Sunday, November 26, 2006

Thank you

Thanks to everyone who left such supportive and kind comments, and to those who emailed us in private or contacted us by phone. Your words are a pertinent reminder of exactly what we've been missing during this difficult time, and are much appreciated.

We've begun the process of packing up today. We decided not to get another U-Haul, so we'll be leaving much of our furniture here. I'm sure somebody will find good use for it. Our plan is to leave before a big-freeze/snowstorm that's due to hit on Wednesday, as the I-25 corridor we take into Santa Fe has already been closed due to snowfall a couple of times this year. We'll be spending a few days in Santa Fe, then moving on to Houston until we get set up in an Austin apartment. Courtney's new job starts on December 18th, so we'll be having Christmas in Travis County this year.

Thank you again, all of you, and I'll be catching up on my "reply-to" list sometime in the near future. Things are a bit hectic right now.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Starting Over

That was a bad week.

One of the worst weeks, really. We were trapped in Chadron, Nebraska, each day hoping we could go home and each day being disappointed. And, of course, it wasn't just a matter of being trapped; it was a matter of waiting for something awful to finish, of worrying that something worse could happen.

Add to this the fact that it was the first week of hunting season. Men with rifles and camouflaged jackets loitered in every parking lot, mutliated deer bodies were in the backs of trucks, bungee corded to fences, hanging from thatched ramadas like ritual sacrifices. It felt like we were living in the end times.

Did I mention it was a bad week? It was a bad week that drove a lot of things home for us. Several factors converged and made us realize something important: we want to leave.

I've got to fess up here: I've purposefully kept a lot of our experiences out of this blog in the hopes that things would get better. They haven't. Perhaps most importantly, our supervisor, who is supposed to have provided us with a point of contact for the community, hasn't. She honestly seems to resent our presence, and takes pains to avoid us. We haven't recieved any support, guidance or feedback from her, which is especially odd considering that she requested our presence. Given the insular and often xenophobic nature of the community, her lack of involvement is a set up for our failure.

That's not to say that it has all been bad. We have met many wondeful people here, and learned a lot about both this culture and ourselves. We've had many enjoyable and unique experiences, and I am glad, overall, that we came here. But without Fern's involvement, it isn't possible for us to the job for which we were hired. And without that, what's the point of us being here, really?

Add to this our strong desire to be near our friends and family, especially pertinent after last week, and the fact that Courtney was offered a job in Austin today, the reasons for leaving have reached a critical mass.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


Well, I have officially lost the pregnancy at week 11. So close to the three-month "safety zone." We've been in Chadron, NE since Sunday night when we drove the pitch-black 80 miles to the hospital at the doctor's request.

I will spare everyone the details of the process of miscarriage. Let's just say that the physical discomfort is rather intense, but nothing compared to the emotional distress involved.

Still, we are together. We even have the dogs with us (and they were even permitted to sleep with us in the hospital room the first night!). We've been in a hotel since Monday, but we'll probably be permitted to go home today. After that, I'm looking for work in Austin again. It's a hard way to learn how much one values close proximity to one's family and friends.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Rumor Control

I apologize for the previous entry. It was based entirely on last night's wild rumors and baseless speculation. This update, conversely, is based on slightly more recent wild rumors and baseless speculation from the following highly reputable sources:

The post office lady

The new girl at the office

The owner of the only restauraunt in a 60 mile radius.

Anyway, this is how matters seem to stand at the present juncture: at approximately 11 am yesterday, the election appeals board (or whatever) ordered that current President Alex White Plume be reinstated on the ballot as the 1982 conviction upon which basis the other election board thing originally removed him was, in fact, not a felony but a misdemeanor. At this point, White Plume ordered the election halted and sent out a flunky (apparently by the name of "Muffy" something-or-other) to seize ballot boxes from polling locations, not, in fact, engaging in the act himself as was previously reported. Subsequent to this, police intervened and some sort of high speed chase ensued, which may or may not have been narrated by a Waylon Jennings voice over. The result of this high speed chase is not known by any of the extremely reliable sources cited above, but it is believed by all that yesterday's election was such a farce that the whole thing will have to be done over. But will it? Opinion among the Radio Free BannGerald editorial staff (me and Courtney) is sharply divided.

Still no gunshots, but I did hear a car back-fire about an hour ago.

High Speed Chase

The office rumor is that Alex White Plume *personally* seized ballot boxes from polling sites, and was then pursued by police in a high speed chase across the reservation! I don't do this very often, but I'm going to cue the Waylon Jennings voice over for this:

Well, about this time ol' Boss White Plume was feelin' mighty left out of the political process, so he decided to take matters into his own hands the only way he could. . .


Still no news on the election. The non-broadcasting-but-podcasting radio station is playing nothing but ceremonial music, and their breaking-news web-update hasn't been changed in over 12 hours.

Actually, that update deserves to be reprinted in full:

Election Board of Appeals reinstates White Plume. Ballot Boxes Confiscated. (Or maybe not!)

It appears that the election was stopped midday after the board of appeals ruled in favor of Alex White Plume. But we don't really know yet - it's all just rumor. Stay tuned to KILI and we'll update you online as soon as we know. News at 11:00.

But the news at 11 never came. I don't see any columns of smoke rising over the buttes, so that's good sign.

In what they call around here "real world" election news: Well, you know already, celebrate or despair as you see fit. Me, I'll be celebrating in a reserved fashion and continue whistfully hoping for a more equitable system of proportionate representation that maybe, just maybe, could include a third party.

Oh, the abortion ban that indirectly triggered the current state of Pine Ridge affairs (by inspiring Cecilia Fire Thunder to open a Planned Parenthood clinic) was overturned by a significant majority of voters last night.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Election Chaos!

Okay, this all off the non-broadcasting radio's podcast (available here if you're desperately curious), so info is incomplete at best: apparently, at about noon today, the board of appeals ruled in favor of standing President Alex White Plume's petition and ordered him reinstated on the ballot, which, since voting had been going on all morning, neccesitated police seizures of ballot boxes polling stations. God knows what else since then. I'll keep you posted, and let's all pray that the shooting doesn't start.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Election at Pine Ridge

The election season at Pine Ridge may or may not be coming to a close, and it's been bizarre and chaotic. First of all, the rules are quite different, and I can't claim to understand most of what's been going on, nor can I say whether or not this has been a particularly odd election year by Pine Ridge standards. Here's a little run down from my point of view:

In spring of last year, after the state of South Dakota declared *all* abortions illegal, Oglala Sioux Tribe President Cecilia Fire Thunder took steps to open a clinic in Pine Ridge, citing the high per capita rate of incest and rape on the reservation. There was a revolt on the council, and she was first suspended, then impeached for "mishandling tribal funds". At that point, Vice President Alex White Plume (a tribal rights activist, previously most well known outside the reservation for attempting to grow industrial hemp as a cash crop and subsequently being raided by DEA helicopters, oh, and he's our neighbor's brother) assumed duties as President until the November election.

The primary for the new election was held in mid-October. The OST primary is a remarkably casual affair; as far as I can tell it is a general election where *anybody* may vote for *anybody*. Votes are counted, and the top two vote-getters are placed on the official ballot for the November election. Alex White Plume clearly recieved the most votes. However, the second and third place vote-getters, John Yellowbird Steele (my boss' brother) and former President Cecilia Fire Thunder (!), were separated by a margin of *2* votes.

2 votes.

Remember Florida?

Chaos erupted. Some 400 ballots were challenged (a big deal in a race where the top vote-getter only recieved 621 votes), at one point the primary election was declared null and void, police were removing ballot counters by force, meetings went late into the night, and everyone was disgusted. . .

When the dust settled, Alex White Plume retained the lead, and John Yellowbird Steele had gained 17 votes over Cecilia Fire Thunder, meaning that she was officially off the ballot for the November election.

Oh, but not so fast.

Things were quiet for a few weeks, despite all the above it's been a very low profile election season, the only broadcast media available to the reservation being KILI radio which was knocked out by a lightning strike in August and still hasn't regained enough wattage to broadcast outside the six block area surrounding the station. Then, on Friday, three days before the election, some unnamed person surreptitiously ran a background check on presidential favorite Alex White Plume and discovered a felony assault coviction (resulting in 180 days probation) from 1982.

Tribal law forbids anyone convicted of a felony from holding office. Meaning that, three days before the election, White Plume was taken off the ballot, and the election is now between John Yellowbird Steele and Cecilia Fire Thunder.

Now that's a November surprise.