Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Holidays on the Res

I just finished watching the IFC documentary, "Reel Injun," which gives a brief account of Hollywood's historical depiction of the indigenous tribes of our land (Tonna Tierra for those of us who live in the southwest, Turtle Island for those who live elsewhere in the North American continent). The good news in terms of depicting native peoples to the rest of the world is that, since the late 1980s, more complex characters have been featured with greater numbers of authentic native voices being heard from. If you haven't seen any of what are considered now classic movies of this genre, they are often deep, insightful, visually beautiful and sometimes funny works of art that can be enjoyed by people of all ages (as with all movies, with adult supervision for children). Still my fave: Chris Ayers' Smoke Signals, though other notables are Ten Canoes and The Fast Runner (Atanarjuat). Adam Beach's performance in Flag of Our Fathers is still heartbreakingly compelling. Catch the documentary if you can; for being less than an hour, it really packs in a lot of cinematic history.

But pretty, well-told stories aren't all that native people have to offer us. If you are a regular reader, you will have no trouble understanding why, living as we do now in the Police State of America, I have an affinity for those people who have lived in just this same way for far longer than the rest of us, and I'd like to ask you to think about helping some of them this holiday season. I understand many of us may not be able to do much, but since these people don't have even the basics such as blankets, socks, and coats, a little here could go a long way - and isn't that what being a Christian is all about? Seeing in someone else's misfortune an opportunity for us to experience the joy of connecting with them in loving, peaceful ways, which Jesus assured us would create the kingdom of G_d? Should you wish to help out families on the Pine Ridge Reservation, please see the instructions in the below letter from one of the coordinators of a holiday gift drive for it's residents. Thank you, and have a wonderful holiday.


Happy Holidays, Everyone!

The Pine Ridge Holiday Gift Project is underway! This year the project holds a very special place in our hearts due to the passing of our dear friend and colleague, Dell Big Crow. Dell was a teacher at the Pine Ridge Elementary School and has worked with us for the past several years on the annual coat drive and the gift project. In her honor we have adopted a new name, the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation – Dell Big Crow Holiday Gift Project.

As you may know, Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is one of the most impoverished and marginalized regions in the United States.  While we seek to address the underlying causes of poverty on Pine Ridge, we also recognize the importance of building connections between people on and off the reservation.  We continue to work on the reservation throughout the year with Service Learning Projects, a winter coat drive, providing families with firewood, and coordinating the Holiday Gift Project.

Recently ABC News and Diane Sawyer did a Special 20/20 Edition on Pine Ridge called, “Hidden America: Children of the Plains.” To view the episode click on this link:

We have been coordinating the Pine Ridge Holiday Gift Project for eight years now. The first year we placed boxes all over town, collected gifts and then drove to Pine Ridge to deliver them….it was quite complicated! Then David Bartecchi suggested that we ask people to buy gifts and mail them directly to elders and children on the reservation…a simple, direct way of giving…so that’s where we started!  The project is very “grassroots,” since it’s just the two of us Elf volunteers coordinating the project. This year we are working with reservation grammar school teachers and counselors, community organizers, the Lakota Head Start program, Homeless Youth Center,  and the Homeless Veterans’ Center in order to identify children and elders with the greatest needs.

Last year, thanks to the generosity of friends, family, and hundreds of new donors the Holiday Gift Project provided gifts to more than 600 children and elders on the reservation!  Donors forwarded the original project letter on to their friends, families, and colleagues and we received responses from all over the U.S. as well as Germany, Australia, Iraq, United Arab Emirates, France, Japan, and Canada!  We’d like to invite you to contribute a holiday gift for a child or elder this year.

Each child or elder on our list provides a few gift options…you may chose items off the list or send anything you think is appropriate.  As always please feel free to add small items such as socks, hats, gloves and mittens in your package if you wish. We would like to gently stress the importance of our recipients receiving gifts of approximately the same value. Most wishes are between and $20 – $35. In these difficult economic times our list is growing every year, so if you wish to contribute more, please consider “adopting” another child or elder so we can provide items for more individuals.

We do have a few individuals and families who have particularly difficult circumstances and need more costly items such as electric blankets, space heaters, coats, etc. and if you wish to provide a more generous gift let us know and we’ll set you up to help them specifically.  If you need a tax receipt, please send us an email with the gift and amount and we will send you a receipt at the end of the project.

Here is how it works:

1.     Email me, Julie Sullivan OR Chris Bartholomew if you wish to provide a gift for one or more children or elders…please don’t cc both of us as we may accidently overlap!

2.     We will email you a child or elder’s name, age, gender and one or two gift options and you chose one gift you’d like to provide.

3.     Purchase the gift, then giftwrap and mail the package directly to the child, elder, or in some cases to our contact on the rez who will distribute the gifts at school and community gatherings.


5.     A note about shipping….if you are an internet shopper, some companies offer free shipping with a minimum purchase.  Last year these companies participated in free shipping: Amazon, Penney’s, Home Depot, Target, Macys, and other large chain stores. You may wish to check out their current offers.

6.     Mail the package to the address we have provided.  Please be sure to ship the package according to our directions as some communities only have UPS while others only have U.S. mail, etc.  Please allow enough time for the gift to arrive by Dec. 18th.

7.     Please, if you wish, include a personal greeting or message…the families enjoy this personal connection!

8.     After you ship the item, please send a return email with the Recipient’s location, name and

number in the subject line.…basically this is the same info in we put in the subject line of the email sent to you.

Thanks so much for taking the time to learn about the project!  We look forward to sharing the holidays with you and our friends on Pine Ridge!

Julie Ann Sullivan

Christine Bartholomew

Pine Ridge Indian Reservation – Dell Big Crow Holiday Gift Project Facebook Page: