A week ago, I got an urgent e-mail from our Altai partner Svetlana. Viktor, one of our gifted young throat-singers had been invited to a national festival in St. Petersburg. It was his chance to shine.
Trouble was, he had no money for travel. I couldn't help personally because my own personal resources have long since been maxed out on this project; the need there is so great. Fortunately, donations made through GlobalGiving had just been disbursed, and we were able to send $130.
Yesterday, Svetlana e-mailed again. Viktor had placed first in the national contest and was on his way home by train. Photos are promised when he arrives back in Altai after the 3-day journey.
As you are doing you "joy-to-the world"s this year, please consider a recurring donation that will enable our young throat-singers to continue their schooling. Or maybe a generous year-end contribution to rebuild our Altai emergency funds.
Thank you for your continuing support.
Our on-the-ground project manager, Svetlana Katynova, is steadfastly continuing her efforts to protect traditional Altai lands and sacred sites.
Svetlana is now focusing on preventing the desecration of Altai lands by strengthening of the cultural infrastructure through support of indigenous entrepreneurship. The development and incubation of micro-enterprises will eventually produce the financial resources for the Altai people to be self-sustaining in their protection of their lands.
We continue to explore funding through local governmental agencies and through grant proposals. However, your donation and the donations of hundreds of others to this project are actually what has sustained it.
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.