Thursday, May 6, 2010

Be the Shift, the Power is in Our Hands

By Krysta Daniels

There are places in the world where water and shelter are scarce commodities. In these places luxuries include shoes, clothing and expensive items like cell phones and laptops. It is a privilege to own these items for some, but for others they are just the way of life.

The ways in which you hear about these parts of the world that are struggling is through journalism and new media. Journalism, among other fields are now branching out to attract a wider range of audiences, has taken on a new type of media outlet called Twitter. Many newspapers and news organizations have a person managing their twitter account, which updates viewers with 140 character statuses on what is new involving their company. As a twitter user myself, I found information on a crisis going on right on US soil. Twitter can be a tool to finding out breaking news, fashion tips, environmental concerns and also express your feelings to a wider audience. The use of twitter is advocacy in its richest form. This is how I was fortunate enough to be educated on the crisis going on in South Dakota.

On February 1st, 2010 the South Dakota Lakota Sioux Reservation declared a state of emergency after a sever ice storm devastated the surrounding land. The storm toppled more than 3000 power poles and 13,000 people were without power and water.

(From left to right: Chaske Spencer, Kiowa Gordon, Gil Birmingham and Chairman Joseph Brings Plenty)

Twilight Saga star Chaske Spencer has been working closely with United Global Shift for the past few months to educate the public on environmental issues. Several of Spencer’s co-stars also came forward to record a new public service announcement video for the campaign, including Gil Birmingham ("Billy Black"), Julia Jones ("Leah Clearwater"), Justin Chon ("Eric Yorkie"), Boo Boo Stewart ("Seth Clearwater"), and Alex Meraz ("Paul").

“Due to recent storms, thousands of people are without water, food, power, and heat. The Native American people on the affected reservations are freezing and dying right now. Right here in the United States. The government’s response has been slow and inefficient. But this is not a Native American issue, this is a human issue. You can make a difference, you can make the difference. We don’t need your money. We need your voice. To create a sustainable solution beyond the immediate crisis. We the people have to take a stand and be heard. It’ll take you a few minutes, but you can impact generations to come. Be the shift,” said Chaske Spencer.

There are many issues that need to be addressed with the Lakota Sioux Reservation and their crisis. Shift the Power to the People has a very detailed website that states all the problems and issues, they include:

“1. The water system is outdated and operating at capacity, leaving the tribe no room for economic expansion and preventing its housing authority from building new homes. This allocation would put a long-term solution in place and give the Lakota Sioux people an opportunity to prosper. Without water -- the most basic building block of life and society -- the people of the Lakota Sioux Reservation have little hope of impacting their situation in a way where they may prosper and thrive.

2. To explain the need for water infrastructure, since the late 1950's the tribe was forced to move from their original Tribal head quarters, known as the Old Agency on Cheyenne River, which was located on the river bottom. The Tribal leaders during this time, built schools, hospitals and our own police department with tribal dollars. All is under water now. The book "Dammed Indians" shows how the Pick-Sloan Act forced tribal people up and down the Missouri River. This was done to make way for the Dam to make Hydro Power for the government, our precious resource of water is utilized to generate billions of dollars worth of electricity yearly, for the United States Government.

3. Currently, without a water infrastructure, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe cannot build new homes and cannot build on any new development. The system is keeping an impoverished nation, impoverished.

4. 86% Current unemployment rate.”

The website promotes users that come in contact with this information to spread the word and get this issue noticed by the government. The website also provides a letter you can send to President Obama about this crisis. You will also find a page on the website entitled donate. There are three ways you can donate to this cause. The first would be to donate by creating awareness of the current issues and conditions. The second is to donate by creating alternatives that promote dignity, justice, unity and accountability to existing systems. And the third way to donate would be to take action and support the creation of alternatives.

Charmaine Amor spoke out about her anger at the government for allowing this crisis to go on and the news media for not showing more coverage. “Well I think it is horrible and the government needs to be more productive with their spending habits. Our economy is falling apart. We are having education cuts and jobs cuts, yet their wages and lifestyles are the same. We need to focus on the true needs and not the wants of a lifestyle,” she said on twitter.

Susan Fihaki also said on twitter, “I don't understand why its taking so long for the U.S. Government to make good on their promise that was made to SD Lakota Sioux Reservation 30 plus years ago. Do they not understand that these people are suffering? They need water, heat and electricity just like the rest of us! I think its selfish of the government to hold back on things like this. I hope the government fixes this situation. think of the families here, the children, they are our future.

The governments response has been slow and insufficient. You can make the difference and create a lasting solution beyond the immediate crisis. It will only take you a few minutes and you can impact generations to come. If you are interested in helping this cause or others like it you can go here.

You can also contact them through their Twitter and Facebook page. If you want to make a change through your government then send a letter to your state representatives.

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