Cold War: Coat drive to help Pine Ridge Reservation
Shepherdstown residents are cleaning out their coat closets to help the Oglala Sioux Lakota peoples stay warm this winter.
This marks the third year that Jeanne Morton is collecting coats for the Native Americans, and this time the organizers of the Shepherdstown Women’s March is helping to spearhead the efforts.
Morton said she learned about native peoples while living in North Carolina several years ago, and through a series of circumstances she began to gather coats for a particularly impoverished group living in the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.
“While I was living in North Carolina I became acquainted with a number of people living at a Cherokee reservation,” Morton said. “I learned that what our history books tell us about Native Americans is totally wrong, and I developed a real warm spot in my heart for them.”
Several years later, Morton’s friend lost a daughter who had a lot of coats to donate. Wanting to donate to Native Americans in need, she turned to Morton for help knowing her connection to native peoples. Morton did some research and discovered a non-profit group called Oceti Wakan, which works with the Pine Ridge Reservation – a population of 38,000. The counties that make up the reservation are the poorest in the United States. Morton said they were so excited to be receiving coats, as the winter temperatures can reach 30 degrees below zero at times.
“I feel like this is a spiritual assignment for me – like I had to fulfill by (sending coats),” Morton said.
The coat drive was kicked off at Maria’s Taqueria on Sept. 6, where 97 coats and sweaters were received – as well as hats, gloves and scarves.
“It has just really been heartwarming. I’ve had donations from white people, African Americans, from Christians, from Muslims, from atheists, from Buddhists, from my art classes – all walks of life. Everyone really comes together to help,” Morton said.
Morton is collecting gently-used winter clothing items that are in good condition – with no tears or stains – and is in particular need of children’s coats and boots. Additionally, Morton would like to collect art supplies for the children on the reservation.
Collection will end on Sept. 25, and donations can be dropped off at a designated box at Dickinson and Wait Gallery, located at 121 E. German St.
Monetary contributions can be made directly to the Oceti Wakan non-profit by visiting www.ocetiwakan.org.