Five years ago, Golden, Colo., resident Robert Sterling White was at a low point in his life,
recuperating from cancer surgery, a foot amputation, and other medical problems. He was filled with despair. “I was sitting here asking, why am I alive, why am I alive? I looked up and asked Dakoshla (which means “grandfather” although Robert prefers to think of it as “wisdom.”) He told me, ‘why don’t you help your people?’” That’s when Robert formed, The Golden Hearts/The Lakota People, Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Since then, Robert and a group of volunteers have made 30 trips to Pine Ridge, bringing clothing, furniture, food, toys, women’s hygiene products, and health items donated by neighbors and friends.
“You would not believe the conditions- old FIMA trailers, old military barracks they have sectioned off and made houses out of. Many houses have broken windows, some don’t even have doors, they have a blanket hanging over the front doors. There is no money to fix the glass and fix the doors. But meeting these people and seeing their faces when they get things that they wouldn’t have ever gotten before, it makes all the difference. We see how it helps them,” says volunteer driver Joe Miklos. “As long as I’m alive, I’m going to support these people, mostly women, children and aunties. They are the backbone of the community,” adds Robert. One-day trips to the reservation and back cost $900 to $1,200 for every truck load. Donations cover the cost of the truck rental, gas, and basic expenses.
Robert was born in Crawford Neb., in 1951, in a shack next to the city dump. Cheyenne, Sioux, and white, he says, “I’m and apple, red on the outside and white on the inside. I grew up in both cultures, which is very hard.” Although he was not raised on a reservation, he always knew about Pine Ridge, located in South Dakota.
When Robert was a boy, “My mom used to take me to Pine Ridge all the time. I’d help her and never really think about it. We’d load our pickup and head to Pine Ridge. I respected these people, but I knew how bad they lived. They didn’t have what we had.” Some 80 pct. of the native Americans living at Pine Ridge have diabetes, says Robert. Pine Ridge also has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, nearly 90 pct.
Volunteers have been quick to join Robert’s efforts. Robbie Marsh was first to help out, donating his child’s used clothing and toys. Autumn Shea donates items from her maternity and baby clothing store. Judy Farley handles the money and transportation. Joe repairs broken furniture and also drives the truck, no matter the size. Robert’s sister Susan Hull does just about everything. The Golden Hearts is not a 501c3, and therefore donations are not tax-deductible. “So when you’re giving,” says Robert, “you’re giving from your heart.”
(photo, group) Joe Miklos, Susan Hull, Judy Farley, Robert Sterling White, Robbie Marsh, and Autumn Shea
You can help by contacting Judy Farley, 303-273-9708 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Items may be dropped off at Robert’s garage located at 419 Scenic Court in Golden.