Monthly Archives: January 2013

The pain of losing a child hurts forever

When a family loses a child, it will changes their whole world. It has been nearly 10 years since my Takoja made her journey to the spirit world. Each year, the anniversary date of her passing is always a hard day, no matter how much time has gone by. Her birthday has also always been a difficult day; Takoja would have celebrated her fifteenth birthday on December 13. We still wonder what she would have grown up to be.

 

My Takoja died from Group A Strep, a totally treatable infection. Her death was 100% preventable. Still, the medical staff at Rosebud Hospital lacked the competency to detect the infection in time to save her life. Even when the physician’s assistant referred her case to a medical doctor, neither one of those so-called professionals believed she was sick enough to be admitted to the hospital. She was sent her home to die.

 

It doesn’t matter how your small child dies. When you lose a five or six year old child to death, it is always tragic. The pain is indescribable. We should not have to outlive our children and grandchildren. These little ones are gifted to us so we can learn from them. But sometimes the lessons they bring are the hardest ones of all. Seems like you never really recover from the death of a child, the sadness is always there.

 

There is always something which will remind me of our little girl. There’s a certain brand of candy, every time I see it in the store I think of her. Or seeing a child with an orange will make me remember how she taught her baby sisters to peel their oranges. Or listening to the radio and hearing a song she liked to sing along to. I can almost hear her voice.

 

I don’t even know what to write about last week’s massacre of all those little children. All I can say is I know how those parents, grandparents and families feel. I know the pain they face in the coming days, months and years. I remember the insomnia. I cried constantly. But the worst part of it all was dealing with the rage I felt at the injustice of her death.

 

The Lakota and other tribal people of Turtle Island have witnessed massacres similar to the one last week. Pictures of 19th century massacres are stark evidence that we’ve already seen groups of our children murdered by men behind big guns. I believe we carry these painful emotions in our genetic memory. The images are locked away in our DNA. Our ancestors knew what it was like to hear muffled gunshots when our people were murdered at Wounded Knee in 1890. The Hotchkiss guns could be heard all the way to the Pine Ridge Agency.

 

Anyway, the massacre in Connecticut could be a reminder to all of us to be sure our children are really safe. How many children will not want to go to school this week? And how many parents will not want to send their children to school ever again? I believe these are questions we all need to consider because no one can convince me that my Takoja are really safe at the schools they attend.

 

Sadly, a friend said something to me which really made sense. We take more precautions in making sure our money is secured than we do to safeguard our children. When you think about this it is true. How easy is it for someone to get into a bank and steal your money? Obviously, it is easier for someone to get into a school to murder a classroom full of children than it is for them to get into the bank to steal your money.

 

Another thing to consider is people who are locked up in jail or prison. How easy is it for a person armed with an automatic weapon to break into those facilities to shoot the people inside? Seems as though that would be a feat which would be nearly impossible; so why is that segment of our population supposedly safer than our children who attend school every day? Our priorities are obviously skewed.

 

What about our children on the Rez? I thought about our wakanyeja all weekend. I do not believe our children are safe anymore, especially not here on the Rez. Look at how many Lakota people have obviously made drinking, drugging or gambling the number one priority in their life. Our children really suffer.

 

Do you ever wonder about the children who are forced to live in a home where there are alcohol or drug parties on a regular basis? What about the children whom must ride in cars driven by drunk drivers? Some children live with pill snorting adults. What about the women who drink heavily throughout their pregnancy? How many of our children are sentenced to an entire life of fetal alcohol syndrome? These are regular occurrences here on the Rez and I really do not see anyone trying to put a stop to it. Our children are not safe, not at all.

 

So, while most people are feeling devastated over what happened in Connecticut, I believe we really need to start here at home to create a safer environment for our children. Nothing is going to change unless we begin living the changes ourselves. How will we help to make our Rez a safer place for our children to grow up?

 

We send our children off to schools everyday where they are terrorized by mean students or staff. The bully is in charge! SCHOOLS ARE NOT SAFE! It doesn’t matter where the school is either. Psychos with dangerous weapons can just stroll in anywhere and murder little children.

 

The pain of losing a child hurts forever. The families in Connecticut have my sympathy. I send my prayer to my Takoja on the other side to help those murdered children complete their spiritual journey.

 

 

 

I’ve saved $9,130

One thousand, eight hundred and twenty six days adds up to five years. Five years. It has been five years since I smoked a cigarette. I used to listen to people talk about how they quit and how long they had been smoke free. On my first day as a newly committed non-smoker I really didn’t believe my quit would last very long.

 

I couldn’t see many things as a dedicated cigarette smoker. After the toxic blue smoke cleared I saw how extremely disrespectful and selfish I was. My entire life revolved around cigarettes and where I could smoke them!

 

But that is the nature of an addict – the fix is always primary. When you are addicted to a substance, legal or illegal, it rules your entire life along with the lives of your loved ones. Life is secondary to getting the fix.

 

When you are a cigarette smoker you really do not care about the people around you. This is especially true for those of you who smoke indoors and in your vehicles. All the people in your home and vehicle are forced to smoke with you. Let me say that again, when you smoke cigarettes inside your home and vehicle your family is also forced to inhale those poisonous fumes.

 

Children who live with indoor cigarette smokers visit the hospital more often than those of non-smokers. Children who live in the toxic polluted homes with smokers have more upper respiratory and ear infections than other children. Many of our children already cough like they smoke cigarettes.

 

It should be against tribal law to smoke inside our homes or inside public offices and buildings. Sadly, as tribal nations our Indian Reorganizational Act governments are often far behind the rest of the world in terms of creating, approving and enforcing laws promoting good health.

 

For example, I thought it was a fabulous step forward when the voters of South Dakota overwhelmingly voted to ban indoor cigarette smoking. The casinos in Deadwood are no longer filled with cigarette smoke.

 

But our tribal casinos are still hazardous to our health because they are filled with cigarette smoke. Don’t let a designated non-smoking corner in the casino fool you.  The smoke from cigarettes in an enclosed building floats everywhere.

 

Rosebud’s Tribal Headquarters is not a smoke-free building. Tribal employees and elected officials smoke their cigarettes inside the tribal building despite a sign on the door which proclaims a smoke free environment.

 

But until you stop smoking you will vehemently defend whatever right you think to have to force non-smokers to inhale your deadly second hand cigarette smoke. Have you heard about third hand smoke? I knew about third hand smoke long before I quit. It is the residual from your cigarette smoke which is left behind inside your homes, offices and vehicles.

 

I can see it on the walls and windows of homes where indoor smokers live. It is the yellow film that comes off the inside of your car windows when you clean them. It gets in everything and stays there.

 

There are those anti-smoking commercials I watch on the television networks now where children are talking about how they need to quit smoking. These are the children who live with cigarette smoking parents. The one that really hits home is where you can see the child breathing in the second hand smoke in the air inside his own home.

 

90% of the cigarette smoke you inhale is trapped inside your lungs. And 90% of the second hand smoke your child is forced to inhale also stays in their lungs. Does this sound like child abuse?

 

People tell me they need to quit. Others say they want to quit. There are those of you who say you don’t want to quit. You like smoking. I never liked smoking. I never enjoyed being chained to those cigarettes. I was a prisoner in a cloud of blue smoke.

 

Quitting the cigarettes was one of the hardest things I ever did. Like many reservation children I began smoking at a very young age. There was a time when underage smokers could buy their own cigarettes and they were a whole lot cheaper than they are now.

 

It’s funny that people on the rez complain about having no money or no job or no this or that. Yet they come up with enough cash to pay for those cigarettes. I know how it is. Some of you will buy cigarettes before you will buy food.

 

“In South Dakota, 17.5% of the adult population (aged 18+ years)—over 106,000 individuals—are current cigarette smokers. Across all states, the prevalence of cigarette smoking among adults ranges from 9.3% to 26.5%.” www.cdc.gov

 

American Indians have the highest rate of cigarette smokers in South Dakota. Nearly half (46.4%) of all cigarette smokers in South Dakota are American Indian people. We all lament the poor health conditions of our people living on the rez but not many will quit smoking their cigarettes. Children who grow up in a cloud of smoke have a higher chance of becoming nicotine addicts.

 

I never knew how much cigarette smokers reeked until I quit. Cigarette smokers stink something awful. It’s very unattractive to see people smoking cigarettes. And when you smoke in your home or car with your children they will stink just like you do.

 

The Lakota people once considered tobacco sacred but those days are obviously gone. People talk about elders and children being precious. I hear all the time how we must treasure the oldest and youngest members of our tribe.

 

But it is hypocritical to say the children are sacred while you are blowing smoke at them in their own home. If you must smoke then do it outside. Designate both your home and vehicle as non-smoking areas. Your children deserve to breathe clear air.

 

Five years. If I can do it, so can you. I’ve saved $9,130 by not buying 36,527 cigarettes.