Thursday, 8 May 2008

Hats off to Go Native America!

Having spent the last few weeks organising and re-organising our independent trip to the mid-West next week, I feel I must take my hat off to Sarah Chapman of Go Native America. Sarah organises, with precision, multiple and varied trips each year during which their tour participants travel thousands of miles across the country visiting sacred sites and learning the history of the Native American people from award-winning writer, photographer and historian Serle Chapman. The first time I took a tour with Go Native America, ( we travelled 3,500 miles in two weeks through the scenery of North and South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana. It was another four years before I could return for another ten days to South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska and Montana. The scenery is awesome and Serle's narration of Native American history is exciting, respectful, tender and at times heart-breaking. I had no idea, however, how time-consuming it is to organise such a tour, even on a small scale.

I will be returning next week to the mid-West with my husband and dearest friends - the trip is a birthday present for my husband's 60th and I have just discovered he is telling people that this trip is an "hors d'oeuvre" - a taste of things to come once he has retired! I have booked us into a different hotel each night and we will be travelling through the Badlands and up into the Big Horn mountains, where I am told that the snow is half-way up the lodge windows!! Packing is a nightmare but layers are the answer - lots of them!

On Wednesday next week we travel to the Land of the Morning Star People to meet the little girl who I have sponsored on the Northern Cheyenne reservation through the Cheyenne Children's Services at Lame Deer who assist children from infant to age 18. We are all really excited about our visit and already we have a queue of children here who would like to be her penfriend. "Many children on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation face the daily reality of poverty. Unlike previous generations, today's poverty is not just economic; complications by broken families, alcohol, drug abuse and limited opportunities contribute to the vicious cycle of child poverty." (Florence Running Wolf - Founder/Director CCS) The unemployment rate for the area is 80% and the best chance of finding a job is off the reservation in Billings, Montana - over 100 miles away. The child I have sponsored has four siblings and family income is the equivalent of £6,000 per year! The rugged terrain in the area severely limits its agricultural use and the most productive land was given to non-Indians by the US Government long ago.

Due to the work of the CCS, the Cheyenne children now have a library in the largest district - something they have never had before and they are slowly developing a stock of books. With future donations, they hope it will be possible to train and employ a full-time librarian. If you would like more information about the CCS or are interested in sponsoring a child and/or making a one-off donation, please log on to . As Florence would say "HaHo" Thank you!

Having organised this independent one-week trip down to the finest detail, if you are interested in travelling to the area, I have one thing to say........."Go Native America" - it's much easier and much less of a worry!
The photo above was taken in October in Tongue River Canyon - click on it for a full-size version - did you ever see such a beautiful blue sky?