The Mustard Seed, operating entirely on donations, serves homeless people on the Cheyenne River Sioux Indian reservation. Photo by Ernestine Chasing Hawk / Native Sun News Today

Native Sun News Today: Helping the homeless survive at Cheyenne River

She prays and the homeless live another day
By Evelyn Red Lodge (Tipi Luta Win)
Native Sun News Today Correspondent

EAGLE BUTTE –– Each day Adel White-dog smudges and prays for there to be enough resources to help the most economically vulnerable people who will cross her path that day.

White-dog and others volunteer their time at The Mustard Seed, a homeless shelter located in Eagle Butte in both Dewey and Ziebach Counties on the Cheyenne River Sioux Indian reservation.

The 2010 U.S. Census listed Ziebach County as lowest in per capita income. In 2016, Eagle Butte was listed as the poorest town in South Dakota.

TMS relies totally on donations in this economically depressed region. However she says there always seems to be just enough. Literally surviving on prayer, White-dog said that when no resources are left, a delivery truck will pull up, or a monetary donation will arrive.

As amazing as that may sound, what TMS does with those donations – is literally save lives. These volunteers also reach out into the communities in and around Eagle Butte. They deliver food boxes, help residents get help with heating bills and never refuse to help anyone 24/7, according to White-dog.

TMS consists of eight tiny houses sheltering 16 people and a main house that shelters 20. They feed on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. White-dog said the Episcopal Church feeds on Tuesday and Thursday but no one feeds on the weekends.

Another shelter does exist but many of the homeless population don’t go there.

“No others will take (the homeless) if the smell like alcohol,” White-dog said. “I understand the church’s view. I had been directing (the homeless) to the Red Cross shelter, and many of them were scared to go. So, 10 of them walked out after they got there to sign in. Half smelled like alcohol. The shelter called the police to have them removed and put in jail.”

She related the harsh treatment of the homeless and people’s reactions like some calling them “smelly drunks.”

Conversely, White-dog adheres to the Lakota value Mitakuye Oyasin which literally means we are all related.

She said, “The church I understand (being limited in allowing some people in), but we are all related. No one sees (the homeless) like people. It’s like when people are prejudiced they put other people down. This is the way their own people are treating them.”

Read the rest of the story on the Native Sun News Today website: She prays and the homeless live another day

(Contact Evelyn Red Lodge at

Copyright permission Native Sun News

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