Sunday, August 27, 2006

The Other America: Poverty 44 Years Later

Sister Edith, O.S.B., who blogs at Monastic Musings, on her way back to Duluth from her short vacation stay in Colorado, stopped off at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

[snip ] I stopped at a convenience store in the town of Oglala. The Coke cooler was being stocked from a Coke truck, but the shelves were largely bare of food items. Many people live in dilapidated mobile homes; broken machinery and junked cars litter the landscape. At the Tribal Headquarters, ancient air conditioners sagged in broken window frames. The entire reservation - about the size of Connecticut - has fewer than 100 business operations, and many of those are individuals making native crafts to sell to the occasional tourist. The visible poverty was stunning.
Many of our colleges and churches sponsor trips to Haiti or Honduras or Katrina-struck communities, to help with clean-up and building projects. We do extensive fund-raising for charities in these areas, or to help the poor in our cities - the first Other America. We rarely hear about this other Other America - 40,000 people, a third of them children, living in dire poverty.
There are signs of hope. The parking lot was jammed full at the Oglala Lakota Tribal College, which graduated 179 students last year. The Lakota Fund, using models that have been effective in sparking development in under-developed nations, provides micro-loans and training in how to start and run a business -- the arts-and-crafts workers I met are probably among their clients. The Jesuit-run Red Cloud Indian School,
I only spent a day on the reservation, and returned to a clean bed in my First World lifestyle. But I cannot forget this other Other America - and I encourage you, too, to remember our brothers and sisters at Pine Ridge in any way you can. Friends of Pine Ridge Reservation
operated without federal or state funds, gives some students a high-quality education in well-equipped buildings. Roads were being repaired in several areas to improve the feasibility of economic activity. [snip] Read More

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