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While The Dakota Pipe Line Protest Continues There Is Other Deep Issues For 1st Nation People

Reported by In Support Of Indigenous Americans
Reported by Jay North

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A protest of a four-state, $3.8 billion oil pipeline turned violent after tribal officials say construction crews destroyed American Indian burial and cultural sites on private land in southern North Dakota. http://www.fireapparatusmagazine.com/apnews/2016/09/04/oil-pipeline-protest-turns-violent-in-southern-north-dakota.html?cmpid=Google-Fire_Apparatus_Dynamic_Search-Fire_Apparatus_Text_Ads-_cat%3Afireapparatusmagazine.com-g-c-85896095471&gclid=CLOEj475xtACFYqKfgodY_AF3g.

While Natives and now non Natives alike continue fighting for what they believe is important and vital to the environment, there are other vastly important issues facing Natives throughout the USA.  Poverty being #1! How many people in the US realize that our 1s Nation People live at the lowest level of income strata in our country.  With nearly 10% homelessness on the reservations, access to jobs, high quality food and health care are near non existence.  Most reservations being widely removed from white man society Natives have little or no access to jobs, markets nor health care facilities. There are expectations-but only few considering how many reservations there are in America. Currently there are 562 Native reservations in the USA with 5.6 million people occupying or “living” on or near the res. http://www.dailyherald.com/article/20110607/news/706079944.

To make things clear 90% of reservations are about 2.5 hours driving time from food markets, services and hospitals. The expectations include wealthy tribal governments with large cash holdings due to successful hotels and casinos.  Few reservations throughout the USA are near large cities. But for most Natives food shortages run deep and what is doled out is old canned foods (outdated as per label dates), little or no access to fresh fruits and vegetable, over abundance of sugary treats and poor quality meat.

Living Conditions

About 22% of our country’s 5.6 million Native Americans live on tribal lands .Living conditions on the reservations have been cited as “comparable to Third World,” (The Gallup Independent). It is impossible to succinctly describe the many factors that have contributed to the challenges that Native America faces today, but the following facts about the most pressing issues of economics, health, and housing give a hint of what life is like for many first Americans.


Typically, Tribal and Federal governments are the largest employers on the reservations. Many households are overcrowded and earn only social security, disability or veteran’s income. The scarcity of jobs and lack of economic opportunity mean that, depending on the reservation, four to eight out of ten adults on reservations are unemployed. Among American Indians who are employed, many are earning below poverty wages.

The overall percentage of American Indians living below the federal poverty line is 28.2%. The disparity for American Indians living below poverty on the reservations is even greater, reaching 38% to 63% in our service area

Often, heads of household are forced to leave the reservation to seek work, and grandparents take on the role of raising their grandchildren. In order to survive, extended families pool their meager resources as a way to meet basic needs. The relative poverty still experienced by these blended families is best understood as the gap between the overall need and the need that goes unmet.


There is a housing crisis in Indian country. Despite the Indian Housing Authority’s (IHAs) recent efforts, the need for adequate housing on reservations remains acute. One legislator deplored the fact that “there are 90,000 homeless or underhoused Indian families, and that 30% of Indian housing is overcrowded and less than 50% of it is connected to a public sewer.”

In addition, many American Indians are living in substandard housing. About 40% of on-reservation housing is considered inadequate (2003, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights). The waiting list for tribal housing is long; the wait is often three years or more, and overcrowding is inevitable. Most families will not turn away family members or anyone who needs a place to stay. It is not uncommon for 3 or more generations to live in a two-bedroom home with inadequate plumbing, kitchen facilities, cooling, and heating.

Further increasing the concerns with reservation housing is the noticeable absence of utilities. While most Americans take running water, telephones, and electricity for granted, many reservation families live without these amenities. On a seriously stretched budget, utilities are viewed as luxuries compared to food and transportation. Overcrowding, substandard dwellings, and lack of utilities all increase the potential for health risk, especially in rural and remote areas where there is a lack of accessible healthcare.


“The average life expectancy for Native Americans has improved yet still trails that of other Americans by almost 5 years”. About 55% of American Indians rely on the Indian Health Service for medical care. Yet, the Indian Health Care Improvement Act only meets about 60% of their health needs.

Due to underfunding, Indian Health Service facilities are crisis-driven and leave a wide gap in adequate and preventative health care for many Native Americans on the reservations. Pharmacies and doctor’s offices outside of hospitals are completely non-existent in some communities.

The pressures to shift from a traditional way of life toward a Western lifestyle has dramatically impacted the health and welfare of the Native peoples and created a terrible epidemic of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, tuberculosis, and cancer. The statistics are alarming.

  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death for American Indians, Center for Disease Control).
  • Due to the link between heart disease, diabetes, poverty, and quality of nutrition and health care, 36% of Natives with heart disease will die before age 65 compared to 15% of Caucasians.
  • American Indians are 177% more likely to die from diabetes, Indian Health Disparities).
  • 500% are more likely to die from tuberculosis, Indian Health Disparities).
  • 82% are more likely to die from suicide, Indian Health Disparities).
    Cancer rates and disparities related to cancer treatment are higher than for other Americans (2005, Native People for Cancer Control).
  • Infant death rates are 60% higher than for Caucasians, HHS Office of Minority Health).

The facts presented are important realities about the living conditions faced by many Native Americans in this country — facts that every non-Native American needs to know. http://www.nrcprograms.org/site/PageServer?pagename=naa_livingconditions .

While Standing Rock Sioux are flighty the good fight for the protection of water, perhaps non natives can also fight the good fight of human right for 1st Nation People.  Non Native might ask why stay? The Native reply is- because it is our home.

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Come into Sacred Ceremony

With Jay and Leonard J. Mountain Chief

Leonard said, “One day all people everywhere will come to know who they are. They will realize their own strength and power and be able to give loving service through their newfound knowledge and personal power.”

He said that people already know this and that they either mask this inner wisdom or have somehow managed to forget who they truly are. “People act in funny ways when they are not being their true selves,” he said and laughed out loud.

Leonard said that we are all leaders, writers, and artists; we are all mothers and fathers, teachers and healers. To Leonard there was nothing more important than people knowing who they are and what their true calling, or purpose for life, is.

“Come into scared ceremony,” Leonard called. “Retrieve your soul, and never be shrouded in mystery again. Carry with you a hand drum, a shaker, sage, and a gift offering.

“Deep in those mountains, there is a valley. It has been sacred to our people for thousands of years and holds great medicine power unknown to most. Some of your people may not even recognize the power as they sit on this land,” he said.

“Walk in, come to sacred ceremony in reverence and silence as you approach this valley. Ask the ancestors’ permission to be there. Give praise and thanksgiving to the Creator for providing such a wondrous place. Take with you a valued possession and offer it as a sacred gift. Build an altar and chant a prayer. It does not matter in what language,” Leonard said. “The Creator hears all languages.

“As you near the center of the valley, find your spot or the place you feel most comfortable, lay a blanket, and sit. Quiet your mind. Do not speak until it is time. Call in the ancestors and the great ones to be at your side and welcome their presence. Sit quietly for as long as you can. Light the sage, and with its smoke, bless this place, the surroundings, yourself, and whoever entered with you.

“Drum the drum song, chant and sing, and allow the Great Spirit to take over sacred ceremony. Allow Him to do the talking through you as you ask, ‘Who am I?’  It does not matter if you are unsure of the words that come, let them come. Dance, sing, and chant. If you have located running water and it is nearby, use your hands to scoop up the water to wash your face and head. Ask for purification. Continue to wash until you are cleansed. Continue. Allow the words to come. Be not concerned about whose words they are; be not concerned about your brain or any other apparent distraction, and simply ask.

“Now, ask again, ‘Who am I?  Who am I?  What is my reason for being here?’  Allow the great one to speak and you listen,” Leonard advised.

“Some may need to go into the sweat lodge to help find these answers. Others may need to fast for several days. Some may need to climb the sacred mountain and stay on top for a week or more. Others will find it necessary to live the teepee life alone for an entire year to discover who they are and why they are here. No one is exempt from knowing these answers,” said Leonard. “Money will not buy the desired result, drugs will only mask the way, and many therapists are of no value. Only the Great One can help reveal this and He does so through sacred ceremony.

“The only way for one to know is to ask, look, and be silent.

“Sacred ceremony is for anyone who chooses to know. It is not for the coward, for once one knows who they are and their reason for being, they will find they must take action in their lives and this may require drastic changes. This is not an easy way and the lazy will not attempt this path at all,” he said.

“Come into sacred ceremony,” Leonard called, “all the answers will be revealed there.”

“This is not a once in a lifetime action. All mysteries are not revealed all at one time. No,” Leonard said, “it is continuous. It is a process for your full development as a human being here in this place and the unfoldment of your soul. It takes patience and persistence. Remember this,” he continued, “just when you think you have gone as far as you can and you’re just too tired to go on and feel like giving up, that is when the mysteries will reveal themselves to you. There are many mysteries that will unfold during ceremony, and that is what makes this a process a lifelong journey.”

Leonard said, “Once I had a young man come to me crying, ‘I am going insane, Leonard, what do I do?’  I replied, ‘Dive deep into the pool of insanity. That is the only way for you to transcend it. That is your ceremony. There is no other way.’

“To walk the Red Path takes courage and determination. Never take the weak or half-hearted into sacred ceremony; you will only waste your energy,” said Leonard.

“When one comes out of ceremony with newfound knowledge, they often cry in gratitude and want to offer a gift to the leader of ceremony. If you lead, never turn down the gift; you would only take away their appreciation and accomplishments,” said Leonard. “For now they know who they are and know they know their path. Now they can fully love themselves and their neighbors. No one has told them this. No unwanted advice was given; no special training was required. Their own knowing and willingness to do ceremony has given them the knowledge that so many crave and no one can ever take that away.

“Never go into sacred ceremony lightheartedly,” he insisted, “You can only enter with reverence, in silence, and with appreciation in your heart and love for the Great One.”

Leonard could not stress enough the respect we must demonstrate for sacred ceremony and the appreciation we must show. To always praise the Creator and give thanks in deep appreciation is of paramount importance to The People of the Blackfeet Nation.

In a casual world, we no longer approach things with the reverence they deserve. Are we afraid of being serious? “Perhaps,” said Leonard. Maybe we would be well served to ponder the seriousness of our lives, to focus on our health, our path and the welfare of others. Laughter, it is said, is the best medicine, and no one enjoyed a good laugh more than Leonard. But he was not afraid to give any situation the reverence it called for. “It is basic human respect,” he said, “there is no other way.”

Leonard said, “They may take our land, they may destroy my body, but they can never take away my real life and knowing who I am.”

Leonard was a great man, huge in spirit, quiet in demeanor and a pure joy to be with. And still is very much today.

From Jays book, Open Spaces; My life With Leonard J. Mountain Chief