Embracing Children On The Pine Ridge Reservation

Jan 9, 2017

The ultimate goal of the “Embracing Our Children’s Health” group is to make children feel comfortable with who they are, to be free of shame and to be proud that they’re Lakota.
Credit Courtesy “Embracing Our Children’s Health”
When two severely malnourished and abused girls were found on the Pine Ridge Reservation last November….community members near and far gathered to take action. The newly-formed “Embracing Our Children’s Health” group focuses on empowering, encouraging, assisting, and supporting existing programs and organizations... for children and families on the reservation.
Founder, Patty Pourier, says members are determined to make the organization an “action based group.”  

“That’s one of the things that we said at our first meeting,” Pourier recalls. “Teddy Roosevelt’s motto was ‘Action! Action! Action!’ You know…there can be tons of meetings but if nothing ever happens it’s pretty useless.” 

“Embracing Our Children’s Health” was founded to prevent child abuse on the Pine Ridge Reservation.
Credit Courtesy “Embracing Our Children’s Health”

The group has left the gate at full speed. Members are establishing Collective Action Forums to bring children’s services on Pine Ridge together and determine how actions by one impact actions by another.

“Safe Houses” for children are being created in each of the reservation’s 9 districts. And a “Caring For Relatives” program is in the works with volunteers acting as local resources in communities for parents…programs and health services.  

Patty Pourier says “Embracing Our Children’s Health” is also about to start intensive training for foster parents in conjunction with the Oglala Sioux Tribe’s Child Protection Services. Pourier notes that the Indian Child Welfare Act does exist to protect Native children from being taken from the reservation and losing all identity with the culture.

“Having said that,” comments Pourier, “it’s also important for people to know that you can be a foster parent to a Native child…as long as there is a community of Natives within the region or within the town or the area that you’re fostering that child.”

Along that same mindset “Embracing Our Children’s Health” has a Lakota Spiritual Chairman to ensure cultural traditions are a part of the group’s programs and each child’s development.

Although the primary focus is children between the ages of birth and 5 years…reviving the traditional coming of age ceremonies for boys and girls is also on the agenda. All Native American ceremonies were banned in the 19th century and restored by the American Indian Religious Freedom Act in 1978.

Pourier says the ultimate goal is making children feel comfortable with who they are, to be free of shame and proud that they’re Lakota.

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