There were times during my stay at Wounded Knee this summer that the situation was so difficult that I wondered what I was doing there. It seemed like the horrific situation of the family whose home we were building as volunteers was rubbing off on the entire project. Like Christinia, my heart went out to Leola One Feather, the family's matriarch. And each time I wavered, my intuition was clear: "Support Christinia unconditionally."
It seems that project leader Christinia Eala, a volunteer herself, was having similar thoughts. But despite the challenging logistics, the marginal funding, and the inadequate involvement of the family in the project, she remained determined to finish what she had started, despite the ominous presence of other unfinished projects in this place. That is, until a family member kicked the project off their land because, in a self-fulfilling prophecy, he insisted that they would leave the project unfinished. Christinia had started with this family (out of many who asked for help) because they had the most dire situation. But the combination of poverty, oppression, alcoholism, ill health, rage, and despair were beyond her control.
Despite this major set-back, Christinia is determined to make a difference for her people, so she is moving her project on to the next family, which appears to be a whole different situation. Today, she wrote to her core group of supporters:
Finally, we are getting the support of the people that we have been searching for during the past four years. This summer has been so full of roadblocks that I had to pray and do much introspection to figure out which way to turn. What Spirit sent to me was this: "There are four doors in Inipi Ceremony [sweat lodge], and then it is completed. Four days are spent on the hill during Hanblechya [vision quest] and the fourth day is completion of that ceremony. There are Four days of Sundance in the fourth year of a sixteen year cycle; the fourth year is always the year of completion and then the new cycle begins fresh. This is the fourth year of our Spirit-led building project. It has by far, been the most difficult, and it tested the strength of those who would continue to move forward. My joy is that we all have chosen to continue following this path of service. Yay!!
Well, our most difficult time right now is the fact that we have run out of fuel money. Everything is so far apart here...one hour or so in any direction and we have a 1986 Ford F 250 that gets 11 miles to the gallon. If that's not enough, we used the truck today to take [the family's] trash from the old site to the dump; went back and packed up a lot more of the material and supplies and took them to the new camp, and when the guys were leaving and taking the truck home, the fuel pump gave out. So I brought them home. My little "Suzi" suzuki needs new rear brakes and has a broken front strut. As we were driving up the hill from the site (after parking the truck) I busted out laughing and told the guys "if anyone doubts this is a real rez' project, they just need to hang out with us for a week."
Christinia is continuing to hang in there. I hope you will be able to continue your help.
The most urgent need that we've been focusing on has been to provide support to enable promising young Altai throat-singers to continue their training. The throat-singers are the traditional keepers of culture and history for the Altai people, and as such, their development as leaders is crucial to the survival of the culture.
Optimally, your donation would be on-going, because the youths can only commit to continuing their training if they can be assured of sustenance. A monthly stipend of $75 per month has been requested for each of a half-dozen young singers, but that amount can also be divided among several people.
Thank you for you on-going support!
For several years, your donations have enabled us to provide support to young Altai throat-singers, so they could afford to continue their training.
We are delighted to announce that they once again performed at El Oyin, the biennial national Altai cultural festival, to rave reviews. They also continue to perform for the community. I have attached a video of our group giving an informal concert at a children's camp.
Thank you for your continued support.