A load of Christmas bikes will be on its way from Wisconsin to one of the nation's poorest communities this weekend. It's part of an ongoing informal relationship between tribal members in two states to help each other out.
Shannon County, South Dakota is home to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, home to the Oglala Sioux tribe. According to the U.S. Census Bureau it is also the second poorest county in the country.
Richie Plass is a Menominee tribal member from northeastern Wisconsin. He's helped coordinate drives of donated goods. What started out as a coat drive six years ago has morphed into a twice yearly collection of furniture, coats, and more, "What we've done the last few years my wife and I we've collected stuff for Christmas for the kids out there. Help the kids on Pine Ridge, help some of them have a better Christmas. Because they have literally not much or sometimes nothing."
This year a load of 30 bikes and helmets is planned for delivery on Saturday. Plass says a church group in western Wisconsin raised the money for the new or reconditioned bikes.
Plass also hosts the Kahlihwiyo'se program on Wisconsin Public Radio. On the show he says he tells a story of visiting a friend at Pine Ridge who didn't have enough plates to serve everyone in the house, "We got done eating and I told her I say, 'you know you have eight people in this house and you only have three plates?' She goes, 'yeah well we get by.' You know, so I remember growing up, remember my mom and dad and other Indian people saying, 'if you have a chance to help somebody out you should help them out.'"
Plass won't be making the trip this weekend but plans another in the spring. Weather permitting, he says the bikes should make it to South Dakota this weekend.