By Ang Gilchrist
Around 40 people gathered on Friday for a luncheon meeting to discuss improving the existing conditions at Whiteclay.
The luncheon was put on by Lakota Hope Ministry (LHM, formerly known as the ABOUT group) and attended by the Sheridan County Sheriff’s Department, OST Tribal officials, other area law enforcement, public health and social program representatives, Lakota veterans, local pastors and ministry directors and Whiteclay business owners. During the gathering, options were presented on how to improve the poor social living conditions that have existed in Whiteclay for decades.
Selena Hayle is the Expansion Coordinator and Director of Member Engagement for the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions(AGRM). Hayle said she considered this visit a “fact finding mission,” looking into what causes the current problems facing Whiteclay, whether that be alcohol, family issues, social issues, or other root causes. Hayle and the others will be providing ideas on how to improve the community problems and helping to implement changes in the very near future.
As with other missions across the world, some options include building a “Honor Farm” where, instead of sitting in a jail cell, law violators would be assigned jobs caring for gardens and animals, essentially producing their own food while giving back to the community. AGRM has two food service training missions already established in the United States, where people are sent to gain their food service education and then are sent back home to help develop local areas.
There is plenty of undeveloped land and assets available around Whiteclay, said LHM Director, Bruce BonFluer. He has already looked at options of irrigation and land development to create a honor farm. BonFluer said that the people in and around Whiteclay are willing to help with a solution, saying, “If you don’t ask, you don’t receive.”
According to Stephen Walkup, V.P. of Programs and Ministries at The Crossing Denver Rescue Mission, the people of the mission are referred to as participants, not residents. He said it is essential that the people know they are part of the solution and included in all aspects of planning and development. “The government enables the people, but they need to empower them,” said Walkup, and that is what the missions intend to provide the people of Whiteclay. He gave raising a child as an example. A parent spends 18 years raising and showing their child what is expected of them and how to achieve their goals. Many people of the reservation have not had that guidance and opportunity throughout their lives, so they need to be shown how to achieve success.
The AGRM will hold it’s 99th convention later this month in Orlando, Florida, and Hayle and the others will be present to present their findings from the recent meeting in Whiteclay. She said she intends on making Whiteclay a priority for the mission, and hopes to implement positive changes in the near future.
Anyone wanting more information about AGRM or Lakota Hope Ministry may visit their respective websites at www.agrm.org and www.lakotahope.org. Persons interested in becoming involved may contact Bruce BonFluer at (308)862-4555.