Social programs are just that… social. In fact, the basis of any social program is to take part in society, both philanthropists and recipients. I think that we have forgotten what it means to be social. I like to think of a well-designed social program as an invitation extended to a marginalized community to partake in society as an equal member. Only when we see ourselves as equal in title and domain can we ever think to overcome racial and ethnical biases (not to mention other more generic stereotypes).
The Lakota Nation has certainly met with strife, both on and off the various reservations. I have always understood that they have unique problems stemming from our early misunderstandings and stereotypes of savage people. In fact, not all of us were victim to this view. It was the Iroquis, after all, after whom we modelled our constitutional governement, and it was a majority of the tribes of every Nation that have assisted us in battle even when feeling oppressed.
The Cheyenne River Sioux are affected by a poor economy, including poverty, elevated rates of unemployment, and a stagnant workforce. In addition, many Native Americans living on reservations are also prone to mental disorders, such as depression, substance abuse, and suicide. Native Americans certainly have it tough, and though many are able to find their way within and without the majority culture, whether through acculturation or community-wide boons such as gaming and resource development, many falter.
The fact that Native Americans are genetically prone to alcoholism, are sociologically prone to depression, and are overall prone to health disparities, suicide, and homicide reveals that there needs to be a solid and comprehensive approach to their problems. The Cheyenne River Sioux, however proud they might be of their culture, are not immune.
So, how do I help? First, examining the cultural and genetic aspects of Native Americans in the context of substance abuse allows me to educate myself on cultural specifics that may assist me in treating a Native American patient. Also, understanding their plight allows me to consider them politically, even from afar.
As much as I would like to hop on a plane (actually, I would probably drive, anyway) and assist the Cheyenne River Sioux hands-on, it is not practical. I do believe in charity, but I certainly do not have the resources to make a meaningful contribution. I will, however, remain a proponent from within the majority culture. I believe awareness of the problems that they face will be a key in allowing others to offer them the assistance to rise above their plights to seek happiness.