LINKS
2018-02-08 / Headlines

Guardians Ride Pine Ridge Reservation Roads

BY JIM KENT
LCT CORRESPONDENT


The Guardians patrol the roads of the Pine Ridge Reservation in all kinds of weather and without getting paid for their services. Assistance offered by The Guardians ranges from pulling vehicles out of ditches and assisting in search and rescue missions to responding to calls when drivers run out of gas. Photos courtesy The Guardians The Guardians patrol the roads of the Pine Ridge Reservation in all kinds of weather and without getting paid for their services. Assistance offered by The Guardians ranges from pulling vehicles out of ditches and assisting in search and rescue missions to responding to calls when drivers run out of gas. Photos courtesy The Guardians Oglala Lakota Nation – Reports of celestial bodies traveling the roads of the Oglala Lakota Nation may seem exaggerated, but it all depends on one’s perspective - and how well your vehicle’s running…if at all.

“These people are angels on Earth.”

“Wopila – you are guardian angels.”

“God Bless each one of you and Thank You for helping our people.”

These are just a handful of the dozens of comments posted in last month on the Facebook page for “The Guardians” – an emergency roadside assistance group on the Pine Ridge Reservation whose mission statement notes “If you’re stuck on the side of the road and need a boost, or you have a flat tire we can help. If you live off road and you’re stuck in mud or snow, we have 5 trucks with 4-wheel drive and we can pull you out.”

The non-profit organization was officially created on February 5, 2015, but founder Jerrold Mesteth had already been cruising the roads on his own in search of anyone who needed help.

“I was on the side of the road coming back from work and my car overheated,” recalled Mesteth. “I didn’t have any water and no way to get it going. It was pretty cold out. The windows were frosting…and no one pulled over for me. And I had no way to call for help.”

Mesteth sat in his car for a frigid two hours before someone finally stopped to assist him.

“After that is when I got the idea to get a truck and go around helping people who were stuck on the side of the road,” he explained. “Because nobody stops for you here. They see you, but they just drive by you. I see that all the time.”

Using some money he’d saved, Mesteth bought a tow chain, tow rope, cables and other supplies he thought he’d need and turned himself into a one-man emergency roadside service.

“When I got paid I’d save some money for gas and ride around to see if anyone needed any help,” he continued. “I’d cruise around and make sure nobody was on the side of the road, in a ditch, stalled out, needing a boost, out of gas.”

That was Mesteth’s routine for the first month. Whenever he wasn’t working at the tribal jail, and could afford it, he’d drive his Dodge Ram 1500 around Pine Ridge looking for anyone in need. Advertising himself on swap shops allowed Mesteth to respond to people directly instead of traveling aimlessly around the reservation. It also let community members know there was someone to call when they needed help.

And, from the first, there was never a charge for his services. How did people respond to that?

“I’d say ‘You need help?” Mesteth recalled. “They’d say ‘No, I’ve got no money.’ I’d say ‘That’s fine. I’ve got it. I’ll help you out.’ They were pretty appreciative. Shook my hand and said, ‘There should be more people like you out there.”

Soon there were.

Derek Thunder Hawk, who also works at the jail, was the first to join Mesteth. These “brothers” formed “The Guardians” and have never looked back.

Jessie Kills Back, from the Pine Ridge Reservation, and Robert Lincoln – originally from New Town, N.D., completed the group. Other volunteers include Daryl Locke, Jaybird Clairmont, Preston Little Bull and “Lady Guardians” Sandi Graham and Raine Little, who serve as dispatchers.

When snowy weather is predicted, the drivers gather at “base” – Mesteth’s home East of Sharp’s Corner, disperse their vehicles in different directions across the reservation and wait for any emergency calls that may come in.

“Basically, we want to be out there on the road already if anyone calls in for help,” Mesteth explained.

The Guardians is entirely self-sufficient, existing from funds supplied by its members and volunteers or from donations from the public.

Mesteth notes that being a part of the group requires a commitment, but he and the others involved share that dedication.

“It’s very rewarding,” commented Mesteth. “It’s overwhelming at times, but it’s rewarding, because that’s what I like to do… help people.”

The Guardians also work with the Oglala Sioux Tribe’s Public Safety Department providing assistance with traffic control when needed, as well as the tribe’s ambulance service and the emergency management department assisting in search and rescues, or even delivering wood or food to elders in need. The group is only paid for the cost of gas by any of these agencies.

Helen Gaddie lives in the Northeast region of the reservation and recently called The Guardians for help when her father-inlaw’s truck wouldn’t start.

“It was the coldest weekend last month in the middle of a blizzard,” Gaddie remembered. “We were stuck at the bottom of a canyon and thought ‘What are we gonna’ do?’ And I said ‘We’ll call The Guardians!”

The group sent two 4-wheel drive trucks to assist with a jump. When that didn’t work, they towed the truck to the owner’s home – free-ofcharge.

“Just knowing that they’re there, you’re at ease,” observed Gaddie, “because they come and help everybody. They’re angels.”

Gaddie feels that life has changed dramatically for many on the reservation as a direct result of the knowledge that they can always call The Guardians when they’re in trouble on the road.

And, just like they’re heavenly counterparts, these Pine Ridge angels aren’t getting paid.

For more information or to contact The Guardians for assistance call 605.209.6119 or https:// www. fa cebook.com/roadguardianz/

Donations may be submitted at: https://www.paypal.me/JerroldMesteth

Jim Kent can be reached at kentvfte@gwtc.net

Return to top

Look Who's Reading!

6p1.jpg
6p2.jpg
6p3.jpg
6p4.jpg
Lakota Country Times
Powered by Como

New E-Edition

Click here for E-Edition
2018-02-08 digital edition

Oglala Lakota Nation Newsletter

Click below to read the newsletter

LCT Classifieds

Click below to view our classifieds!
Lakota Country Times, Newspapers, Martin, SD