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The heroes of Fort Peck

Kids on the Reservation grow up faster than most. They are exposed to hunger, scarcity, parenting challenges and absences, crime, violence, drugs, alcohol, and extreme hopelessness. Their outlook on life gets shaped very quickly by their surroundings. It’s very difficult to remain positive, make the right decisions, and hangout with good friends when most around you say…“why bother?”

Positive input has a huge effect on a child’s life. When there is absence of this positivity children may turn into jaded and apathetic adults who endure the hostile surrounding and don’t have any will to change their circumstance.

Or conversely, they turn to a life of crime, drugs, and violence.

Poverty has a way of just smothering you until you don’t see it anymore; it becomes a part of the landscape. At times it can seem hopeless.

Each year we see glimpses of people making a difference in the lives of these kids. Through clubs, sports, activities, and music, each kid is given an opportunity to latch onto something that gives purpose and meaning in their lives.

It gives them the tools to rise above their present circumstances.

It’s not really the activity, per se; it’s the attention and recognition these kids are given by adults supervising them.

Dr. Megan Cartillar of HPDP supervises a small group of kids that participate in indoor archery. It might not seem like such a big deal, but it is. It’s not just an activity, it’s the community these kids form and the kindness, supervision, and inspiration they receive from Dr. Megan. They have won multiple gold medals in archery.

I have met multiple men who take in kids that are homeless and at risk. Meeting these men, they are so humble and many don’t have much themselves, yet they open their hearts, homes, and lives to others in need. They have sweat ceremonies and initiate these teens and young adults into this ancient truth. They know that it’s hard for these kids to may it out of the circumstances but they continue to help because they’re inspired by the ones that have. They want the kids to follow in their footsteps.

I met a woman who takes in children, teens, and adults. Her small house is overflowing with people in need. For some of the people who live there, this woman is all they have. They have nowhere else to turn. She reminds me of an angel doing everything she can to help others less fortunate.

I was fortunate to know Darryl Red Eagle and was inspired how much he cared for the kids on the Fort Peck Reservation and beyond. Now his good friend Kenny Smoker and HPDP travel throughout the US and Canada for the benefit of these kids. If Darryl Red Eagle was alive today, he would be proud of the efforts of so many adults helping these kids and not wanting attention or applause.

They do it because it’s the right thing to do.

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