PRESS & MEDIA
PRESS & MEDIA
In the simplest of terms, my job with The Tipi Raisers is to seek out donations. Some might say that I navigate the system by re-distributing excess product to those who have dramatically less material wealth. And that would be accurate, too. But that dry description doesn’t come close to capturing the magic that sparks when we exist in relationships.
Donations have always relied upon the generosity of others. This work moves within a gift economy where the rewards of sharing one’s abundance doesn’t rely on monetary exchange but with more intangible benefits like the sense of contribution, nurturing a community or creating opportunities to connect.
These exchanges often happen on a porch, in a driveway or online where supporters from all walks of life bring more than just their donation. Some come curious, others with deep empathy. Some are quiet while others feel called to discuss at length the ongoing obstacles facing indigenous people. I never know who I will be meeting for the first time.
But what all of these beautiful people consistently bring to the table is solidarity and a deep mutual longing to change our narrative with Native Americans. And although there is no rewriting of the past, there is a sincere desire to nurture a bond that enhances the well-being of our friends on Pine Ridge. We share an emotional dependency where no one feels more comfortable than the least comfortable neighbor. It is in this common humanity that we are connected and where the magic happens. I seek out donations, for sure. But, I also like to think that I extend an invitation and foster those who respond with a sense of belonging and oneness.
To express their solidarity, supporters offer a variety of gifts. From appliances to diapers or boots to blankets, they are all rather like the casserole that is lovingly made and offered in times of struggle for those we care about. It’s humble but sincere. The gift brings us together to engage in difficult conversations where the universe hears our regrets, hopes and cries for a future that is more generous and ethical. It’s not about perfection. It’s about the effort. So we oppose injustice by creating communities because transformation requires our participation.
It would be naïve to not recognize the bigger work that needs doing. Service alone isn’t enough. And hopefully, one day, my job will be obsolete. But grassroot organizations like The Tipi Raisers rely on the cultivation of relationships where we are asked to slow down, actively listen, earn trust and engage in meaningful dialogue. It requires courage, grace and reciprocity. And there will always be a space for that.
We exist simultaneously in both the physical and spiritual and the nourishing of our well-being and achievements relies on all of us. The Lakota have a mantra, “Mitakuye Oyasin.” It means, “We are all related.” When we move through the world with that in mind, we move in magic.
The storming of the Capitol building in D.C. on January 6th, 2021 never had a chance.
The symbols it was organized under were alternatively chaotic, incongruent and some even grounded in Evil. Portions of the rally were led by varied men and women carrying a confederate flag, an American flag, a Trump flag and a Gadsden flag. At least one person wore a shirt glorifying the Auschwitz concentration camp, another shirt proclaiming that six million dead was not enough.
There were Elders in the crowd, but mostly they were jostled and shoved to the back. Mr. Trump and Giuliani certainly took the lead in the beginning – their call to action ultimately heard and heeded. There were arguably other Elders amongst the thousands in attendance that might have provided some of the guidance, wisdom and experience that was so desperately called for. However, any semblance of wisdom and guidance of age and experience that is so critical to healthy communities, organizations and societies was, at best, marginalized and misguided on that day.
The “warriors”, who might have led, seemed largely motivated by the opportunity for a selfie, self-promotion, wanton destruction or some sort of combination of all of those desires. Donald Trump Jr., who is of the right age to lead in this way, seemed to prefer to aggressively exhort other “doers” and then retreated to the safety of the White House. At varying points, a self-proclaimed “shaman” dressed in a bison headdress and fur, wearing face paint and carrying a spear appeared poised to lead. In so many pictures of him, however, he appeared more the lone wolf than a leader of others. He dressed in the trappings of – and apparently characterizes himself as – a shaman. However, the camera shows the truth of him to be much more a buffoon and cartoon character than anything else. And then there were the others who appeared to lead not because they had followers but because they were being followed and pushed forward by the mob. All appeared to be acting independently of the crowd whilst in the midst of it. Most seemed motivated more by cameras and cell phones than by principle. At the very least, most, if not all, betrayed the Warrior values of humility, respect and self-sacrifice. The cameras that they were worshipping exposed their lie.
And so it was.
Indigenous wisdom from all over the world has striking commonalities that we may choose to learn from and live by:
This year we've seen first hand that even in the darkest times, maybe especially in those times, the best of humanity can be easily found. We count ourselves blessed to witness this more often than can be counted. While, this has been an extraordinary year in so many ways, what stands out the most is the kindness from our Tipi Raiser's family. YOUR support this year helped us pivot and find our way, from a calendar packed with in-person events, to an immediate and ongoing response to a complex and fluid situation that was - and is - unfolding on Pine Ridge and other Indigenous communities.
Our commitment to you, as stewards of your hard earned resources, is born from the same place as our commitment to the Indigenous communities we serve. It comes from a moral obligation to answer when there is a call for help, to listen deeply and work alongside those we serve to restore self-determination, dignity and healing.
The real magic of this work is our WHY - and it is not easily quantified. Of course, we are proud to share that you have helped us achieve the following outcomes in 2020:
"There is a story that I have told that involves a hummingbird, as I look at the smiles on my children and then the reason why, I would like to thank The Tipi Raisers for the opportunity to meet and make connections with people all over the place, from England to the West coast. Each of those connections made are seen by me as pin holes of light. As I look back over some of them connections made go beyond the title of Friend and goes straight to family. I looked around and see that in my own way I'm the hummingbird in my own story. For those that have been lucky enough to have made that connection we are blessed".
We've said it before; this is slow work- the fruits of which won't likely be seen in this lifetime. But we believe that a layer of mistrust and wounding, passed down through generations, gets peeled back when we're in our WHY and that is when a little bit of healing can happen. And, ultimately, we believe it is that healing that might be passed down to future generations.
Please know that YOU, too, are at the center of our WHY. Our Tipi Raiser's family is the special sauce, it is where the magic happens and makes all of this possible. We look forward to working and playing alongside you again in 2021 and thank you for the sacred trust you have endowed in us.
"When I think back to the “me” that stood over the sign-up sheet for a trip to Pine Ridge with the Tipi Raisers in my sophomore year of college, I think of someone who hadn’t woken up yet. Someone hoping to make a difference, but who hadn’t quite arrived at the “why.” Someone who knew of the ongoing injustices committed against Indigenous communities, but who did not fully grasp the manner in which myself, and all people who look like me, continue to be complicit in them. I wanted to make a change, but was occupied with all the things modern life tends to occupy us with, and my plans of the impact I hoped to have in life definitely outnumbered the actual experiences I had to show for it. I held, and still hold, much privilege that had kept me from truly seeing others and my connection to them.
And then I spent a week on Pine Ridge with a handful of people from my college whom I did not yet know well, Tipi Raiser's Executive Director, two of his children, and countless new Lakota friends. We all became a family that week. Work felt like play, every night was marked with hilarious antics and eye-opening conversations, and I realized that the “why” at which I had not yet arrived was not a “why” at all; it was a “who.” The work mattered because the People mattered. The Spirit that was moving and working through all of the people we met that week, and every Tipi Raisers trip I’ve been on since, has made me understand that we do not exist in a vacuum; we need one another. We exist in connection with everything and everyone in this world. The phrase “Mitakuye Oyasin- We are all related” had been taught to us non-Native volunteers earlier in the week by a Lakota elder, and it has resonated more and more with every passing day. 3 years later, I am still humbled by the way the Tipi Raisers community continuously lives into this way of being. It is a community which shows up consistently for the people whom they serve, for the difficult and important work of reconciliation, and for unity across cultures towards a more just and caring future.
Even if I cannot fully put into words the “why” behind my motivation to continue to work with this incredible organization, I know the “who.” Each and every person (and horse; shout out to my favorite Tipi Raisers horse, Okiniha!) who I have come across in my work with the Tipi Raisers is a reminder of the fact that we are all related. We have an obligation and a sacred duty to work with and for one another. Though I have so much more to do in order to even begin living up to that obligation, it is an honor to be able to do that work alongside the Tipi Raisers and the Oglala Lakota People who have generously opened my eyes to so much".
I had come from a long struggle (health-wise) and the struggle was not resolved and found myself with some free time. To occupy that time, I learned how to surf the net. I came across a post that advertised " The Lakota Ride " a Ride of Reconciliation. A 400-mile horse ride to the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota. I thought to myself, I'm Lakota, I like horses, I even have ties to that Reservation (I was pretty sure). The post advertised horses, food, in & outdoor lodging (camping). With a strict adherence to Lakota codes of value and spirituality. Also, it would take a week at least just to get to Cheyenne Wyoming and That was only a little over an hour's drive away. So, I figured I could always come home?
So, I reached out and got in contact with Dave Ventimiglia, the CEO of the Tipi Raisers. We met at a small 4- or 5-acre open lot adjacent to a greenbelt alongside a fairly busy street (South Kipling Rd). there was a small ramshackle open stable and a part of the lot was fenced off. In the open section there was a large horse trailer, 2 horses and Dave himself.
After introductions I was enlightened to the organization and to this particular event. I learned that this was the beginning prep work for the third Lakota Ride. I gathered the impression that help and support was much needed and would be appreciated. We had a small lesson in horsemanship and then rode for a few miles through a park, school and neighborhood. We talked about the organization and why this event was needed. I talked about my previous experiences with horses. It being just a photo op at a 6-year old’s Birthday party and a 2-mile crash down a mountain track on a runaway horse. Holding on like a frightened monkey until being rescued by my older Brother (probably more on that later). On our return trip to the horse stables there was some construction by the gate and we thought it best to dismount and walk the horses the rest of the way. That's when the saddle and I decided to see what the bottom of the horse looked like .... Luckily for me I simply stepped off (sort of) and landed on my feet. Even Luckier the horse, Eshna, and I decided to remain friends, much to Dave's relief. Upon our return, we said our " Doc-sha's " (until we meet again) with promises of signed waivers and medical clearances
On our second meetup, I had the needed paperwork in hand and after saddling the horses (a requirement to be a rider) I parked my ride next to a hay bale, climbed on and we were off. Looking down at Dave’s saddle I noticed a lariat that wasn't there before. After the "almost" fiasco at the end of the last meetup and the story I told, I asked if it was for me? He got serious, and then we laughed, we both saw the truth in it. We started working up to a fast trot and Dave was ready for a gallop. I pulled up on the reins and did my best to look like I knew what I was doing to stop. Dave quickly spun around and wanted to know if anything was wrong (my ability to be a rider was still not set in stone)? I told him I just wanted to make sure I knew how to stop before I learned how to run! Along the way I told Dave that I had a commercial driver’s license and was more than willing to help out in any way that I could. That got me to the third meetup.
About 10 days later I met Dave for the third time along with his son Adam in a parking lot with a big truck, horse trailer and a rental car with plans of caravanning up to the reservation to pick up horses and Lakota Tribal members (Elders, Singers, other riders and some of their family members that will travel with the Ride). That's how I found myself at 6:30-ish in the morning at the top of Lookout Mountain overseeing 5 strange horses feeling a little inadequate of the title of " Horse Watcher “. At a set time all of the people and horses gathered together and with Words, Prayer’s, Songs and Ceremony, the 2017 3rd annual Lakota Ride was off!! After driving the trailer and eating lunch I got the opportunity to get on one of those " unknown horses named " Wicahpi " to finish out the day. I parked my ride next to a fence and climbed on. I was far from sure that I would be able to handle the rigors of such a journey but I didn't want to Not ride a bit of it. Being new to riding and more than a bit nervous I found that you still have time for contemplation. So, while I was all clenched and knotted up I was convincing myself that " Me " being on this trip was " Reckless and Irresponsible " and I should probably just go home, when Waylon ("The" Horse Guy and soon to be great friend), gives me a gentle, unexpected push that almost startles me out of the saddle. He says relax, loosen up, have fun .... He then keeps riding up & down the line of other horses and riders. I try to take his advice and focus on the good times and the moment. I hear someone inquire about me and someone else answer "He's on Wicahpi". I looked down at my horse and settled in and started thinking again, " Wi-cah-pi “? I think of my names and how I got them. The tradition in my family is to have 2 middle names. Supposedly to give my Parents an opportunity to help define our character and paths in life (my Sister's name means " Sweet Peaceful Earth " in 3 different languages). My name is Jason Scott Eric, after Jason and the Argonauts, Sir Robert Falcon Scott (Arctic Explorer) and Erik the Red (Father of Leif Erikson). On contemplation I realized that " Jason " had a ship full of Heroes but his quest was fraught with danger, tragedy and bad decisions. Sir Robert Falcon Scott (though Noble in His endeavor) still arrived 5 weeks too late and perished of starvation and exposure 10 miles shy of food and supplies. And Erik The Red, who was kicked out of Iceland and fell off his horse, considering it a bad omen and decided to stay home on the day that his son Leif set off to North America... I dwell some more.
I am reminded of a story of when I was small (2nd grade or so). I was trying to stay up all night to watch the "Jerry Lewis Telethon" and I pleaded with my Mom to let me stay awake and watch it. Two hours after " bedtime " and I couldn't keep my eyes open. My Mother scooped me up and took me out into the cold night air. She rolled me out of my blanket and around the lawn for a bit. Then she wrapped me and the blanket up in her arms and told me a story. It was about when She was young. She and her older Brother were left alone in their home, it was dark and the house had no electricity. Not wanting to draw attention to themselves they sat quietly in the dark. My Mother, being very young, was frightened and started to cry. Her Brother (not being much older) tried to be comforting and asked about her tears. She told him that there were No Lights!! “Yes, there is”, he says, and leads her outside and pointing up he tells her to "Look". It being Dark, the Milky Way looked like a river across the Sky with so many dots of “Light"! "See", he says, "there are lots of them! And they are always there. Even when it's cloudy or the Sun is out, all you have to do is look up and know that those "Lights" are always there"! When She finished, I looked up into the sky with new wonder. She squeezed me and whispered in my ear "Wi-cah-pi"... That means " Star ".
And that's when I fell off my horse!
Wicahpi and Shunka (Dog) were the first words I learned in Lakota. And much like that night long ago, I wanted to learn more and I didn't want to miss a thing.
From the first meeting with Dave and the Tipi Raisers Family (which is what it has become) I thought " Wow ", I hope this works out well. After just a few minutes though I saw Dave's manor and approach to the simple acts of introducing me to the animals and the act of placing tack and saddles on. I saw the respect and care he took and the ease and temperament of the Horses, Masa and Eshna (I was on Eshna) . We discussed the struggles and shortcomings of life on the Reservation and the needs of the people. As I listened I saw the genuine concern about the topics he mentioned, which awakened the same feelings in me . It seemed like A lot to "Take on", but I never saddled a horse before that day and the need seemed great. Upon spending more time with Dave I knew there were lots of ways I could help, and who didn't want to ride a horse and be a part of such an adventure?
It was easy to find ways to help, there were so many things that needed to be done and I was drawn more and more into the excitement of it all. Things that would normally seem like a chore or burden turned into something else. I began to fill roles that were needed and to rely on other people in a way I wouldn't have been comfortable with before. Most importantly I listened... things like driving 6 hrs one way to places I've never been, to pick up people I've never met seemed like a small price to pay for the opportunity to talk, listen and become good friends, more like family, with all the concerns, warm thoughts and feelings that come with Family; "Mitakuye Oyasin" (We are all related). It was more than a sense of Community. I didn't even understand that word until after my involvement. If anything, I never wanted the visits to end and my thoughts and heart stayed with all of my new found relations ! I feel thankful and blessed for the opportunities that the Tipi Raisers have given me and honored to aid the Tasunke Wakan Nation ( Sacred Horse Nation ). Humblie Le Anpetu ki Oglala Lakota Oyate ki unsiwica kila pi ye ( I ask for compassion for my Relatives ). Oaye Waste , Wowasake na Woawanglake wicayaku pi kte ( Give them good direction , strength and protection ).
The help the Tipi Raisers bring to the Oceti Sakowin is immeasurable .
Wopila, WOPILA Tanka (Many MANY Thanks )!!
Jason Larkin, Lakota Rider
About six months ago we became aware of an annual performance that takes place in Lusk, WY (a small town about 2 hours southeast of Pine Ridge). In this performance the actors dress in regalia and red-face and "re-enact" an event they claim took place during the overland migrations of the mid-nineteenth century. This Harper's article details the annual production. Since discovering this article we have had conversations with our Lakota friends on Pine Ridge and have come to learn that many do not feel safe going through the Town of Lusk- their stories are heartbreaking but all too familiar their voices join a chorus from other People of Color across this nation.
We have met with the planning committee of the event called the "Legends of Rawhide", in a meeting attended by two Gen7 Youth Ambassadors and two adult Tribal members, and have since had conversations with the Lusk Mayor, the Anti-Defamation League and members of the American Indian Movement. We are exploring a strategy with these partners to engage in constructive and meaningful dialogue with the community of Lusk over the coming months and years. We hope that by sharing the Lakota perspective, factual historical context and facilitating courageous conversations and vulnerable conversations, the possibility for compassion and understanding can evolve and our friends from the Native American community can feel safe driving through the town of Lusk – or maybe even gain allies and friends in the process.
The virus that now threatens every human inhabitant worldwide poses a specifically even more harmful threat to the lives of not only the Oglala Lakota Nation, but also to indigenous Peoples the world over. Wigmuke Was’te Win (“Beautiful Rainbow Woman”) notes in her recent article for the Lakota Times, that for reasons not clear yet, this virus – as well as similar viruses (the Spanish flu in the early 1900’s and most other cases of influenzas) – dramatically impacts her People at rates almost four times that of European derived populations. Some of this might have to do with genetic differences. Clearly, there are also factors linked to conditions of poverty, unequal healthcare and differences in diet – all of which are related to the systematic oppression Native American’s have been subjected to for generations.
And so, the Oglala Lakota Nation has moved aggressively to protect its People from this virus. Not only because it is a clear and present danger to them physically, but also because it gives rise to historic fears of diseases brought by the Europeans in the 18th century that devastated their populations.
They have blockaded roads leading into the reservation in perhaps a futile attempt to keep the virus from crossing a line.
Last year’s harvest of sage and cedar is virtually impossible to find anymore as the bundles kept in closets and hanging on walls have been burned day and night.
Many traditional families have set up tents and tipis next to their homes – refusing to send their infected family members to quarantine sites away from their homes and loved ones.
And they have listened and adapted to this new world, incorporating guidance and teachings as much from their elders and Spiritual leaders as from the scientific information being offered from the outside.
The borders will open again at some point. The virus and fear will recede. And good will come out of it. Perhaps the social and economic legacies of colonialism will finally be meaningfully addressed as they were exposed by the Pandemic. As with so many of the other fissures that have been exposed as the Coronavirus pulled back the curtain, perhaps the reality that there are significant parts of our population that still live without running water, healthy homes and adequate food will be too obvious in the death tolls to ignore. Our belief is that in the midst of this chaos and upheaval there is an opportunity to see more clearly what we have become – and where we want, and need, to go as a species.
Hecel lena Oyate kin nipi ket – so that our People may live.
Our young people are warrioring up!
In the midst of a worldwide pandemic, it's easy to find legitimate threats, reasons to fear and to then turn towards hopelessness. After all, even our neighbors who approach us in the store or on an evening stroll by our home, now pose at least the possibility of a viral threat. Additionally, the discord and disorganization of many of those in positions of leadership engender more hopelessness and frustration than they do inspiration and direction. And so, the virus attacks not only our lungs and breath, but moves on in its assault on our confidence and strength as communities, neighbors and families.
Our youth are called to in a time like this. Their bodies are healthier and better able to withstand the threat of a virus. The elders now must be protected and kept in place at home and away from others -- at least for the moment and while the threat is highest. The young people's inherent fearlessness is also of value now, if tempered by guidance and knowledge. This is also the time for them to learn that the world is bigger than their phones, drama, personal interests and needs. They have always had a profound responsibility to find their place in their communities. To find their unique gift, and to give that gift to their People. However, in the modern world, the obligation to be of service to others, is often obscured by the illusion that we can survive as a species in selfish and self - indulgent ways.
Part of the gift of Coronavirus is that it has laid bare many of our lies and mistakes. The fact is that we ARE all related. We DO need each other. The Earth IS our mother and will bring us back into balance if we do not do so on our own. And our youth DO have a profound responsibility to play an integral role in our communities. And this demands of them sacrifice, courage and strength. The selfishness, shortsightedness, greed and me-ness of the past few generations is being ravaged by the virus. This is a good thing.
In the time since the virus humbled many of us, we have called on you to support our Covid Action Initiative and your response (we are already 25% to our goal) has allowed us to call on Gen7 and other young people- both on and off Pine Ridge - to take action and ease the fear and suffering in their communities. Each week they identify families in need- some now suffering from the effects of Covid 19. They send us a list of their needs (food, diapers, hygiene supplies, water, etc.) and request help on behalf of those not able to reach out because of access, fear or remoteness. Supplies are then ordered, disinfected and distributed. Logs and firewood have also been cut, loaded and transported for the upcoming winter. Young Lakota men are milling logs to build a log home for a family with far too many people living in too small a space. Seeds are being planted and gardens started so fresh vegetables can be grown and used as medicine.
The virus has closed the schools, stopped the athletic competitions, malls, family gatherings and so much more. There is a lot to grieve in that to be sure, but there are openings too and much to be grateful for in this time. For those young people who have stepped up to help -- and our supporters who have made it possible -- we are incredibly grateful for all of you.
Wopila (a deep and immeasurable gratitude),
COVID-19 began to hit the US and it became evident that this wasn’t going to blow over so easily. I was in Hawaii, thousands of miles from my home in Colorado. I began to fear getting stuck in Hawaii away from my family, and so I decided to cut my volunteer trip short by a week and a half. Traveling home, I could feel the tension in the air. Within less than a week of getting home, my state went into a stay at home order, issued by the governor. I was lucky enough to be able to stay home all the time except for a few runs to the grocery store. My mom on the other hand, works in the lab at a hospital and is considered an essential worker right now. We are taking all the precautions we can to stay clean and healthy.
The hardest part for me is being separated from my peers. I am usually very social, so now I am separated from my friends which is slowly wearing on me. I do get afraid sometimes about the consequences of the virus, but know that my family is doing what we can to stay safe. I'm grateful to be back with my family, and that we are all still healthy. I worry for those in other parts of the country and the world that are getting hit harder by the virus. I’m praying that good can come from this slow down in many areas of the world.
I want to be out in the world more, but I know it's better to stay at home until things are cleared up more. This is something that my generation has never experienced, even our parents haven’t. This feels like it could be a turning point in many people's lives.
I see Gen7 as a powerful way to empower the world’s youth to cooperate and communicate on the issues that face us. It’s really important, especially going forward. There’s a lot of good that was done by previous generations, but also a lot of hurt. Now I feel it’s a matter of integrating everything together and healing all of the intergenerational and intercultural trauma. I’m working on a project with a friend in Colorado to create a discussion group to build each other's perspectives and work on respectful disagreement and building consensus. With Gen7, our cooperative projects with CYL are a great way of doing this as well. It allows more people to learn about a culture and lifestyle different than their own, and work on building intercultural communication skills. On top of this it helps give back to the world community.
Our last day of school in persxn was March, 13. I remember that because it was Friday the 13. I really miss my friends and relatives that I usually see daily. now we can’t see each other, But at least we are keeping others and ourselves safe. The school I attend was the first school in the state to start virtual schooling, they were planning weeks before the Covid-19 hit us. We are planning to finish school this way. Persxnally my Expirience with the shelter in place is going okay, I just miss my relatives. I also miss going places,but now my family only leaves if it 100% necessary. The first case of Covid-19 was a really nice womxn who isn’t from here, who I know persxnally. She immediately followed protocol and stayed at home with her family. She then went to a hospital, in Rapid city, Sd, to get tested. She tested positive and our tribal council banned her and her family from coming back to Pine Ridge, but I believe they are able to lift the ban. So far, that has been the first known cases here on the Rez. Our lockdown for our reservation started April, 20 and has now ended on the 26. During the lockdown we couldn’t leave our house from 8pm-6am, unless we were Essential workers. On our borders cops had checkpoints to make sure folx were only leaving if it was essential.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.
The Tipi Raisers is registered as a 501(c)(3) non profit organization in the State of South Dakota. All donations are tax deductible and a receipt will be mailed or emailed.
Donations can be made online or mailed to:
7830 W. Alameda Ave. Ste. 103-186
Lakewood, CO 80226
Physical Location: Little Finger Building
29128 US-18 Oglala, SD 57764
All media/graphics/photographs on this website © 2013 The Tipi Raisers/Ti Ikciya Pa Slata Pi.
Copyright © 2018 The Tipi Raisers