilled a drink on my computer last week, I had to head out to “the city” from where I live now on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation to get it repaired. This required staying overnight out in Rapid City, the closest metropolitan area.

The trip can be costly. And you are charged for that trip if someone comes from out of town to take care of things. Such as if you need major fixes to your home or if you need something like an exterminator to rid your place of a local nuisance — Box Elder Bugs. They are pretty common here but exterminators are not.

As far as my phone, I have to plan when I call people which means I have to head to the office where I work or the local motel to place the call. I mostly use text messages and Skype but for those who don’t do that much, when I get to the city, I usually call then. Oh and about that grocery store stop. Yes, I’ve encountered smoking at one out of the only two stores in town in addition to many times it is slim pickings on fresh foods (fruits and veggies) or quality meats. Chips, sweets and other processed foods are king, however.

This post should not be confused with complaining as I’ve grown a lot experiencing a different kind of lifestyle. I am very lucky to have means, a car and a nice place to stay even if I have to drive a large distance to obtain certain supplies or services. But I am actually pretty amazed at how much I didn’t think about these things. Day-to-day simplicities were like breathing pretty much and it’s common to take them for granted. I don’t believe that people are simply innately unappreciative of convenience, but most people are just very used to it. I do believe that very low income areas of larger cities are the closest to experience what it means to not have conveniences but even in those instances there is still close access, although limited. Again, being able to hop on the bus to get to point A to point B within an hour is a convenience even with a short grocery list.

It is not unlikely that if you take yourself out of comfort zones, you really start to get a grasp at what privilege looks like — even when you may think you “don’t have much.” You probably do.


Categories: Change | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

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