October 2007 Archives

Making Life Better

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Every time I write a new training course, I try to keep a picture in my mind of someone for whom this could make life better. If I can't see that person, then I think I must be heading in the wrong direction.

When I think about the Family Life & Disability course I just revised this week, the person who comes to mind is somebody's mom on the reservation, any reservation, really. She is sitting in the computer lab at the tribal college and it is bitterly cold outside. The nearest library with information on her child's disability is 130 miles away and she really doubts her car would make it that far, the heater isn't too reliable and the money for gas is money she needs to buy groceries.

She has been to the IEP meeting at Head Start but left with more questions than answers. Why does her child act the way he does? What can she do about it?

Three weeks ago, she took her toddler to the IHS clinic, they referred her to a specialist and now they say her child has Autism. She doesn't even know what Autism is. It's not like Diabetes or arthritis - no one she knows ever had Autism or has a child with Autism. She asks her mother and her aunties but everyone just gives her a blank look. So, she came to this workshop looking for answers.

Along with being somebody's mom, she's somebody's daughter and somebody's granddaughter and someone else's great-niece. One of those people has diabetes, has a visual impairment and may need to have a limb amputated. She doesn't mind providing care for her family. It is just one of those things you do, like washing bottles and changing diapers when you have a baby. If it needs to be done, she'll do it. She'd like a little bit more information, though,  on how to help with exercises or provide skin care or make a person who is bed bound more comfortable.

That mom on the reservation with the old car, attending class in the winter, is smarter than people give her credit for. Contrary to what a lot of people think, she does know how to use a computer. She has a computer at home, but it is not very new and her only connection to the Internet is through dial-up. All of the web pages she needs on a CD sure would be nice. She could read them after her baby has fallen asleep and once she has gotten grandma comfortable. She's the one in the family that everyone always seems to call for advice, and her sister, Sue, had asked if she could try to find out something for her boy who is in special ed and is not doing so well in school this fall. He wants to drop out. Does that disability training class maybe have something on finding jobs for people with disabilities or keeping them in school? For the need to help out sister, Sue, we have added a Virtual Library, Reading Room and "Learn More" pages to the CD where she can do research.

Research? Yes, that mom is pretty smart and pretty dedicated to learning whatever she can to help her family. It is her strength and determination that are the best hope for the next generation. I am sure of it, because, as I write up the numbers for our final report for the Disability Access project, I realized that I have met 479 of those moms over the past two years. The work we do is to make their lives better because if anyone ever deserved a good life, it is them!

Who Reads this Stuff?

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aged_students.jpg A year ago, our site received about 90 visitors a day. Now, we receive nearly a thousand, which means that now, as many people see our website in three days as visited it in an entire month in 2006. Who are you people? To turn the tables, we thought we would look at YOU.

One place that references our website is the National Clearinghouse on Rehabilitation Training Materials .These are very interesting folks who have over 300,000 pages digitized in their on-line library. Along with our Tiyospaye newsletters, they seem to have added a number of other articles on Native Americans to their library, listed under recent acquisitions. This is good to see, because the amount of information available on the Internet for Native Americans with disabilities is very limited.

The Spirit Lake Vocational Rehabilitation Project links to our site. They are dedicated to helping Native Americans with disabilities get and keep jobs. Years ago, we worked with them on a project funded by the North Dakota Council on Developmental Disabilities, called the Native American Family Support Project. This course, a combination of computer-based and in-person training developed into what is now our Disability Access training project.

Wow! If you look at that site and where we are now, we have come a long way. Still, my to do list for upgrading and fixing our current disability training projects is a mile long. It is nice to see the people at Spirit Lake VR still remember us, link to  us and keep up those old web pages.

Although they don't like to us, I think they only link to other articles within their own site, we are included in wikipedia, under the entry on the Spirit Lake Tribe. That made us feel as if we were really important.

The TechConnectND newsletter has links to Spirit Lake Consulting in a few of its editions, congratulating us on our latest Small Business Innovation Research awards.

NativeWeb, resources for Native communities, including Native News, a  native wiki, blogs, etc. has us listed in their resource directory for Native Americans and other indigenous people.

In summary, I guess it is no surprise, given that we do computer-based training for Native Americans with a focus on disability training that our links are a convergence of three sources, disability  references, Native American references and technology sites.

As we have been adding a lot lately on Ethical Training for Indian Nations and on Courageous Leadership training,  it will be interesting to see if next year we have a lot more visits from ethics sites and business resources. One would expect that, but one thing I have learned is that things often don't turn out how you expect. For example, we expected by now we would have 10,000 visitors a month to our website. It is approaching 10,000 visitors a week.

I really better get started on that list of website improvements now!

For a little company, we are really doing a lot these days. I just uploaded the first 30 pages of our second draft of the Ethical Training for Indian Nations course. This was called Tribal Leaders with Character in its first draft. There are 31 pages of that up.

Now, 61 pages may not seem like a lot, but it also includes an 8-page newsletter, two PowerPoint presentations of about 25 slides each and links to sites for more information. Then there was the review of mountains of information that we did not include for reasons from it was total nonsense written by someone claiming to be the sole non-Indian disciple of the famous medicine man Laughing Buffalo to academic discussions of whether good exists to really good articles we just haven't figured out how to fit in. Keep checking back to the site, because, over the next few days, I will be adding another thirty or forty pages that we have in draft form and merging over what I think we should keep from the first draft. As always, I would be very happy to read your comments and suggestions, just email me at annmaria@spiritlakeconsulting.com .

On our Disability Training projects, Erich has been all over the map. After last week at Standing Rock, he gave a presentation this morning on the Spirit Lake Reservation on rights of students in special education. He has a second presentation scheduled with Spirit Lake Head Start, but all of our training is open to the public. If you have a child from age three through twenty-one that you think is not having his or her needs met by the school and you cannot seem to get your concerns addressed, please call Erich at (701) 351-2175 or email him at ericstev@spiritlakeconsulting.com . At the end of this month, on Halloween, no less, Erich will be at the Trenton Indian Service Area doing staff training. As far as I know, he has no plans to come dressed in costume. To some people, I guess he is scary enough just as is. A few years ago, we were attending a conference in Arizona and  Erich stopped by my hotel room  to pick up some documents. The in-room sitter the hotel had provided for my baby would not let him in. When I returned, she was all shook up and said, "Some big Indian man was here looking for you. He claimed to know you." I told her that I hoped she had been polite to him because that was my boss. Not sure what she made of that!

I will be in San Diego at the National Even Start Association conference on October 29th, presenting on Young Children with Disabilities. Drop by, say "Hello" and pick up a free newsletter and CD.

Data analysis: Personally, I enjoy statistical programming. I know just saying that makes some people want to throw things at me, but I do. It is quiet, thoughtful work, kind of like putting together a jigsaw or doing a crossword puzzle, neither of which I ever have the patience to finish by myself. We have the largest sample of Native Americans with disabilities ever surveyed on information use. All those newsletters that get put in mailboxes for everyone from Head Start through the tribal college - does anyone really read them? How often do people actually stop and look at those thousands and thousands of flyers that get put up in tribal administration buildings, casinos and grocery stores around the country? Are Indians wired? How many people on reservations use the Internet every day? Read my article and you will know. I think the answers will surprise many people.

Last but certainly not least is the final report for the Title III Language and Learning Institute, which I plan to complete today, and the final report for the Disability Access project, on which all data has now been collected, score and entered. Why am I writing this blog ... I better get to work! Oh, wait, I am at work.

Joe the Tribal Member

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I highly recommend to everyone checking out the latest posts on the Spirit Lake Forum, Ethical Questions section, Joe the Tribal Member. For those of you who live on reservations, it will prove amusing and I am sure you can add your own "Joe" stories. For those who have never lived on reservations, you will find the stories educational.

As Dr. Longie states in his introduction,
"Joe appears to have super natural powers. He seems to be working at several jobs at the same time, and I know I met him at each reservation I visited."

Like Santa Claus, he seems to be able to be on several reservations all at the same time. Of course, Joe is a composite, made up of pieces from many different stories we have heard from reservations around the country.

Why do we need Joe?
The sad fact is that many people are afraid to speak out. They are afraid of losing their jobs, afraid of the retribution they will face in a small community if they object to the person using tribal funds to travel on what is no more than an expensive vacation for themselves and their family members. They fear defending a co-worker in a meeting because then the abusive manager may turn on them. They don't want to point out that unqualified relatives of tribal council members are being hired, not doing their jobs or not coming  to work at all, because, in some communities, they have a very real concern that the result will be the complaining employee is fired, not the incompetent one.

It is our hope that by hosting this forum where tribal members can speak up anonymously, eventually, enough people will see that they are not alone and feel it is safe and acceptable to post their opinions under their own name. For now, if you would like to be anonymous, feel free to LOGIN  using the username anonymous and the password tribaljoe .

We apologize for the inconvenience, but we kept receiving posting by spambots on our forum, some of it graphic pornography, and we eventually were forced to go to registration-only for posting.

Anyone can still read the forum without registering.