Poverty, American style, a trip to an Indian Reservation

Much is said and many try to make American’s feel guilty here in this country because we have more. God is the one that choices what country we are born in and to what parents. In August of 2010, we went on a mission trip with our church to an Indian Reservation in South Dakota. The Lakota Indians’, people of Crazy Horse, the Sioux Nation, a proud and strong people. They are the Pine Ridge and Rosebud reservations. We were at Pass Creek, one of the districts of the Pine Ridge. I saw poverty that went way beyond what I grew up in. We at least had electricity in our home. We had cold running water inside the house. We had no bathroom. We used an outhouse, hot and smelly in the summer and cold and freezing in the winter. We had enough land to grow some food and raised chickens for eggs to sell. At the reservation, I saw poverty way beyond what I or my parents of the depression area new. I meet one family that drank their water from a creek. Clothing was washed by hand and hung over a fence. At the mission church, they have a 24/7 open bath facility. One for the females and one for the males, two each of showers stall, stools and sinks. People brought their own towels and wash rages. And toilet paper was not furnished as it always disappeared. It is near the town of Allen SD. Google it and you will learn some amazing facts about poverty in this country. We need to take care of Americans, Foreign missions are important. However, should we also have an equal concern for the poverty in our own country? We visited a cemetery for what is called the Wounded Knee Massacre. [link= In this cemetery there was a section where no white person was allowed. The ground was very hilly and ruff so I stayed in the car. My husband respected this rule and did not go into the section where the mass grave was for those massacred that day. His ancestor’s were not even in this country at the time this happened, but he respected that wish of the Lakota people. He did not enter that area of the cemetery, only took photos for me. Many do suffer from depression and many from hunger. Obesity is a big problem. Many churches and groups send clothing. However, even though some of the clothing was brand new, the sizes where small, at least for the people there. Large, extra large and 1, 2 and 3x sizes are needed for both male and female, in good condition. I helped sort some clothing. There were even several 3-piece men’s suits. There no big shopping centers, no Wal-mart, Target and other large stores. The population has to be above 2,000 before they consider building in places like this. The medical clinic was open two days a week and the hospital was 200 miles away. There were no fast food places, no McDonald’s, Pizza Hut or Taco Bell’s. The obesity does not come from fast food. It does come from the kind of foods they eat, like Indian fried bread. Deep fat fried flat bread, fill with taco stuff. That fried bread is oh so good and oh so fattening. We did enjoy the mission trip. My husband fixed three vehicles, the toilet in the trailer in which we were staying and rescued a calico cat. I sewed and repaired things and sorted and set up first aid kits and helped sort though clothing donations. We spent one day as tourists’. We went to Mount Rushmore and through the bad Lands. We drove through what is called the needle highway. The road at points is a single lane cut through the side of a mountain. On the flat land we were privileged to see a real live bison, just eating away at the side of the road. We did not get out of our car. I rolled down the window and took a photo. There was a large PowPow gathering that year. Every year they have smaller local ones, but every year one location as one where tribes from all over come. This was one of those. We had worked all day and it was getting late. I was too tired to attend. When we arrived home, we found a couple local PowPow’s in are area. I encourage all of you to attend different once as tribal customs very so from one tribe to another. There is another large one to be held in Dowagiac Michigan this year. We were going to go back this year but the trip was canceled because the husband of the couple doing the planning was seriously ill this past winter. Maybe next year we can go again. Poverty in this country needs to be addressed. I may be selfish here but I do believe our charity should begin here at home. KraftyKatz :coffee:

K Reynolds @kreynolds ·

My mother lived on a different reservation in South Dakota from 1985-2001. It was a different one but on visits out there, I saw what you are describing. A woman who became one of my mom's closest friends is the pastor of a church on that reservation. She is a single woman who has faithfully served for many years. I have spoken of her before on CB. There are people who say she should not be a pastor because she is a woman but... no one else wants to go.

I helped my mom and her pastor hold VBS one year. We conducted three at the same time as in, we started out early in the morning at one place. Then drove elsewhere to conduct a second VBS. Then we headed to the third location returning home late at night. We did this for a week. In one place, it was held in the "community center" but the community center was in terrible condition. I remember there was a room we had to pass by where some women were trying to sort clothing that had been donated. A terrible stench came from that room. Know what it was? It was from the unwashed clothing people donated. I was told this was quite common. People would not even bother to wash the garments and a lot of them had to be discarded for they were in such terrible condition.

I was in my 20's then but it made such an impression on me that I carefully wash and examine any garments I am going to donate. If it is not good enough for me to wear than I do not want to pass on "trash" to someone else!

You are right. So often we look for somewhere else to go but there is a mission field right in our own back yard... if we look for it.


K :princess:

Christopher Quek @arisensleeper ·

Dear Sister Kraftykatz, I agree wholeheartedly. It is the same here in Canada. We have treated our native people shamefully and yet all I hear is how lazy they are and how much of a drain they are on our economy. These kinds of remarks typically come from people who have never been to a reservation and have not even bothered to find out. A few years ago, I visited one such reservation on a missions trip as well. It is located way up north in the most inhospitable environment we can imagine. The ground is frozen year round, we call it permafrost. Nothing grows there, a veritable wasteland of rocks, ice, and snow. Shovels break if you try to break earth. There are no roads in and out of the reservation. Everything had to flown in and everything is unimaginably expensive. A rotten head of lettuce can cost as much as $25. There is no economy to speak of, no jobs, no industry, no commerce except for the supply depot. Houses are overcrowded with up to three or families packed into a single 3-bedroom house. They are deathtraps with poor sanitation if sanitation is available at all. It is a man-made hell on earth. Hopelessness and despair rule the day and the air stinks with it. Schools are overcrowded and poorly funded and health services are a joke. My heart was broken daily and I felt totally impotent. To make matters worse, outsiders are mistrusted, centuries of lies, abuse, and broken promises have hardened these people and I do not blame them. Decades of missionaries who have gone to "tame the savage", forcibly removing children from their homes and their parents to residential schools where their language and culture were cruelly and brutally eradicated. Physical and sexual abuse were rampant in these gulags of indoctrination and torture. We do what we can, show as much love as we can, but everything we do is undermined by society at large through their scoffing and disparaging attitudes. These are the sins of which we are guilty and yes, even though I am an immigrant to Canada and played no part in these atrocities, I am still a citizen nonetheless and thus just a culpable in my own eyes. Moreover, I am a citizen of the Kingdom of God and when I learn of how those representing the Church behaved with such haughty self-righteousness, cruelty, and callousness, when I learn of sins of physical and sexual abuse, I fall on my face and cry for forgiveness.

As if these are not enough, homelessness, poverty, and despair exist in every city, town, and village in our country. Once more, those who judge have not spent a single day in the lives of those whom we call lazy and leeches. They walk past the homeless with scorn, or at the very least, indifference. They are blind to suffering and injustice. They declare a blight upon their cities, towns, and villages. Their downtown associations petition their governments to clean "those people" out. I know, because I am one of the very few who toil among these beloved of God at the street ministry where I volunteer. Each day, I drive past four of the largest churches in our city, all within eight city blocks of the center - churches that appease their conscience by serving one meal a week or month to the hungry and declare that they have ministries to the poor, as if the digestive cycle of of the poor and the homeless work on a different cycle than ours. They are more concerned with building their little kingdoms than the Kingdom of God. They want to be able to say, "look at what we are doing and how Christian we are." They boast of their "great" acts of charity but they do not see that all they are doing is to be able to declare within their congregation and to others, just how "good" they are doing. They place boxes in the foyer of their churches so that people can drop off canned goods for the food banks in the city, so that they can be picked up or delivered, yet only a handful ever involve themselves or give of their time at a soup kitchen. They war among themselves, each trying to outdo the other, each building their little kingdoms, and individually failing miserably. One church spent over 8 million refacing their stone facade, another spent close to 4 million refurbishing their pipe organ and their sanctuary, yet another enlarged their sanctuary and parking lot and added a state of the art multimedia system and a larger and more impressive sign outside their church. Each pleaded a lack of funds when we approached them to help with heating our shelter and helping with our drug rehab program. They hold missionary meetings and speak loudly of their evangelistic efforts abroad yet seem untouched by the mission beyond their threshold.

Christopher Quek @arisensleeper ·

(Continued from above)

In case, those who have left the church to form their own little enclaves, should boast. I have these questions for you: What have you done beyond meetings in your homes? How have your separation helped in meeting the cries from the field not only ripe unto harvest, but loud with the cries of hopelessness and despair emitting from them? Am I being unkind? No, I am just merely reporting the facts and the facts (fruits) tell a very sad story indeed.

Am I saying that there are none among us who toil to minister Christ in our own cities, towns, and villages? NO! If it were not for the VERY small army of individual Christians and small churches who give of themselves and their resources, the street ministry at which I volunteer will not be able to do what we do. Yet I have to be honest, when viewed as a whole, the picture I paint is not far from the truth. It is very similar to a football game ... a handful of men killing themselves on the field while tens of thousands watch and cheer. What is to our shame? The secular world who we call the fallen have done more and have been more united than we.

Shouldn't we be suspect if we can see the poverty and despair abroad and not see the ones at our own doorsteps? Does our Christian duty to the hungry, thirsty, sick, imprisoned, and lonely extend only to a picture of a child in a foreign land on our fridges and the annual check we write? Can we not see that if we stopped bickering over doctrinal differences that bear little on the central message of Scripture to work together, seven churches cooperating and taking turns, serving one meal a week will mean that the homeless and hungry will at the very least be fed seven days a week? Can we not see that if we encouraged our congregation to work with and support our local para-church ministries who are more experienced and equipped to serve, we can be more effective in Kingdom work while equipping our people to walk more closely to God?

Least some may say that I am encouraging the abandonment of foreign missions, hold! That is not what I am saying at all!! What I am saying is that the mission field extends from the thresholds of our sanctuaries and beyond, not from the borders of our countries alone!! Why this comment? If you feel offended, calm down and look around you and consider if the picture I paint is not indicative of the general condition of the church in North America? If it does, turn the indignity you feel into fuel for action prayerfully consider this as a call to arms, a call to repentance, and do something!! Speak out in your church, talk to your pastors and your church leadership. Start a local missionary effort. Go to a local ministry working with the disenfranchised and the downtrodden. Do something!! If you or your church is already involved, consider inviting others, consider partnering with other churches in your community, consider supporting your loacl para-church ministries.

In His Love,

Marsha Tyler Ronquist @kraftykatz ·

Thank you both for comments. We were both looking forward to a return mission trip this year but it was not to be. Bob's health is far more important at the moment.

Sandy Brooks @poodlelady ·

Katz I so agree with you - We need to start admitting that poverty in the USA is a big problem and taking care of our own here. Our government and many living in this country just seem to hide from the truth of the poverty situation in this country. It is not just on the Indian Reservations. I see it right here in my own little town -homeless people living in tents or on the streets -stealing or begging -whatever it takes to survive. Most people just ignore the situation rather than try to help. I guess they think it will just go away if they ignore it. It is sicknening to think that a country with such wealth refuses to take care of there poor.

God bless you and your hubby for careing and doing.


Kenneth Figurelli @bibleguy64 ·

Good blog. several years ago we took our RV hough the southwest. We went off the beaten path and drove our car thru an indian reservation, I think in Arizona. There terrible poverty. the people looked at us like they had never seen a white person before. I agree that it isn't necessary to travel around the world to find real poverty. - bibleguy64

Christopher Quek @arisensleeper ·

I am reminded of the stories of Mother Theresa when she saw poverty and brokenness in the streets of Rome on her way to see the Pope and again when she received her Nobel Peace Price while in Oslo. Such sorrowing struck her that she began to cry. One of the most poignant statements she made was that only required a dollar a day to feed the hungry in Calcutta but she asked what it would take to help the poor in Rome and Oslo wondering how much will it cost to defeat hopelessness and loneliness. She even asked the Pope if she could start a chapter of the Missionaries of Charity in Rome.

Once a week, my students and I provide and serve a hot nutritious home-cooked meal for the people in our local shelter and anyone else who is hungry. We feed between 80 to 120 people each time we do this and our expenses have not exceeded $2.50 per person. On the grand scale of things, this is just a cup of coffee. What breaks our hearts are the lostness, hopelessness, despair, and loneliness we see. Our hot meal will warm their stomach but it takes much more to warm their hearts. It takes time, love, and patience. Most of all it takes the resolve and courage to share Christ because only He can heal and satisfy the soul.

In His Love,


Good blog KK. I live in the Appalachian foothills the poverty rate here is staggering. I worked last summer with at risk kids, it was both rewarding and heartbreaking. We live in a small community that has 8 churches in it's town limits, that is not counting the country churches. But not many of those reach out to those that live in such poverty. I have seen people living with no electric, no water, and some with roofs caving in. These same churches send countless $$ to missions overseas, when there is such a shocking need in their own backyard. It breaks my heart. This is my mission field, the Lord planted me here for a specific purpose.

God Bless,


I am Cherokee Indian (and Irish). In Oklahoma there are no reservations the land was sectioned and given to Tribes that the Government moved from other locations. At least here in America the Government did establish treaties and recognized the Native People. Yet, not all Tribes are recognized, not all have sovereignty. In Canada things were and are much different, much worse.

There is a lot I would say but there is little I will say.
I know the Lakota as I know the Pima of Arizona and a dozen other Tribes or more.
Offer help, give as you may, with a soft spirit. Many of them do not see themselves as you see them.

Even among my own Family we have some that to this day do not, will not, receive or carry a 20 dollar bill. Some live in the hills and only come down for ceremonies and supplies. My Grandmother would not teach her children or grandchildren the native tongue for fear of punishment, even though by my time it was long past the day of forbidden by the Government.

You wrote a good blog a carrying and kind blog.
I am a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and a citizen of the Nation of the United States of America.
God richly bless you sister.

Do not include honorifics.

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