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By Rep. Lydia Whirlwind Soldier

A motion was made by an RST Council member on the Health Board to suspend the highly-successful free animal clinic temporarily, and the motion was approved.

This Animal Control Clinic is provided by the Community Health Representative (CHR) Program to our people, and in my opinion, a very much needed service for our people and our animals.

The CHR program hosts three FREE animal clinics a year with qualified veterinarian volunteers who donate their time to spay and neuter our animals here on the reservation.

I have seen them provide other services such as giving rabies shots, removing porcupine-quills from dogs, and sewing-up injuries.

These important services reduce overpopulation of stray animals in the community and reduces the risk of rabies exposure. Often, anyone bitten by an unimmunized animal needs a series of human-rabies vaccine shots to protect them in case of exposure.

Only last week, I heard a tribal member say they noticed there were not as many stray animals as there were before the free animal clinics.

I remember a time when animal statistics for the reservation showed there were enough dogs on the reservation for each child to own four dogs. RST hired a dog catcher at the time and many dogs were collected throughout our communities, leaving many children in tears.

I remember once, several children followed the truck carrying their dog to its doom. When the dogcatchers stopped to capture more dogs, the children quickly opened a door to the truck, letting their animal escape. The surprised dogcatchers came back in time to see only the little-dog owners and the hind-end of their dog, disappearing over a hill.

 It was shortly after the animal-catcher funds ran out, that the animal clinics began. Three clinics a year are now provided. Since then, 5,800 dogs and cats have been spayed and neutered, an average of 250 dogs and cats per clinic.

CHR Program has been working with the Prosecutor’s Office to strengthen and enforce the Animal Control Ordinance, which will be revised after it is put back in place with input from interested parties.

The coordinator for animal control is certified through the National Animal Control Association (NACA); NACA trains 90% of the people working with animals across the United States. The coordinator here started 2007 and completed his training in January 2012 and is now a certified animal control officer. His job entails 99% CHR work and 1% Animal Control Clinic. RST provides liability insurance for the program.

 Because of these clinics, there are not as many uncared for animals roaming the streets today; though there are still homeless animals running loose.

We can be more responsible for our animals by taking them to the FREE CLINIC, and making sure unwanted puppies and kittens are not deserted on country roads. We need to provide better homes for our dogs and teach our children proper care, kindness, and comfort, for their animals.

If animal control clinics were to be permanently discontinued, the same problem of overpopulation and risk of rabid animals in our communities, would most certainly return in short order.

This service is needed. I am hoping people aren’t saying, “This is politics as usual.”

On a lighter note

Todd County School District students presented their video entitled: “We Are More Than That,” at a recent RST Council meeting.

Several weeks ago, we saw an ABC documentary by Diane Sawyer about poverty on the Pine Ridge Reservation. It was disturbing that we are [predominantly] portrayed AGAIN as victims, abusers, alcoholics, druggies, criminals, living in trash heaps, etc.

Statistics show that we are the poorest, we have the highest suicide rate, dropout rate, highest-in-diabetes, and the list goes on.

We do not have to accept these statistics, we CAN change our world.

It makes me proud that our students had the foresight to show the world that we do have a proud history, culture, strong values, and that they are just the beginnings of the change that will come about through them.

This video appeared on YouTube with thousands of hits internationally showing the world that we are a proud and flourishing nation and that we do have control over our lives and our destiny—through education: the sky’s the limit.

I am so proud of our students. These are our future leaders and I hope to see them leading our Sicangu Nation when they get older.

We need that foresight and appreciation for our culture, history and values that they portrayed in [making] this video.

Thank you.

Yes, “We ARE More Than That!”

—Rep. Lydia Whirlwind Soldier is a delegate on the Rosebud Sioux Tribal Council for Grass Mountain Community.

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