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March 14, 1996 - Image 1

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The Michigan Daily, 1996-03-14

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10B - The Michigan Daily - W(41etc. - Thursday, March14, 1996

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Brice Long Horn and Angela High Elk, both 16, frequent the YMCA with
friends. They are intent on maintaining their culture; Brice will be dancing
in the Pow Wow in Denver this April.
THE IAKOTA
FUTURE: HOPE IN
UNITY AND CULTURE

When volunteers from outside the Cheyenne River Reservation first come to
work at the Sioux YMCA in Dupree, SD, they are advised to spend their first few
days observing before they start asking questions. This is a difficult task for many
who have never encountered reservation life in modern America; one desires explanation for both the hardship and the hope around
them, and more often than not there are no simple answers.
The 1990 census sets the level of unemployment for Native Americans on the reservation at 33.4 percent. Tribal numbers that, unlike
the government's, include people who have not filed for unemployment and those who are not "actively seeking" work, put that
number as high as 85 percent. Alcoholism and drug-use rates among adults is also high and many Native American children come
from broken homes with only one, or neither, of their parents present. The entire town of Dupree can seem, at times, like one large
social program, with people dependent on the government money that provides housing and programs such as welfare and Headstart.
But, some say that it is just this dependency that is holding people down.
Many Native Americans from older generations have determined that the solutions rest in more active participation (such as more
extensive job training) and within the preservation and promotion of the Lakota culture.
Lakota legend prophesies that the seventh generation of their people - today's teen-agers - will be the ones that will save the
Lakota people and return to them the land that is rightfully theirs. There is much concern that this will never be realized; apathy is as
widespread as unemployment and alcoholism, and at first glance there appears to be little hope. But there are some teen-agers on the
reservation that are just as concerned as their mentors. Most teen-agers who frequent the YMCA say they support banning alcohol
sales on the reservation, and are concerned about maintaining their culture. "If you don't have your language, you don't have no
people, no values, or anything," says Wanda Little Wounded, 15, of Dupree, whose siblings, cousins, and friends compose the YMCA
teen group and are working to organize a trip to a large Pow Wow in Denver this April.
The YMCA works with the kids and the community to promote this sense of worth and pride by offering an alternative to drugs and
drinking, and by giving the kids the emotional support needed for the building of a strong positive front. There are play and tutoring
programs for every day after school, and for every weekday evening as well; kids coming home on the bus often run to the Y and wait
outside the door to be let in directly on the hour. AmeriCorps YMCA worker Chris Highfield, who has lived in Dupree since Septem-
ber, explains that the Y "provides a safe haven" for the community and "consistency" in the lives of children who may not get that at
home. But it is difficult for volunteers working to better the lives of the people of the reservation - whether they be AmeriCorp
workers, YMCA directors, leaders within the community, or college students on spring break - to see any immediate effect, or find
any satisfying comprehension of the situation. The problems within these communities have thick roots, and dedication, persistence,
patience and hope seem to be the only truly effective weapons of battle.

Above: RC first-year student Sara Bursac holds Wilson Red
Water, 5, upside down (one of his favorite games) as others
wait their turn. Bursac was one of 10 University students to
work at the YMCA over break. The YMCA and the communities
it serves come to depend on university groups for additional
support throughout the spring. Currently, there are only four
AmerlCorps workers on the reservation, which includes 15
communities.

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Ray Dupris, a Lakota from a town near Dupree, is working with the YMCA
to organize the building of large, permanent pow wow grounds to serve
Dupree and the surrounding area. He explains, in Lakota: "Wakan inga ki
hena Lakota woonspe kin un spe wicunklyap. sni hantas lakollya unkhump
kin le ungnunip. We must teach these children our Lakota language. If we
don't the way we live will be gone." The tape recorder he holds plays a
recording of a recent pow wow in another community.

Above: children at the tribally run Headstart
learn Lakota colors and numbers.
Right: Dupree, SD, population approximately
480, large by reservation standards, is home
of the Sioux YMCA, which services the
Cheyenne River Reservation.
If you are interested in volunteering on the
Cheyenne RiverReservation,contactthe Sioux
YMCA directly at (605) 365-5232, or call
Project Serve about leading or joining an
Alternative Spring Break trip for next year.

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Rusnmore Niaiunai monumun m te s
be returned to the Lakota Indians. "1
Little Wounded, 15. "Once we have U
forever."

iair nmi, unginyuan pu imumsu iv
he Hills are our heart," says Wanda
Hills back, our nation will be saved
PHOTOSTORY BY JENNIFER BRADLEY-SWIFT

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