September 14, 2019

It has been over a year since I posted to my blog. At times Wanblee is my greatest joy and other times my greatest sorrow. I had quit posting because I wasn’t sure anyone really wanted to read all this. However, I have heard from several of you that you want me to keep posting so here we go.

Yes, Bessie has a bike. On our next trip, Jeff and I took Miss Bessie a bike (If you aren’t sure why this is important read the Bike for Bessie post).

Many trips have happened this past year including a trip to install new security cameras on the Families Working Together building which also allows Jeff to check in often to see how things are progressing. Fall break was a trip with students for the College of Saint Mary. The Senior Center interior was painted on this trip. There were also several other trips to deliver all the goods donated by so many of you. Thank you to the Lions Clubs from Omaha and Gretna for the donations of books, school supplies, and food. And the sewing center is up and running. Several star quilts were sold this summer. Thank you to the Omaha and Wichita Quilt Guilds for the material, batting, sewing machines and tools that have allowed this program to move forward.

Our new playgroundThis past year, the Wanblee kids raised money for a new playground (Please click on the photo for a larger image) in the Wanblee park. They made Christmas ornaments which they sold at both LCM and Knit Paper Scissors, my favorite knit shop. They sold eggs from the chicken project. The LCM mission group also raised money, the combination allowed a new playground to be erected in the park. It was a joint effort between our mission folks and Wanblee community people. Several of the young boys in Wanblee learned to use power tools and loved “Ratcheting”. Their word for using the tools.

Each trip to Wanblee makes me more aware of the challenges the kids must navigate daily. The addiction issues, the isolation, the poverty, the violence, lack of necessities like food impacts the lives of my children. At times these issues impact children I really love and care about. I feel powerless to improve their situation. This can be overwhelming. At other times I can see/focus on the changes happening within the community. Bob and Mary at Families Working together have created a safe haven for these children at the FWT building. Children in the community know they are safe there and will be fed if they are hungry. The chicken project ensures there are always eggs and the large community garden, a joint project between the FWT and the college helps to combat the food shortages. All changes powered by community change initiatives. My faith is where I turn when it is tough. I have learned to pray through it. My faith is where I turn when I am celebrating the joys. It is a sign that God is Good! I truly believe I have been called to be a part of this community in Wanblee, SD. It is not my job to force change, it is my role to help build bridges and facilitate. I have been placed there to be a part of the good.

So what are the future needs?

  1. Always food, Mary fills 200 backpacks of food each weekend so the children at Crazy Horse School and the local Head start have food on weekends. Donations can be made on the FWT website.

  2. Incentives for the school store, which help children to attend school both at the elementary and high school level. Children earn school bucks for attendance, which can be spent at the store. Items include new clothing, food, shoes, snacks, and school supplies. Attendance is still a big challenge at the school.

  3. School materials for the teachers such as whiteboard markers, construction paper, glue, calculators, educational games and computers are all needed.

I continue to work closely with Jodi Stoddard, high school principal, and Amelia Black Bear, elementary principal. Materials can be mailed directly to Crazy horse school attention either principal or given to me and I will make sure they are placed at the school.

Finally, thank you to all of you helped me celebrate my 60th Birthday. Thank you for the donations of food. This food will assist Mary in keeping the backpacks filled this fall.


prizes for Easter egg hunt IMG 1395 

Palm Sunday weekend found Jeff and I up on the Ridge to assist with the annual Easter Egg Hunt. After a late night on Friday of stuffing Easter Eggs and creating over 150 Easter Baskets, we woke to chilly weather on Saturday morning. The hunt was held at the Crazy Horse School. Over 100children arrived to hunt a field filled with eggs. Along with an Easter Basket for each child we had 7 bikes, 4 razor scooters, 4 trikes and 3 wagons.

Hidden in the eggs were handwritten small slips of paper with the big prizes written on them. After the Easter Egg Hunt the children returned to the building to collect their prizes, get an Easter basket or a basketball, a bag of food, shoes and of course a meal. (To see more photos please go to

We formed a line and the children came through 1 at a time with prize slips in hand. I looked up to see Bessie, one of the younger children I had worked with at Crazy Horse. Bessie looked behind me and saw the bikes. She looked me in the eye and said in her politest voice. “I would like a bike, please, Dr. Dee.”

I answered, “Bessie do you have a slip for a bike?”

Bessie hung her head and sadly said, “No! I’ll take an Easter Basket, thank you.” Bessie walked away with her little head hanging down.

I continued to greet children and pass out prizes and baskets. I looked up and there was Bessie back in line. This time she has a large sheet of lined paper in her hands. She walks up and hands me thepaper. “I’d like a bike, please Dr. Dee!” There on the paper in Bessie’s best primary handwriting in large letters are the word B-I-C. (bike) Bessie is a child who struggles daily at school. She beganthe year not knowing any letters and making little to no association between sounds and letters. At times Bessie refuses to read or write.

It broke my heart, “Oh Bessie, this is really good writing. It is not our prize slip, though. Ours are small. I’m proud of this writing. Look at B for the B sound and a I. Do you remember, long I has 2 vowels going walking or a magic E. Which do you think this is?”

“Magic E”, she says.
“Yes” I answered. “Now what else makes the ‘K’ sound?”
‘”Oh a K”, she says.
“Yes” I answered, “So how do we spell bike?”
“B-I-K-E “She shouts. “Now I’d like my bike, please.”
“OH, Bessie, I still can’t give you a bike. There is someone in line with a slip for the bikes.” Bessie walked away again, head hanging low. I held onto Bessie’s paper. I returned to the line of children, this time blinking back tears. The line seems endless and I look up and there is Bessie again in front of me. This time she has a small piece of paper. On it written in her best handwriting in B-I-K-E. (Still not our prize slip-but Bessie is trying). Once again, I have to refuse Bessie a bike. This time I look up and see Jeff watching the exchange. We exchanged looks and he knew I was struggling.

We gave out all the prizes that day and had a few baskets to send over to Potato Creek for the children there. No bike for Bessie, not yet anyway. So, I am sending out a plea. We need bikes, trikes, razor scooter and wagons. These can be new, or they could be the ones cluttering your garage-because your children have out grown them and they are still in good working condition. If you live near Omaha. I will gladly pick them up or will arrange for someone to pick them up. You can drop them off at our house. I will gladly deliver them to Wanblee. Please, contact me privately through my email for drop off or pick up services.   

A bike gives children freedom to leave homes at times that are not healthy. It gives them mobility to get to activities at school or the building if they miss the bus. We will be doing a clean-up day later this spring My goal is that children can earn a bike that day, if they help gather trash and plant flowers in Wanblee. We want them to see their efforts can make a difference. Please if you have a bike consider sending it our way.

December 7, 2017

Merry Christmas wreath on classroom doorYesterday was the Christmas Program. The fifth graders performed Twas the Night before Christmas as a Readers Theatre. They did very well, somewhat mesmerized by the microphone but otherwise, they performed well. Several of the parents videotaped it. I am hoping one will send me a copy. 

Today the kids each received a huge 3 foot Christmas Stocking filled with goodies. They had a wonderful time unpacking the stockings. At the end of the day, a huge box arrived in my classroom. It was filled with another goodie bag, these bags are to go home on Monday, after our Christmas Party.  I also have a goodie bag for the kids. Today they set up the plans for our Christmas Party. They will do a small gift exchange and wanted hot cocoa with marshmallows and Nachos for party food. A strange combination — but one we can work with. We have been reading a parody of The Christmas Carol, I'm not sure they are getting the cross-reference. They are enjoying the read aloud. The main character is a 5th grader named Scroogeman. He is a bully, so the book ties right into the social teachings we are doing.  

The children across the school are hyped up for Christmas. In fifth grade, we are doing review work in both reading and Math. They are on overload and so behavior has been challenging. We will have a full day of school tomorrow, to make up for days missed this semester. Usually, Fridays are only a 1/2 day. 

I spent the evening today packing up my things to go home and wrapping a few gifts to leave with special people here. I leave here soon, I am homesick and ready to be home. Saturday is the big apartment give away, I think everything in my apartment is spoken for. It will be interesting to see it all go out the door to new homes. Every item is needed where it is going, 

I have quite a list of projects I would like to get individuals involved with, so look out when I get home!!! I will be trying to set up volunteers to make each item on my list happens. There are so many needs here. I was able to finally meet the new director of the Senior Center. There are still considerable needs there. She is loving the new environment we were able to create there this past summer. She is ready to take it one step further by planning activities for the Seniors. Bob and Mary's building needs finishing, kitchens need stocking, the park could use a rehab and the list goes on and on.

Finally, a prayer request, MIke a man from the area who plays Santa for many events here, was diagnosed with bone cancer. He is in the hospital and will miss all the Christmas events. Please add him to your prayers. He will not be able to play his role as Santa this year and will be greatly missed! Pray for strength and healing. 

Thank you for all your support and prayers. Please, continue to pray that a teacher can be found to take my place in 5th grade and that I make it home safely. I will miss these kids!! I am ready to return home and stay for a least a few days. I'm looking forward to returning to College of Saint Mary in my new role. I have missed teaching! I look forward to teaching the 4 classes I will be teaching in the spring. 

Merry Christmas!


November 27,2017

It is hard to believe that I have 2 weeks left at Crazy Horse School in Wanblee. I have not added to the blog in the past few weeks. They were difficult weeks and I had to take time to grieve. On November 4th, we lost another family to a drunk driver, Waylan, Jerome's nephew, his wife Jaylene, a 3rd grade para at the school, and their 2 young sons were killed by a drunk driver. Waylan and Jaylene were on the way to Pine Ridge Hospital to take baby Waylon to the hospital. The baby was having an asthma attack. It was a difficult few weeks. Jaylene was loved by the kids and I had been working with her as a mentor. The funeral, wake and time here at school were difficult. My way of dealing with grief and talking with children about death was totally different than what was allowed at the school. Teachers were point blank told we were not to cry at school or talk with the children about it. We were to go on as if this had not happened. No matter how much I talked to the principal about this she would not budge. I was told this is how we handle this situation. Death here is a part of everyday life, our children need to see that. I took her research and talked and talked to no avail. I did talk with my kids about their feelings and answered questions. From my perspective, we just demonstrated to kids how little a life matters. To my thinking that ties right into the thoughts my students have expressed all semester that "we" don't matter. Jerome and Theresa are holding their own. This makes 9 members of their family killed in car accidents on the reservation since May. It is one of the reasons I refuse to drive up here after dark. Waylon worked with Bob and Mary on the building. He was like a son to them. Waylon's kids called them Uncle Bob and Aunt Mary. So, no shortage of people hurting here.

I took the Monday and Tuesday before Thanksgiving off. I went home to Omaha on Sunday. I needed time the week there to reset myself and to recuperate a bit. I am exhausted!! We spent Thanksgiving day as a family. Janna made the turkey. She was correct, she does a better turkey than I do. I am enjoying my leftovers here. We had a nice day together. The girls and I planned our mom and girl Birthday trip. Jeff and Janna got all the reservations set while I took a much-needed nap. The girls and I will be heading off to celebrate their 30th birthday in January. It is hard to believe they are they old!!!

While most of my children have made huge strides. I am working with one boy who continues to be difficult and at times violent or abusive. He can turn the classroom into an uproar in just a short amount of time. He goads others and encourages others to join in his disrespect and behavior. Most students do not, however he has 2 or 3 buddies who at times join in. This makes for difficult times and disrupts the learning of the other 25 students. I am meeting with his guardian tomorrow. Pray for me that I am able to communicate this situation and get him some additional help!

kids in hats

kids in hats

The fifth-grade class won the award for the most improved behavior. They were awarded a cafe day. They loved sipping hot cocoa and eating cookies instead of doing required academics. We did a paper chain around the room. Each time they were caught on task, helping others, getting work in on time etc... we added loops to the chain. Good old behavior modification at its best. After one month, their chain wrapped the room. As an additional reward, the children received hand knitted hats from my knitting buddies in Omaha. The photos are them in their hats. Thank you to my knitting friends for the wonderful hats!! The children loved that there were all so unique!

We are getting ready for the elementary Christmas Program on Wednesday, December 6. The fifth graders will be doing a readers theatre of Twas the Night before Christmas. We are working hard on reading fluency, stage presence and reading with a clear loud voice. We have all nailed two digit multiplication and are beginning to make headway on long division. My goal is that all will be dividing with consistency before Christmas Break.

Finally, I thank those of you who have sent me support via emails, texts, and phone calls. Thank you to all who have contributed to my ongoing list of needs here. My leaving will not take away the needs. Please know we continue to need items for rewards at school. Small toys, art materials, food such as breakfast bars, cheese and cracker packets etc.... A group from Omaha comes up every 3rd weekend of each month. I know I can send materials with them and I am planning on joining when I can. Wanblee in some ways has become a second home to me. I will miss my classroom children and my time here. I know my work here is not done. I will be returning and hope the contacts I have made here will help to meet the needs of the community.

horseshoe pumpkin
deer antler pumpkin

November 1, 2017

Dee, you are not in Omaha anymore!

You know you are in a rural area when you see pumpkins made out of other things. I have to admit I was not expecting horseshoes or deer antlers.

Halloween here was cold and clear.  We only had 3 teachers participate in Trunk or Treat—we had about 75 children and went through a large amount of candy. Upon returning home, my doorbell continued to ring until well after 9. I had about 20-30 more children by my apartment. Thank you to all who contributed candy. The caramel apples and movie went over well yesterday afternoon. I’m not sure how much of the movie was really watched, the kids enjoyed the down time and time to socialize with each other. Halloween Party a success!!

We woke up this morning with no water, it appears the whole town is out! The school will have a 2-hour late start, so I am home safe, warm, and very thankful for the case of drinking water and cooking gallons of water I have on hand. I find it hard to believe we will have water in just 2 hours and I don’t think 300 kids in one place without water will be happening.

Additionally, my car decided to give me a bit of grief. You know it is making bad noises when the people on the reservation look at you when you drive by. Jerome tells me I have "resified" my car.  It looks like I will be limping it into Kadoka and hope the mechanic there can figure out how to fix it. Jeff assures me it is not a big deal. I hate it when my car is not operating correctly! I really feel out of sorts to be so far from our mechanics, and without Jeff to deal with this! So, I am learning to be more independent. I always thought I was a very independent woman, but I realize just how much I depend on Jeff when things like this go on. It makes me much more appreciative of the life I usually lead.

I hope you all had a very Happy Halloween.


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