Their Dreams Will Be Our Future,
New Porcupine Children’s Library
on the Pine Ridge Reservation
© March 11, 2008 Porcupine, South Dakota
Photos courtesy of Pathways to Spirit Non-Profit Organization
The Pine Ridge Oglala Lakota [Sioux] Reservation in South
Dakota is among the poorest of all American Indian
Reservations. Roughly the size of the State of Connecticut, its
11,000 square miles are home to about 35,000 people with an
average annual income of less than $4,000, an 80-85%
unemployment rate, and an estimated life expectancy of 45-48
years old. There are no libraries on the Reservation beyond
small, limited school libraries in the mostly-underfunded
schools while Rapid City, the closest town of any size, is 120
With conditions such as these, there is little disposable
income for luxuries such as books for children. Yet books
are often the “stuff” out of which dreams are made. Dreams
are critically important. Unquestionably, it is the dreams
of children which will create the future of our world.
Twelve years ago, a non-profit organization, Pathways to
was founded by Carmeen and Franklin Klausner and Jan McBroom
in Fort Collins, Colorado. It was created after they had
visited the Pine Ridge Reservation in 1996 and saw for
themselves the staggering conditions that existed there.
Over the years, they and their volunteers have tried to
assist the Lakota People by filling practical and urgent
needs such as used mobile homes, sewing machines, furniture,
large and small appliances, utility assistance, a small
scholarship program, and other basic items. All things
desperately needed on Pine Ridge.
Yet, despite their focus on basic needs, Carmeen Klausner,
President and Executive Director of Pathways to Spirit,
nurtured a personal dream for six years. Her hope was for
the organization to build a community children’s library on
the Reservation. Despite not having enough funds to buy
land or a building, she steadily collected children’s
books. It was her dream, and her prayer, and she refused to
Then, in 2007, Ms. Klausner was contacted by Annette
Francke, the woman who had founded the Lorraine David
Children’s Library eleven years ago in Erie, Colorado.
The Lorraine David Children's Library
in Erie, Colorado
That library had been a long-time dream of Ms. Francke and
she and other Erie women had worked hard over the years to help
it grow. Now their library was moving to a new facility and the
Board of Directors was willing to donate the entire contents of
their old library to the Pathways to Spirit community children’s
However, there was one stipulation to this generous donation
valued at $40,000: Pathways to Spirit must have a building on
the Reservation for the library contents at the time of the
actual donation in February, 2008; no storage allowed.
Meanwhile, also in 2007, Carolyn Tail and her husband, Eli
Tail, a respected Elder and Lakota Head Man, gave life to their
own dream: an alternative school in the community of Porcupine
on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Housed in an old, unused
building donated by the Tribe, the school focuses on traditional
language and culture as well as vocational, academics and life
skills, critical thinking, and the love of learning. The Cokan
Tiospaye Owayawa <www.cokantiospaye.com>
provides an ever-expanding, nurturing learning environment which
benefits both the children and their communities.
The Dreams Collide
Synchronistically, on a recent trip to the Reservation,
Carmeen Klausner mentioned to Carolyn Tail that she was in
critical need of a building to house the children’s library. As
coincidence would have it, the Cokan Tiospaye Owayawa had an
empty section of their school building more than large enough to
house the entire library. It was the perfect solution.
Yes Honey, It’s for “Reals”
Housed in a school and located a mere block away from the
public elementary school, the Porcupine Children’s Library had a
home at last. As Carolyn Tail inspected and mapped out the area
of the building for the library, a young boy about 10 years old
came up to her and wanted to know what was going to happen.
Explaining about the children’s library, his sole response was
simply an incredulous question….. “For reals????" "Really, for
reals???” In shock and amazement, over and over the question
came from him as he followed her around. Obviously the library
represented a dream for him as well.
On February 16, 2008, Pat Bundy, the current President of the
Erie Children’s Library, and her library volunteers worked
hand-in-hand with the volunteers from Pathways to Spirit to load
the entire contents of the Erie library onto the Pathways’
semi-truck. Along with 3700 books would come 5 computers and
other electronic equipment, child-sized tables and chairs,
librarian’s desk, card catalogs, bar code equipment, shelving,
President and Executive Director of Pathways to Spirit
Pat Bundy (second from right, bottom row), President
of the Lorraine David Children's Library and her library
volunteers gathered with the volunteers from Pathways to
Spirit for loading day.
Final Needs To Complete the Dream
On March 16, 2008, volunteers from Pathways to Spirit will
head to the Pine Ridge Reservation to set up the library.
Before they install the contents, there are needs that must be
addressed, such as framing and building walls and doors,
purchasing and installing carpeting ($450 alone) for the 25’x19’
concrete floor, installing locks and lighting, and performing
minor electrical repair. The renovations will be overseen by
volunteer Colorado contractor Paul Thew, supplies paid for by
monetary donations. The work will allow the library to be
separate from the school itself so that it can be open to the
The Porcupine Children’s Library will require several days
and the efforts of many volunteers from both Colorado and Pine
Ridge in order to be complete. Fortunately, several librarian
volunteers have also agreed to go to Pine Ridge and train three
local people how to administer this community library, hold
story-telling hours, etc.
Carmeen Klausner relates that they still need help and are
also seeking donated bean bag chairs, over-sized stuffed
animals, and, most especially, more Native American books for
children and youth.
Their Dreams Will Be Our Future
Amidst the painting, carpeting, the shelving of books, and
the excitement, there remains one indisputable fact to this
story: dreams come true. Even more, in helping others, one
person’s dream can often enable another person’s dream.
There is no question that there are only winners when
children are given hope and help to dream their own dreams. As
has been noted, the dreams of children will be our future. Now,
the dreams from two States and three organizations have united
to help the Lakota children in the Porcupine District of Pine
Ridge have a safe place to read and hope and dream more of their
own beautiful dreams.
Ultimately, the world is a better place for that.
Stephanie M. Schwartz walked on to the Spirit World in 2009.
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