My Northern Cheyenne friends where here in my hometown this past week, keeping me very occupied. One of the adults hurt her ankle while showing me the steps for Fancy Shawl dancing right before a powwow. I filled in for the niece of the adult who was supposed to dance while the niece and the hurt adult went to the hospital. The picture is of me in a traditional Jingle Dress that was passed down at least 3 generation with the traditional braided hair to go with the look. There are about 100 bells on the dress, making it quite heavy, and I am still sore from dancing. It was so much fun though. Dream come true.
The Northern Cheyenne are like family to me; I love their culture as much as my Jewish heritage, if not more. I always feel like I belong when I am with them; I get a sense of peace, of finally being home, and of finally having a purpose or being whole. That is why I am going to help them and keep their culture from dying out this summer.
I was talking with Mr. M************ and other Cheyenne adults about perhaps going to the reservation in Montana to help the Cheyenne community this upcoming summer.
Here are the problems that occur on the reservation:
- 75% unemployment
- Stealing and looting
- Substance abuse
- high teenage pregnancy rates
- hardly any fruits and vegetables
- some just don’t have the money to have food in the home
- meat with way to much fat and grease
The worst part is the fact that there are two categories of people: the “have(s)” and the “have not(s)”. Most of the people who do have jobs and are able to raise their children decently do not wish to help the people who don’t have the means to put food on the table. Otherwise, the people with jobs don’t know how to help.
This is where I come in. I have a list of things I would like to try to create that would make the people on the reservation learn how to help each other without the idea that “the white man is coming to change our way of life again”. This is my list:
- Introducing the Jewish idea of tzedakah: every family would create a box with the word “tzedakah” or “charity” (or the cheyenne word for ‘good deed’, ‘helping others’, etc.) and would put all of their coins in there. Once the box is full, the family would go out and buy something for a family who is less fortunate, but it would have to be something that would keep giving back. Items could be seeds for a community vegetable garden, a coat that can grow with the person (extendable sleeves), etc. “Don’t give a man a fish, teach him how to fish” is the basic idea behind this.
- Creating a community vegetable garden: the hungry can go to eat a few vegetables and the children can get proper nutrition. There could also be one specifically for the school and there could be a club in the school that would take care of the garden (like environmental club).
- Making volunteer police officers: to help with the crime rates (there are only about 6 police officers on the entire reservation). The adults who don’t have jobs can volunteer in the community to make a difference and feel as though they are appreciated and have a purpose. This may end up helping substance abuse because people would then be able to go and DO something productive instead of getting high.
- Encourage volunteering while people are between jobs: this will also help individuals have a sense of purpose. They could be taking care of the community garden, helping businesses without being paid (but may eventually get paid if the business starts to grow with their help), etc. The details of this part a little fuzzy.
In the mean time, since I am not on the reservation yet, I am going to make lots of fundraisers to help the people during the harsh winter that has already begun in Montana. Since many people don’t have jobs, many homes do not have heat. The easiest solution is lots of blankets and perhaps coats.
I am creating the fundraiser Building With Blankets to collect blankets, coats, and money to help the Northern Cheyenne. The money would perhaps help pay the cost of shipping everything over to my contact/distributor on the reservation and the rest would be used to by more coats and blankets from stores like Good Will, who have good quality items for hardly any money.
I don’t know when this is going to take place, nor how long it will last, but this is going to happen all over my community soon, and hopefully it will make a difference in people’s lives. If you want to do something like this in your community for the Cheyenne or a different tribe, let me know and I will try to help you.
If you want to help, or have other ideas about helping my friends, please contact me or post in the comments. Any and all help will be much appreciated.