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Few are guilty, but all are responsible.—Rabbi Abraham Heschel

okiciyap 2013 quilt auction
Okiciyap Quilt 2013
Current high bid in the auction: $1000

Currently known PayPal donations: In excess of $1,400

Current tally of check donations: Believed to be in excess of $1,000.

I remember the first time I visited an Indian reservation. It took place over thirty years ago, which means I would have been in my early twenties; I was in the company of an older Mohawk woman friend of mine and our respective partners. We did not go to my friend’s home reservation, which is several hundred miles away from here, but to one that was close by. She had established some ties there, the details of which I no longer remember, but I do recall it was a major gesture of trust on her part for her to be willing to take us to visit.

The sections of the reservation we drove by were probably representative enough of that particular place. Small houses, often trailers, set off the dirt road by a grass track to a shed or outbuilding. Most of them looking like they needed something done to the exterior, whether painting or a screen door or some ordinary repair that clearly had waited for a long time already. No porches, so no shaded place to sit. A few chairs outside, here and there.  Not many trees close to the houses, or flowers. Lots of old cars and trucks, many of them clearly not functional or only barely so. Rusted out, with no place better to put them. It was summer time, so the grass was greenish—but no one watered it, so no sprinklers for kids to cool down in either. I don’t remember seeing many bikes or toys. I don’t remember seeing any basketball hoops. That would have required a smooth surface, like pavement, and there weren’t any. I don’t remember seeing any vegetable gardens, though they probably existed.

In sum, I saw a place that seemed to my ignorant, uninformed eyes to be just barely hanging on. Remember, this was over a generation ago, in a locale that back then had some access to social services, and when people without much formal education had better prospects of off-rez employment. While some things have improved, in other ways things have gotten worse.

A white girl who had grown up in middle-class suburbia, I had done enough to be familiar with urban poverty, to a point, but this kind of rural poverty was different. It seemed bleak. I was shocked, saddened, and dismayed. I am sure that is also why, in part, my friend had some trepidation about taking us there, not knowing how we would respond to this place that she considered a home away from home, and that was indeed home for people she cared about and felt akin to.  Now, my friend did take pains to remind us that not all riches are material, and that the community bonds there were real and the traditions were honored as best as people knew how. We had also already often discussed the terrible impact down to the present day of centuries of Indian-hating, and that the Native people living today demonstrated “survivance” (that is, survival plus resistance years before Vizenor coined the term) against very high odds.

Besides all that we took in that day, my friend had her own set of emotional reactions to what she was inviting us to see.  Anger, that her people had to get by with such meager resources. Frustration, that there were no obvious ways to make things dramatically, quickly better. Grief, that so many people suffered so greatly because of the privations that were their day-to-day reality. Apprehension, that we the outsiders from the dominant culture might not have the insight to see how much effort it took the people to sustain what they had, but that instead we would judge the people themselves and hold them unfairly responsible for their harsh living conditions.

I’m not sure that my young self lived up to my friend’s best expectations for me, though I have some hope I didn’t fail entirely. Certainly the memory of that visit, and of the relatively few times since then that I have been on other reservation territory, has informed my activism and teaching in later years, I hope in a productive way. We all need to seize the teachable moments that appear to us, even if we don’t have any way of knowing what will come of them.

In honor of that risk taken by my friend so many years ago, please join me below the orange fry bread squiggle to consider the second half of Heschel’s aphorism.

What does it mean to be responsible? And why are we all responsible?

I would argue that examining, and manifesting, “responsibility” comprises one of the key unacknowledged objectives of this website. Over and over again, the diaries we post reflect our thinking about the responsibility we owe to ourselves; to other people, whether family, friends, or strangers;  to our own  communities, whether local, distant, or virtual; to the nested ecosystems of which we are a part; to the planet as a whole.

The ostensible mission of this site is to elect more and better Democrats. We have fierce, ongoing debates internally about what that means, who does it best, and how we can best help them politically. But I think we’d all agree that it is not simply a matter of electing candidates with a D attached to their names, because there are criteria for “better” Democrats that we hold dear (even if we are far from reaching a consensus about them).

By way of comparison, let me observe that one of the ways that we strive to distinguish ourselves from our Republican opponents is that we believe in mutual support. The “You’re On Your Own” principle that seems to drive much of current Republican policy is anathema to us because it violates our cherished belief that we as human beings are indeed responsible to each other, and for each other.

For this reason, the participation by members of this site in providing material support to the people of the Cheyenne River reservation, through our contributions to Okiciyap (We Help) is one of the most important ways we express our political convictions, especially as they relate to social responsibility.

Most Kossacks are not Native people. Many Kossacks, for that matter, may not know any Native people personally or have had any contact with any aspect of contemporary Native culture in all its variety and glory. But that does not mean that we are not responsible for contributing toward the well-being and survival of Native people, both individually and within their own nations.

Why do I believe we are all responsible? I should step carefully here, because the last thing I want to do is to reinscribe the image of Native people as dependent and child-like, which is one of the oldest, worst and most pernicious of the racist attitudes that have been used to rationalize countless abuses under the cover of law. I also want to make sure to avoid the other extreme to this dehumanizing attitude toward Native people—that they are somehow wiser and hence bound to save Western people from their own excesses, especially in regard to abusing our ecosystems.

Instead, I base my argument on two relatively simple considerations. First, we in the U.S. are here in Indian Country, living and prospering to the extent that we do as part of a very long-standing imperialist project that has dispossessed Native nations by the hundreds without appropriate compensation. As strong as that statement is in some respects, I recognize that it is also a profound understatement regarding centuries of genocide that I have no words to represent. I would welcome more serious discussions of economic justice on the macro scale, but in the meantime, I believe it is essential for each of us to do what we can to redress this wrong for the sake of the generations who are now here and those who are yet to come.  

Second, I think it is in my personal best interest as well as in our collective best interest for there to be relatively small income and wealth disparities among our country’s population. “We all do better when we all do better” might be a catchy slogan, but it has a deep core of truth all the same. It hurts me to have some people grossly more wealthy than I, and other people seriously poorer than I. Again, I’d welcome a general, national conversation about this topic, which does get a fair amount of attention on this site. In the meantime, it’s up to each of us to try to equalize matters as best as we can through our activism as well as through allocation of our personal resources.

The subset of people on this site who regularly read the Okiciyap-related diaries are, I suspect, already convinced of the importance of supporting this project. So my challenge to my readership tonight has three parts.  

First, I’d like to ask you to take one more step than you might ordinarily take to spread the word about this particular cause, funding the Okiciyap pantry. It does not matter to me whether you make use of this diary or of one of the other, more beautiful and/or powerful ones in the auction campaign. There are several that describe the quilt in loving detail, for example, and others that provide a few more specifics about Cheyenne River and Georgia Little Shield, the late lamented founder of the Okiciyap project, as well as other diaries that reference the history of U.S.-Indian relations—just to mention some of the many impressive and inspiring diaries from this campaign. (See the list of diaries below.) Okiciyap needs money to feed the people, it’s as basic as that. The more people we get to read these calls for help, the more funds we can generate on their behalf.

Second, I’d like you to consider making a direct donation to Okiciyap if the high bid in the auction has become too daunting for you. On Saturday, I pledged $100 toward Okiciyap as part of this campaign, which I am hoping to be able to earmark toward my special bidding group. If that group does not come to fruition, I will still be making the donation. Those of you who have not yet pledged, donated, or bid on the quilt: NOW is a good time to do so.

address for direct donations:    Okiciyap (we help) Food Pantry
                                                    P.O. Box 172
                                                    Isabel,  SD  57633      

As I understand them, the perennial sociopolitical priorities for indigenous Americans are for self-determination and tribal sovereignty, which would require the U.S. to honor the thousands of treaties that have been breached over the past several hundred years. (I’d be happy to be corrected if I’m misrepresenting here.) There are many, many ways in which non-Native allies can be of support to Native peoples who are still struggling on multiple fronts to survive, to thrive, and to recreate their own cohesive, self-sustaining communities. We are fortunate on this site to have some of this information regularly provided to us by the people who are responsible for Native American News and Views, particularly Meteor Blades, Aji, and navajo, among others. But above and beyond the political interventions and activism we can support, one basic and unremitting need that shows no sign of going away soon is the need for food and other fundamental necessities of life.

Thus, my third challenge to you all tonight is to encourage you to make an ONGOING pledge to the Okiciyap (We Help) project—if, that is, you have not already done so. My husband and I are hereby pledging $40/month for Okiciyap, which we hope will represent a floor, not a ceiling, for our contributions. It takes somewhere between $1200-$1600 plus hours of volunteer labor to make a pick-up from the nearest large food distribution center. Forty people donating $40/month, or eighty people donating $20/month, and so on, would mean such a trip could be made monthly (at least in terms of the money it takes to do so). The more regular and consistent support they get, the better they can plan, budget, and allocate their resources. The more people they can feed. The better the chances that people can survive.

Without further ado, here are the particulars you need to make a quilt auction bid or (again) to make a donation.



1) Auction begins on Wednesday, March 27th. Bids will first be accepted in the diary published that day by GreyHawk.  The final day of the auction is Sunday, April 7, 2013, at approximately 7:00 p.m. CT. The last two+ hours of the auction will be held online from 5:00 p.m. central until 7 p.m. central in the DKQG diary.  If  no higher bids are posted by 7:10 p.m. the best bid before 7:00 p.m. central will be declared the winner.  

1.1)The auction will end as soon as no higher bids are posted within 10 minutes of the highest bid received. Final bids will be decided by the time posted on the message. The decision of the judges on winning bid is final.

1.2)After the final bid is decided and the successful bidder notified, the donation to the pantry will be made, and once confirmed,  BeadLady will send the quilt to the lucky winner!  The pantry is a 501-c-3 non-profit organization, this donation will be tax deductable.

2) Bids will be accepted by making comments in diaries, as well as by kosmailing weck and/or glorificus at any time to make arrangements for anonymous or absentee bidding.

2.1)  If you wish to remain anonymous, you may set that up with weck or glorificus in advance, and we will use a number when we post your bids in a diary.  (example = Anon-02)

2.2)  If you want to leave an absentee bid, you may do that with either weck or glorificus.  We will need to know the highest amount you are willing to bid and we will place those bids for you in 10 dollar increments as the bidding progresses throughout the auction.  If the bidding goes higher than you first authorized, you may contact the same person again with a new top limit, or bid in the diaries. Absentee bids should be
placed with weck or glorificus as far in advance as possible.

3) Bidding by groups, businesses or organizations is allowed, as long as only one contact name is used.  Please let us know the details of your group, business or organization and who is the official spokesperson for the group or organization.

4) Bidding is in minimum increments of $10.00. You may bid in higher increments that can be divided evenly by $10.00.

4.1) Bids must be in U.S. funds.

5) weck and glorificus will do their best to inform all bidders of the newest high bid.  To receive this information in you Kosmail box, please ask weck or glorificus to join Daily Kos Quilt Guild Auction Alliance group.  

5.1) We will send groupmail to everyone (Each member will be made an editor for the duration of the auction)  Reminder*A groupmail won't show up on your main page; you will have to check for messages manually.*

6) A PayPal link will be included for other donations to Okiciyap.  While we cherish the thought that you may choose to donate to Okiciyap during the auction, there is no advantage in the auction to doing that.  It is not necessary to donate through the PayPal to Okiciyap to participate in the auction. To use the paypal link, click on the link that goes to the Okiciyap Pantry's new website.

7)  The winning bidder can make payment arrangements that are not through PayPal with weck or glorificus.  We know that some folks don't use Paypal.

8)  The winning bidder will have 48 hours to confirm their success.  After 48 hours, the judges may, at their discretion, offer the second highest bidder the opportunity to redeem the quilt.  The decision of the judges is final.

address for direct donations:    Okiciyap (we help) Food Pantry
                                                    P.O. Box 172
                                                    Isabel,  SD  57633      

And here's one more donation possibility, from weck's comment below:

Another automatic way to donate is with the IGive button.  IGive gets online retailers to donate a % of any sale made to someone who has the button.  My button is always in the background, It works with more than 1000 online retailers, and it costs you nothing.  The IGive people accumulate the donations and send Okiciyap a check several times a year.
March 17        BeadLady                    Photos of the Finished Okiciyap Quilt

March 17        glorificus                     The Auction Rules  Time for the Big Show!!

March 18        Glen the Plumber           Helping the Helpers

March 19        GreyHawk                     Twelve is a Community Number

March 20        Aji                               Feeding the Body, Feeding the Spirit                                                                                            Okiciyap (We Help)

March 21        Pam from Calif               We Quilt for Others

March 22        winifred3                      Of Quilts and History

March 23        BeadLady                      Okiciyap Auction Quilt

March 24        leu2500                        Why this quilt ?

March 25        One Pissed Off Liberal      Okiciyap   We Help

March 26        Meteor Blades                Help the People of Cheyenne River

March 27        GreyHawk                      Let the Bidding Begin

March 27        radical simplicity              We Help   That's What It's All About

March 28        Horace Boothroyd III        Two-Spirit and Okiciyap

March 28        Denise Oliver Velez           This Quilt is Not Invisible

March 29        Patriot Daily News Clearing House    Sharing the Quilters' Stories

March 29        glorificus                         Okiciyap - Feeding the Hungry

March 30        Dave in Northridge             Help the People of Cheyenne River

March 30        Zen Trainer                      Why a Food Bank ?   By the Numb3rs

March 31        weck                               Okiciyap Food Pantry Still Needs Us,                                                                             Please Donate or Bid Today

April 1            GreyHawk                          Strength in Numbers, Synergy and Symbols


April 2            navajo

April 3            Smoh

April 4            Bob Johnson

April 4            Grizzard

April 5            RLMiller

April 5            nomandates

April 6            mollyd

April 6            ninepatch

April 7            betson08                             Tribute to Georgia

April 7            Pam from Calif                       Final Auction Bidding Diary

EDITED at 9:56 EDT to add the IGive link above.

Originally posted to Okiciyap (we help) on Mon Apr 01, 2013 at 05:03 PM PDT.

Also republished by DK Quilt Guild, Community Fundraisers, and Daily Kos Quilt Guild Auction Alliance.

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