In the familiar Matthew judgment story of separating the sheep from the goats, in reference to feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, etc., the king said, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one the least of those who are members of my family, you did it to me.” We at Our Saviours choose to “clothe the naked” every fall in our annual drive for warm clothing for the Pine Ridge Reservation.
Our country has systematically thrown the Native Americans into poverty throughout our history together. Just one example most of us do not know about is that 60% of their “family land” is leased out by the Bureau of Indian Affairs to non-tribal members for far below market value, sometimes as little as 50 cents/acre. Without land to farm and few jobs on the reservation, how can they sustain their lives? Here are some statistics: Pine Ridge Reservation is the poorest county in the U.S.; TB rates are 800% higher than national average; almost 50% of adults suffer from diabetes; teen suicide is 150% higher than national average; schools are in the bottom 10% of funding in Dept. of Ed. and BIA; average of 17 people are living in each family home, sometimes up to 30, due to lack of heating in many homes; 33% of homes lack uncontaminated water, sewer and electrical service; life expectancy is 55; the reservation has no banks, discount stores, or public transportation, and only 1 large grocery store. Imagine yourself living there!
Because the Native Americans are largely hidden away on isolated reservations, we don’t see their plight. They certainly classify as “the least of these.” I am reminded of the story of the little boy on the beach throwing stranded starfish into the water. When a man told him he could never make a difference with so many starfish, the boy answered,” but I can make a difference to that one.” We can do the same. The gratitude of the people in response to our gifts of clothing is amazing.
God, give us the will and the means to help meet the desperate needs at Pine Ridge, and thus let them know that we as your people care about them.
Devotion by: Carol Bisbee