Last week I posted about the deplorable conditions on the Pine Ridge Reservation and also touched upon some of the things that my friend and I do to make a difference.
This post will give you a basic outline of the who, what, where, how and why of what I do and will include info to help you get involved if you choose to do so. This will be a long post with a lot of photos of the kid’s craft items and of some of the families we help.
If you aren’t interested in this subject, you will find likely this post tedious and boring. If that is the case, I suggest that you skip my blog for today! But if you have interest, grab a cup of coffee or tea, pull up your chair and get comfortable, as this will be a LONG post. Get ready to learn all about the “LAKOTA CRAFTS PROJECT -- Where Gifts give twice.” which is what we named our eBay store.
We never wanted to co-mingle the kid’s craft money with our personal money, so we created a charitable trust account that has a checking account and a debit card attached to it. This is called the WHITE FEATHER CHARITABLE TRUST and is not the same thing as the non-profit we are beginning to form. The crafts project existed long before we ever thought of starting a non-profit. We may merge the two, or not. There are pros and cons in doing so and we are still thinking about it.
We’ve been selling crafts on eBay for the kids (and sometimes elders) since February 2006. Prior to that we sold the crafts at pow wows and craft fairs, and we still do this to some extent.
The name WHITE FEATHER for the trust account is in honor of the medicine man who was pouring water at the first sweat lodge that I ever attended. He is the first Lakota person whom I ever got to know and I will forever be grateful to him for many things, hence the name. Anyway, I am getting off track here already. LOL
In terms of the ebay sales, we pride ourselves on keeping our prices low and providing excellent customer service. Also, these are “spiritual” items to us and we pass them on with spiritual intent and prayers-- although the buyers on eBay are not aware of this.
Lakota people generally don’t speak publicly too much about spiritual things and also I don’t want to make our eBay listings seem hokey, so I don’t get into that aspect too much. Let’s just say that the eBay buyers receive much more than they realize. (If they only knew, LOL).
In terms of the materials used, I have spent years networking with people all over the country to get free or low cost supplies to help us keep prices low. For instance, people who keep parrots and macaws donate feathers. Men who hunt turkeys generally just throw out the wings and tail-- instead they can send them to us and the kids will use the feathers in crafts. Hence, there is a chain of generosity and good will attached to these items. Resources and efforts pass from hand-to-hand, are turned into a craft item by the kids, are sold by me and finally purchased by someone like you-- who either keeps the item to personally treasure it-- or passes it along as a gift.
Most of the craft items have a native, if not specifically Lakota theme and use natural or recycled materials. We avoid sources that are inhumane. For instance, “farms” that raise fox or other animals for their fur--we won’t buy fur from there. If someone donates craft supplies the kids will use them no matter what, but we personally do not support “fur farms.”
Feathers, deerskin, fur, bone -- these are used to make medicine bags, hair ornaments, prayer fans, jewelry and other items. When something dies-- it can either return to the earth or it (parts of it anyway) can be used to make something useful or beautiful. Thus, native crafts allow an animal or bird to continue life here in a new and beautiful form.
Traditionally, you’d treat these items with great respect, as if the animal were still alive. I could say more on this, but not today. You are all smart anyway and most of you are pretty spiritual and/or earth friendly-- so I am certain that you are getting all the layers in what I am saying here and I don’t have to write a book and spell it out for you.
Here’s a good place to share some pics of the kid's work and of some of the kids themselves:
Feather hair ties are one of our best selling items. I usually put them up in lots of five.
Artist at work
Wooden trinket box painted with hawk
other items that I cannot list there. So if you want something in particular and don't see it there, please ask me.
OTHER THINGS YOU CAN DO: Each year, we select several Lakota families and try to make sure that they have a Christmas to remember. We also help as many as we can with heating fuel-- South Dakota winters are harsh and the people cannot afford propane every time they need it.