This year, the attorneys and staff at Patterson Earnhart Real Bird & Wilson LLP are joining forces with the nonprofit Cheyenne River Youth Project in Eagle Butte, South Dakota, to help bring Santa Claus to more than 1,500 Lakota children. Through the annual Wo Otúh’an Wi Toy Drive, this massive holiday program serves families in 20 communities across the remote, 2.8-million-acre reservation.
This fall, the Native Law Group team adopted approximately 35 “Dear Santa” letters from Cheyenne River, and they are working hard to ensure that each child receives several gifts from his or her deeply personal letter to Santa Claus.
“This is an important project for us,” said partner Jeremy Patterson, an enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe who has supported the annual toy drive for years and currently serves on CRYP’s board of directors. “The Cheyenne River Youth Project is a grassroots organization — by Cheyenne River, for Cheyenne River — and it’s now serving its second generation of Lakota children. We’re proud to be part of it.”
The Wo Otúh’an Wi Toy Drive is unique among its contemporaries, because it is really about making dreams come true. Instead of assigning gifts to genders and ages, CRYP has remained committed to keeping its toy drive personal; the children share their own precious wishes in their “Dear Santa” letters, and CRYP guarantees that the gifts they receive will be addressed to them personally.
“When the kids open their gifts and see that Santa has fulfilled their wishes, they experience the true magic of the holiday season,” Patterson said. “All children, everywhere, should feel that hope and joy, and they should have this one special day to just be kids. And, we hope they also will feel just how loved and treasured they are.”
The Cheyenne River Lakota Nation makes its home in two of the 10 poorest counties in the United States, and more than half of its households with children under age 18 fall below the poverty line. Life in these remote Great Plains communities has always been challenging, but these days, it’s even harder. The Covid-19 pandemic has profoundly disrupted daily life, especially for children.
“They’ve lost so much,” said Julie Garreau, CRYP’s executive director. “We cannot allow them to lose the magic and joy of the holidays as well. They rely on us to be here for them, and we always keep our promises, so we’re putting all of our energy, creativity, and resourcefulness toward this year’s toy drive. Together with Native Law Group and our other partners across the country, we’re going to make this happen, one step at a time, and as safely as possible.”
Wo Otúh’an Wi means ‘Moon of Giving Away Presents’ in Lakota. According to Patterson and Garreau, that resonates with one of the Lakota people’s traditional values: generosity.
“Especially this year, for the sake of our children, we need to embrace that spirit of generosity in every possible way,” Patterson said. “We need to take care of one another, and work together for the well-being of our community.”
A majority Native-owned law firm, Patterson Earnhart Real Bird & Wilson LLP has offices in Louisville, Colorado, and Washington, DC. To learn more, visit nativelawgroup.com.
Patterson Earnhart Real Bird & Wilson LLP is dedicated to the representation of American Indian tribes, tribal entities, and individual Indians across the United States. Our mission is to support and advance the sovereignty, self-sufficiency, and self-governance of our tribal clients. We take time to listen to, and fully understand, our clients’ concerns so we can develop responsive and appropriate solutions.