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Urgent Need in Wagmíza Wakpála

Updated: Mar 16

By Jim Drevescraft, Volunteer Writer

I write today, as in the past, about one of the crown jewels that One Spirit has created to help the Oglala Lakota achieve the positive lifestyle all of us want for our fellow citizens. Much of what we take for granted is not always available to people trapped in the merciless grasp of poverty and hopelessness that, sadly, is often the lot of our fellow Native American citizens, on whose stolen lands we all dwell. The crown jewel is the Allen Youth Center, located in the town of Allen, population 926, which has the unfortunate distinction of being the poorest community in the United States. Wagmíza Wakpála (“Cow Creek’) is the Lakota name for Allen, and was immediately one of the focuses of One Spirit as Jeri Baker began our work in 2005.

While the Food Program became a crucial first step to provide healthy nutritional choices in a food desert, time showed that Allen had no suitable place for community gatherings and connection, especially for the young people. Lacking such a location, it was all too likely that kids (and adults) could fall into the traps of violence, drugs, alcohol abuse, and alienation. As funds became available from the generosity of our regular small donor supporters, as well as charitable grants, Allen residents like John Dubray, Gus Yellowhair and others led the way in helping One Spirit build and open the Allen Youth Center in 2015. Working with Allen residents, we made the Center a safe place for kids to learn traditional Lakota skills such as drum making and weaving, to have a place to play and experience the joy of making music, learning self- expression through art, sewing, cooking, baking, and simply developing a sense of community and pride.

Fast forward to the present: AYC has become a gathering place for children and adults, offering food support, classes in many skills, sports facilities from archery to riding, a recently- completed basketball court, and so much more. One Spirit provides, among other things, daily meals for the kids of Allen, has installed a laundromat (giving folks the chance to wash clothing without long journeys), community holiday meals and celebrations, and more. The Center thus helps the youth of Allen receive the same opportunities we take as given for our families and children.

All of this makes Wagmíza Wakpála a more cohesive, safe, friendly place for its people. In this way, One Spirit is again working to our goal of Helping the Lakota Help Themselves within the love and respect we feel for the traditional culture of a remarkable people. We are also welcoming the return of an outstanding former manager for the facility, Jennifer Richards, to take the Center to new heights.

Naturally, none of this is achieved without the donations and grant proceeds we depend on the keep the wheel rolling. While I can certainly relate to the challenges we all face economically, as I live on a fixed income, the overwhelming feeling of satisfaction I feel when I make my monthly donation to One Spirit is magnified by knowing that the people of Allen, through the Allen Youth Center that all of you support with your own generosity, are being able to live better, happier, and more productive lives.

Understanding that it may currently be a little harder to keep up your gifts to One Spirit, bear in mind that every dollar helps, and is used to support our programs. Most of us are volunteers, so your generosity is not (as with some charities) being used for large compensation for CEOs and officers: we use it wisely and mindfully.

Please help us keep AYC going with a kind donation. Feel free to earmark it for Allen,

or for all of One Spirit’s tireless efforts to help our Oglala Lakota sisters and brothers.



The Allen Youth Center was made possible and continues to function thanks to the support of the Lefty Jones Band.


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