Friday, July 1, 2011

We begin work, 2011, Pine Ridge

Monday, June 20, 2011

Our first day of work was began in the rain.. There were 58 people here and we are divided into 12 teams. Those teams were assigned to 6 different projects. We began though with the task of unloading a trailer of lumber. We formed a line and passed the 2X4s and sheets of plywood from one to the next, and it actually went pretty fast. Then we all gathered the things needed for our particular task and set off.

Don and I managed to get into the same team thanks to Judy who traded with me. We were assigned outhouse installation. A tem from last week constructed the unit (even with a cute turtle cut-out in the door and a typical home store seat to make it slightly more comfortable.

On the way, I asked our construction supervisor what the family is currently using if they don’t have an outhouse nor plumbing. Her response was that they don’t like to ask that question because it is very embarrassing for the family involved. She said they usually use a variety of methods including the facilities at their closest neighbors, the weeds behind the house, etc.

It’s hard to imagine that in this country, people don’t have bathroom facilities indoors, and its absolutely mind-boggling to realize that outhouses are a major item requested from Re-Member each week. The people don’t have tools nor the lumber or skills to create their own, and they are expensive to purchase, especially for people without a means to transport them or jobs to pay for them.

It continued raining all morning. We dug a 5 ft. hole (2 ½ ft. across). The soil has enough sand that the digging itself was the easy part. The hard part was moving the loosened dirt out of the hole! By the time the hole was 3 ft deep, it was hard to maneuver the shovel to toss it out. We finally got a system where the person in the hole filled a post-hole digger and handed it to someone above who emptied it. It rained and blew this whole time and was promising more severe showers, so they had us stop at 5 ft. instead of the customary 6 ft.

When we finished we were all soaked and muddy. The showers back at the dorm felt pretty good and then after lunch we went to the workshop where I got to use a drill press to pre-drill the holes in wood pieces that would become bunk beds as the week advanced.

In the evening we had another speaker, Will Peters. Uncle Will as he introduced himself to the teens in our group is a college professor, musician and advocate for young people on the reservation. He talked about the destructiveness of a culture where women and girls are not honored. In the native tradition women were considered the wisdom bearers and the center of the family. It was women who held the culture and family together. Men were the defenders and hunters. When the native ways were put under pressure, the people lost many of their cultural norms, and the honoring of women and the family has often been forfeited, much to the detriment of the Lakota people. When men lose their ability to defend and provide, they also lost their ability to hold their heads up, and in the process alcoholism, drug abuse, gang membership, domestic abuse and other social ills have followed. In many ways the Lakota are a people searching for their own identity in a world where it’s not OK to be native and where the cards seem stacked against them in many ways.

Perhaps that’s why the men often remain inside when the Re-Member teams are working on their houses. They are embarrassed and ashamed that they can’t provide the needed repairs, so they try to be invisible. It’s the way our nation has chosen to treat them, anyway—as if they were invisible. It must break something deep within their spirits, and it should break our hearts, too!

No comments: