Help Crow Creek: Multicultural Humanitarian Day at Fort Thompson Sept. 30, 2007 – Public donations are still needed to help all low income residents
Multicultural Humanitarian Day project to provide healthcare, clothes, toys, books, bikes for Crow Creek
Sioux Tribe thanks to Islamic Relief, Minnesota motorcycle group, other non-profits, and public support
(Fort Thompson, South Dakota) – Clothes, medical care, books, bikes and toys will be provided for members of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe and any other low-income Fort Thompson area residents that attend the Islamic Relief Humanitarian Day project – a multicultural event that brings together diverse groups for an important cause on the country’s poorest American Indian Reservation oft compared to a Third World country.
Donations of all kinds are still needed for the September 30, 2007 Humanitarian Day at Fort Thompson that will be held from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the pow-wow grounds on the banks of the Missouri River.
Humanitarian Day at Fort Thompson will include a wide range of free medical care and the items to be given away include books, a large selection of clothing, toys, bicycles and hygiene kits.
The Native American and Islamic cultures have come together to help Fort Thompson area residents, who like many at Lakota/Dakota reservations are faced with severe poverty, unemployment and many other social issues.
Event organizers hope people of goodwill will view donating as a “moral obligation” because of the often overlooked but highly documented social crisis on South Dakota Native American reservations.
“Everyone should be conscience of the need for the people in our society to be able to obtain basic services,” said Anisah David, coordinator of Humanitarian Day at Fort Thompson. “I believe this is a moral obligation.”
David said she believes it is “immoral for a society as ours – with its status in the world – to be ignoring the plight of the indigenous people of this country.”
Often compared to Haiti, Crow Creek is the poorest American Indian reservation in America and suffers from 80-90 percent unemployment, serious medical issues including a high incidence of diabetes, and substandard overcrowded housing.
The U.S. government has yet to provide emergency funds to repair the high school that was damaged by fire, leaving students education two years behind public schools. Many residents have to walk great distances because few have vehicles and there is no public transportation.
Spread over 400 square miles in Hughes, Hyde and Buffalo counties, the reservation has Third World water problems despite two major reservoirs on the Missouri River that cover 35 square miles. The dams are operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The poor water quality is due to shallow groundwater and because federal contractors placed septic systems within a few feet of wells. Surface water is often contaminated with bacteria and undesirable minerals. Many residents get sick drinking the water because they can’t afford bottle water or expensive filtration systems.
“In the future, we would like to help change the For Thompson area water problems by recruiting organizations to sponsor the installation of water purification systems in the homes,” David said.
Items in short supply on the reservation include children’s clothing, shoes, diapers, underwear, socks, winter clothing and personal hygiene items.
Terry Alex, founder of the Crow Creek Longriders, said Humanitarian Day “will pass on hope to these people at Crow Creek show these young people that we care.”
The Crow Creek Longriders champion Native American and other causes to create awareness to the plight of the tribe from current suffering to it early years of the hanging of 38 American Indians, countless beatings, rape and murder at the racist hands of U.S. troops in 1863 during the forced removal from Minnesota.
The Minneapolis motorcycle group holds an annual five-state memorial ride each June to honor those who died or suffered during the forced exile that included sending about 1,300 Native Americans to Crow Creek in cattle cars and riverboats.
Saying Crow Creek residents endure “crushing poverty” every day, Alex said “it’s just not right that our people are suffering like that – being the poorest of the poor.
The Crow Creek reservation has ninety-percent unemployment because residents have “no way of sustaining self employment” and where new businesses are rare because of “logistics and location – sixty miles off the interstate in the middle of prairie country,” said Alex, a member of the Dakota tribe and welding foreman in Minneapolis shop that makes small bridges.
The forced exile is a footnote in schoolbooks because “it’s a dark chapter in history,” said Alex, a grandfather with three grown children in their 20s.
Alex said the motorcycle ride and Humanitarian Day remind people that Crow Creek residents “haven’t disappeared off the earth – it was the original intention to make these people vanish yet these people survived – they are still here today.
Founded in 2000 by the ILM Foundation in California, Humanitarian Day was turned to a nationwide event in 2005 by Islamic Relief USA. Thousands of volunteers observe Ramadan by organizing events in the poorest areas of 20 American cities.
Islamic Relief USA, in partnership with Islamic Relief UK, provides relief and development services in 36 countries. This is the third year of the Humanitarian Day national effort to bring attention to the critical issues of homelessness, poverty and hunger within the United States.
During the third weekend in Ramadan – September 29 and 30 – the event is held in 20 U.S. cities involving 5,000 volunteers and serving 25,000 people.
A busload of about 50 volunteers from the Sioux Falls area will help at the event, and are paying their own overnight lodging expenses. Additional volunteers are needed.
Humanitarian Day will include a series of booths offering items like food, children’s books, school supplies, and clothing.
Bicycles refurbished by Pedalers3 will be given away to children on Humanitarian Day
Pedalars3 has already given away 60 refurbished bicycles to Crow Creek residents this year and hope to give away at least 20 more on Humanitarian Day, said Pedlars3 founder Bob Semrad, a retired United Methodist Church pastor and U.S. Air Force chaplain who puts together the bikes at his Brookings, SD home.
Semrad hopes people will drop off broken bikes and parts that can used to increase the total number of bikes to be given away on Humanitarian Day.
“They can bring old bikes and bicycle parts to 803 4th Street in Brookings,” said Semrad adding even bikes that have been run over by a car can be useful. “Sometimes kids park a bike behind dad’s car and it gets run over – the frames and wheels are bent – but there are still good cables for brake assembly or derailers.”
“We cannibalize parts off busted up bikes,” said Semrad, who is involved in numerous projects to help Native Americans across South Dakota. “Sometimes it takes two or three busted up bikes to make one new good rideable bike that will keep some kid going and make some kid happy.”
People who donate old bikes and parts can “make a difference in one kid’s life,” said Semrad, a retired colonel and air force reserve pilot who flew missions in Vietnam.
Books can be donated through the event’s website. David said appointments are not required for the wide-range of medical services available on Humanitarian Day.
The doctors and other healthcare professionals will help as many people as possible, David said.
Several Sioux Falls area doctors will be provide free medical screening.
The Sanford Health System mobile medical unit from Sioux Falls will provide free OB/GYN services. The Church of Latter-Day Saints has donated 2,000 kits with personal hygiene items that will be distributed during the event.
Organizers hope to arrange the donation of free fungicidal mold remover to help the many residents whose homes have heavy mold contamination. David said any business or group that can provide mold remover should contact Humanitarian Day officials.
Another goal is providing free winterization products, to help reduce cold weather utility bills.
“People often have their utilities to be cut off during winter due to late payment of bills or for having an unpaid balance,” David said.
“Unlike many states that have laws in place to protect its residents from cut offs in dangerous weather, South Dakota does not have any law to protect the poor from having their heat shut off – and this has caused the deaths.”
Event organizers have contacted the South Dakota Lions Foundation hoping to arrange Humanitarian Day eye exams using the club’s mobile unit.
“We have yet to hear back from the South Dakota Lions Foundation,” David said. “It’s our understanding that this would be the first time the Lions Foundation has ever served the needs of Fort Thompson area residents at Crow Creek.”
Islamic Relief is providing a $5,000 cash grant to cover the cost of the charter bus for volunteers and doctors, event shelters, rental trucks to haul the donations to Fort Thompson and to purchase new products like children’s winter clothing items.
The multicultural effort appears to be a natural fit on several levels. “Friend” is the meaning in two languages of the Native American word Lakota and the Arabic name Anisah – the first name of the Islamic coordinator whose great-great-grandmother was Native American.
The project fits the Islamic Relief USA goal of “focusing on the broader population of needy” not consider “homeless” but live in desperate conditions like those found on nearly all of South Dakota’s Native American reservations, David said.
“This includes working poor, low income senior citizens and the ‘invisible’ homeless who are living in another person’s home due to lack of housing.”
Organizers hope the ingrained poverty, teen suicide and other problems on South Dakota reservations will become as important to local residents as it is shocking to outsiders who send volunteers and relief to the Native American community.
David said some South Dakotans are working hard to help the tribes, but to many residents the obvious poverty has somehow turned oblivious – hidden in plain sight. Humanitarian Day, she says, is an opportunity for those same residents to open their eyes, hearts and pocketbooks.
“We need to help the people now,” David said. “The severe situation on the reservations is morally wrong – we need to change the cultural genocide now – not tomorrow – now.”
“I have issues of social justice and moral obligations to help those being oppressed – regardless of their faith and cultural identity,” said David, who is Muslim American.
The goal of Humanitarian Day at Fort Thompson is reaching low-income families “within and surrounding the Crow Creek Sioux reservation, due primarily to the economic condition that exists in that area,” David said.
“We seek to help bring justice through economic assistant to the people who have for so long been marginalized by the dominant culture,” said David, referring to generations of racism in some Americans.
Hoping to make Humanitarian Day an annual event in Fort Thompson, David said the project aims to bring “dignity through cooperative assistance, that allows the adults in Crow Creek to empower themselves and to provide for their children.”
While an important first step, David believes Humanitarian Day “is only one drop in the bucket” for addressing conditions at Crow Creak where “the needs are immense.”
“This will take a fire brigade of buckets full of water, to put out the fire of cultural genocide and heal the people,” David said. “But the healing will come from inside the tribe, when they feel they are no longer the forgotten people of Crow Creek.”
Humanitarian Day partners from as far away as California, Virginia and northern Michigan are involved. They include the South Dakota Muslim Women’s Network, Islamic Community of South Dakota, Islamic Relief USA, Crow Creek Longriders, Community Food Banks of South Dakota, South Dakota Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Sunset Shuttle Inc., Intellect Love Mercy Foundation, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Northern State University Native American Student Association, One Spirit, iGive.com, Indigenous Internet Chamber of Commerce, Tree of life Ministries, Can-Do.org, Alibris and the Turtle Island Project.
People can help the event in one of six ways listed on the official website: Wal-Mart or other gift cards, website link to purchase books, cash donations a non-profit charity listed on website community partnership page (donation for Humanitarian Day at Fort Thompson), online shopping at businesses that donate some proceeds, and volunteer on Sat., Sept. 29 loading donations in Sioux Falls and both days at the Wacipi grounds (tent set up Saturday, various duties at 12 noon Sunday).
For more information call 605-693-3753 – or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
A grandmother of two with a grown son in Denver and daughter in Egypt, the 45-year-old David lives in the tiny farming community of Bushnell (pop. 89) and is passionate about fighting inequities facing a wide range of people, regardless of race or faith.
David has volunteered or founded a dozen related causes starting in 1995 during her senior year studying sociology at South Dakota State University with the creation of Human Interaction for Religious Understanding which promoted fair play and “respect for the diversity of faith & religious traditions” for 8 years – ending when she went overseas.
Living with a Muslim American abstract sculptor/painter and life partner, the disabled David has turned the internet into her connection to the world that enables the participation in the wide variety of projects that would exhaust most.
David spent six months helping hurricane victims after Katrina including serving as the Islamic Relief Mississippi state coordinator after spending three months in Biloxi as a volunteer.
David founded the interfaith “Covered Women for God” that utilized the internet to bring together women of diverse religious traditions – mainly Christians, Jews and Muslims – to discuss modesty within their own faiths and support each other in modest dress including the covering of the head and hair.
The 1999 founder and now secretary of the “South Dakota Muslim Women’s Network,” David is a member of the one-year-old “Islamic Community of South Dakota” masjid (center/house of worship). Both Islamic groups are ethnically diverse including Euro-Americans, African-Americans, Africans, Europeans, Asians and Native Americans.
“I strongly believe in inter-cultural and interfaith interaction – and tolerance for diversity,” David said. “I have worked in social issues all my life, in one form or another.”
David said racism and unfair antiquated reservation treaties have deeply wounded the culture and heritage of some American Indians.
“It is one thing to claim ‘we didn’t take the land’ but as long as we pay taxes to the government whose policies and programs prevent true equality to (American Indians) and deny them social ways to develop as they see fit as a cultural community – then we are the oppressors,” David said.
Educated in a boarding school, David’s great-great-grandmother was “stripped of her Native American identity to such a degree that she could not pass on her family lineage knowledge to her children and grandchildren – a plight faced by many generations of American Indians, said David calling it “ethnic and cultural genocide.”
“I have links, though distant, to Native Americans – the drive to be involved in my cultural lineage is there and something I can never walk away from,” David said.
“I don’t want any other person to experience the severing of their ancestral ties that happened to my family’s genealogy,” David said. “We have a long record of our European ancestors – but our Native American side starts and ends with my great-great grandmother.”
David said the U.S. government treatment of Native Americans is “no different than the Chinese government oppression of the Tibetan culture” and similar to the persecution of religions and minorities in many countries because all “take possession of minority community resources.”
“We can’t point fingers at others human rights violations when we have issues right here at home,” said David.
Humanitarian Day (9-30-07) event for the Crow Creek website:
Islamic Relief USA:
Crow Creek Longriders blog – also outlines 150 year history of the tragedies faced by the tribe:
Humanitarian Day Yahoo group:
Humanitarian Day at Fort Thompson
47825 Main Street
Ms Anisah David
Health Fair coordinator
Mr Imann David
Sioux Falls, SD
Domestic Program Manager
Islamic Relief USA
122 C Street NW #830
Washington DC 20001
Crow Creek Longriders
Crow Creek Sioux Tribe
Chairman: Lester Thompson, Jr
P.O. Box 50
Fort Thompson, SD 57339-0050
Phone (605) 245-2221
Fax (605) 245-5470