Miraculous Answers to Prayer at Pine Ridge and Whiteclay

Miraculous Answers to Prayer at the Pine Ridge reservation and Whiteclay
Stories from a new Transformations video by The Sentinel Group

An edited report from George Otis Shares God Stories.

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Miraculous Answers to Prayer at Pine Ridge and Whiteclay
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Our next documentary, The Gates of Whiteclay, depicts God’s intervention in a small town nestled up against the sprawling Lakota Sioux reservation at Pine Ridge. Notorious for selling over 11,000 cans of fortified malt liquor a day to bootleggers and emotionally-broken Natives, the New York Times dubbed it “the Skid Row of the Plains.”
The Times can have their headline, but my own takeaway from eight visits to the area in recent years is decidedly different. God is at work in this place! I have honestly lost count of the myriad redemptive testimonies that have graced my ears during field research and filming. I just know that hearing about the loving deeds of our Heavenly Father has been a sheer delight — something I will never tire of.
On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your
wondrous works, I will meditate. (Psalm 145:5 ESV)
Many people know about the poverty, alcoholism, and suicide in places like Pine Ridge and Whiteclay. They may even have heard stories of human trafficking, domestic violence, and dark shamanic rituals. That these things exist as a clear and present danger is beyond dispute.
But is this all we know? Is this where we leave the conversation?
Having read countless articles about Pine Ridge in the course of my research for The Gates of Whiteclay, it was the rare author who made his way past the area’s chronic misery and hopelessness. When it came to reporting even a sliver of good news, few could find it… and most didn’t even bother to look.
It is curious behavior that calls to mind the experience of Elisha’s servant at Dothan (2 Kings 6:8-18). When this young man noted with dismay that ruthless Syrian troops had surrounded his city, Elisha responded by asking God to “open his eyes so he may see” (verse 17). This was not out of a concern for the young man’s natural vision. What he claimed to see was really there. The problem lay with what his servant did not see.
When the blinders were removed from his spiritual eyes, Elisha’s servant discovered the Syrian army was itself besieged by a fiery angelic host. Armed with this new perspective he was able to reach a very different conclusion about his prospects.
It is easy to conclude that Pine Ridge, like Dothan, has no discernable way out of its predicament. This is the view of an overwhelming percentage of the reservation’s inhabitants and neighbors. Sadly, it is also a prevailing attitude among local Christians.
I have witnessed this in scores of pre-transformed communities over the years. Christian stakeholders become hyper-aware of longstanding obstacles, and, in the process, lose sight of a far more consequential reality — namely the promises, power, and presence of the Living God.
Evidence of this unperceived reality is present in both Pine Ridge and Whiteclay — and it is as supernatural as the fiery hosts witnessed by Elisha’s servant.
There will always be a handful of individuals who see the works of God before they are fully manifest to others. This has nothing to do with the luck of the draw, but is rather the consequence of earnest tears and importunate prayer. They assume this posture because they are already convinced of God’s willingness and ability to come in delivering power. They remain in this posture until there is evidence this readiness has transitioned into action — a moment intercessors sometimes call the assurance. At the beginning of their petitioning, all things were possible. Now they have become a certainty.
In recent months, a small band of Pine Ridge Natives has been stepping out in this bold confidence. God is present! And he is telling them exactly what he wants them to do.
Not surprisingly, this divine partnership has focused on notable areas of concern for the Lakota people — a list that includes substance abuse, witchcraft, and youth traumas.
Drugs have been a growing scourge aided by organized gangs and corrupt tribal officials. While desperate parents, concerned social workers, and stretched law enforcement want to get on top of the problem, many feel overwhelmed.
Believing that God was ready to step into the breach, two Native women leaned into him for instructions. The assignment was simple and direct: They were to make a list of the top fifteen known drug dealers on the reservation.
Armed with their list, the women then made their way to each house and trailer that was pumping Meth and other poisons into communities like Oglala, Manderson, Porcupine, and Northridge. Standing in the first driveway, one of the women asked God how he wanted her to pray. His reply was instant: “Command the works of the enemy to be destroyed.”
“Then,” she told me, “I commanded the works of the enemy to be destroyed by the shed blood of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit.”
For the next forty days, the ladies prayerwalked each location before punctuating their efforts with a late night prayer session. Though few in number, they were opening the very gates of heaven.
Within days, fourteen of the fifteen names on the target list were in jail. The women were jubilant, but they were also confident God intended to complete the task.
A few nights later, the women were out near the last drug runner’s house to retrieve a car — and to pray. The dealer, an ethnic Mexican, was big trouble. Cautiously walking up to his driveway in near-total darkness, the women were startled when floodlights kicked on around them and men dressed in blue jumpsuits and carrying semi-automatic weapons suddenly appeared.
The men asked the ladies to identify themselves and explain their business at the drug house. Given the hour and location, their presence was understandably suspicious.
However, at precisely that moment, additional blue-clad men emerged from the drug house with a heavily-shackled Hispanic man. The ladies recognized him as the notorious narcotics dealer Monito. Suddenly, it clicked. The armed men were not there for the intercessors, but because of them. While the women were quietly praying in the darkness, a drug task force was busy arresting the fifteenth, and last, drug dealer on their target list.
On another occasion, one of these same women was asked by a Christian neighbor to join her in prayer for the drug-ridden community of Northridge. Of specific concern was a dealer who had recently set up shop in a trailer house down the street — an area where lots of young children played.
As before, the women waited upon the Lord for instructions as to how they should proceed. It was not long before they sensed a clear leading to walk down to the trailer house. Then, as they stood silent and yielded in the driveway, the Lord once again commanded them, “Destroy the works of the enemy.”
Responding in confident obedience, they called upon the power of the Holy Spirit to rid the neighborhood of this grave danger. And that was it.
A few days later, one of the women was returning home from classes when she heard her neighbor call out to her.
“Come over here, Norma. I want to show you something.”
As they walked toward a group of kids at play, the woman said, “You know that trailer house we have been asking God to remove? Well, guess what. It burned down today! Just look at it! There’s nothing left but the frame.”
Around this same time, George Dreamer, the adult son of one of the prayer warriors, was driving his mother to an appointment in Denver. As they approached the southern boundary of the reservation, he made a sudden, unannounced detour off Route 87 near Whiteclay. Glancing over at his surprised mom, he said: “I’m gonna show you where the biggest drug dealer lives.”
Driving about a half mile down a dirt road, he pulled up at the perimeter of a sprawling salvage yard. At the center of the property, easily visible from the road, stood a corrugated steel building and two adjacent trailer houses.
“Those buildings right there,” George said, “are the front for the drug dealer. That’s where they weigh the drugs before loading them into kid’s backpacks so they can go sell them at school.”
His mother, Norma Blacksmith, was having none of that. As an Oglala Sioux elder and frontline intercessor, she had witnessed more than her share of death and heartbreak. And she was angry.
“Stop the car!” she barked.
“What are you going to do?” George asked with a measure of concern.
“I’m going to pray!”
Suddenly the air was filled with the same passion that had proved so effective in removing the other drug distributors: “God, destroy the works of the enemy!”
If Norma’s time in Denver was routine, the same could not be said of the days following her return to Pine Ridge. And it all began with a phone call from her son George.
“Mom,” he said with a tone of amazement, “I want to show you something.”
After loading Norma into the cab of his red pickup, the two of them drove back out to the salvage yard. As they pulled up to the spot where just a few days prior Norma had asked God to move in power, the scene looked like a war zone. The buildings that had served as the Meth Lord’s operations center were simply gone – crushed into scraps of tarpaper, wood, and twisted balls of metal.
Something extraordinarily powerful had happened here. It was jaw-dropping.
George said, “Mom, you’re not going to believe this, but right after you prayed, a tornado set down on these buildings and flattened them to smithereens. It didn’t touch any of the surrounding properties. And, Mom,” he said, “tornadoes don’t come in November!”
As breathtaking as it is to see a drug dealer’s property wiped off the map by a tornado driven by divine GPS, Native intercessors report this kind of supernatural display has been on the rise. In addition to targeting ruthless poison pushers, God has also taken aim at those who would harm innocents through witchcraft, religious sexual abuse, and the facilitation of self-mutilating rituals.
In the Fall of 2021, a team of six prayer warriors decided to take a stand against the spiritual darkness plaguing the community. Despite the Lakota’s tenacious adherence to traditional spirituality, violence and youth suicide were getting worse. Medicine men feigned concern, but many were compromised.
In some cases, competition for followers led these self-appointed “holy men” to prey upon the grief-stricken families of suicide victims by claiming a psychic connection with the deceased. Others attempted to lure larger crowds to their Sun Dance events by purveying cannabis and peyote.
There were also financial entanglements with drug dealers, with some even consuming narcotics themselves. The more unscrupulous placed curses — with very real consequences — on individuals they perceived to be challenging their craft or reputation.
God, however, was not intimidated.
As the intercessors made their way out to various ritual sites on the reservation and in the nearby Black Hills, the Lord instructed them how to pray. Touching nothing but the heart of their Heavenly Father, they got down to business.
The last stop for the team was a ritual site situated on a volcanic mountain the Lakota call Mato Paha, or Bear Butte. Long known as a place of power, Native traditionalists journey there both to hear from the spirits (through vision quests and Yuwipi ceremonies) and to covenant with them (in sweat lodges).
Unaware of this, many non-Native visitors report having disturbing experiences on the Butte. One man climbed halfway to the top before turning back because the mountain felt hostile to him. It is certainly no place for the unprepared.
The 2021 prayer team, however, was ready for the ascent. After several days of prayer and fasting, they set off in a spirit of worship.
A forty-minute hike brought them to a clearing where they could see a sweat lodge nestled among pines bedecked with colored prayer cloths and tiny bundles of tobacco. Lifting their hands to the heavens, they called upon the Lord to manifest his authority.
Two days later, a precision lightning strike obliterated that shamanic high place. Within a week, the medicine man who erected the lodge was dead.
Although the prayer team did not request or wish for anyone’s demise — nor was it ever God’s desire (see 1 Timothy 2:4-5 & 2 Peter 3:9) — the Almighty will not sit idly by when so-called holy men deny his sacrifice and exploit his precious children through fabricated stories (see 2 Peter 2:3).
It is hardly surprising then to hear reports that God has left his calling card at various Sun Dance sites across the reservation.
Of all Lakota religious rituals, the Sun Dance is arguably the most important, and is certainly the most public. Those who participate in the four- to eight-day ceremony — typically held in the late spring or summer — do so for a variety of reasons. Most, however, are there to covenant with the powers of the unseen realm.
The entire process begins with the selection and felling of a large cottonwood tree that will serve as the all-important center pole of the Sun Dance. Selected trees are typically 40 to 50 feet tall and about 30 inches at the base – sometimes larger. It takes many men to carry the trunk to the ceremonial site after it has been stripped of its branches.
Upon reaching its destination, the tree is dropped into a deep hole and connected to forked rafters to give it enough stability to withstand the weight and energy of dozens of tethered dancers. As one Native medicine man explains, this is the nexus of power.
It is you who will join us to all the powers of the universe. The power will be placed
on you. The medicine fathers will be there on the center tree, and the Sundancers
will place their hands on you and say their prayers.
After several days of fasting, the male dancers lie on their backs as shamans pierce the skin on their chests and insert small bones attached to a braided leather cord that extends from the center pole. Then, for hours on end, the dancers move in and out from the center pole to the sounds of drums and chanted songs. Many go into a trance where they see visions or take spirit walks.
Many tribes, including the Lakota, burn smudge pots of sage to conjure spirits and help the dancers. Colored flags and tobacco bundles are tied to the tops of willow switches that form the perimeter of the Sun Dance circle. These are offerings to the 405 spirits they believe interact with humans.
Eventually, as twilight approaches, the dancers lean back on their tethers until the bone fasteners are torn out. The bloody, lacerated flesh is then cut off and offered to the sun.
One eminent anthropologist who conducted extensive research among the Plains Indians in the early twentieth century reported being told, “All who take this ceremony die in a few years, because it is equivalent to giving one’s self to the sun. Hence, the sun takes them for its own.”
The proliferation of these Pine Ridge Sun Dances in recent years — my own informants put the number as high as 100 — is cause for concern. While proponents argue the ceremony is simply an occasion to honor the spirits and ask for their protection and provision, the reservation’s deepening addiction, suicides, and impoverishment suggests the return for the dancer’s torn flesh and scars has not been as advertised.
Native prayer warriors felt they had no choice but to take this crisis to the Lord. Weeping and prostrating themselves before him, they waited for instructions. This was a serious challenge, and they didn’t dare to act presumptuously. God would have to go before them in supernatural power.
Finally, upon receiving an assurance their prayers had been heard, they ventured out to declare the word of the Lord at Sun Dance grounds in each of the reservation’s nine districts. Taking their stand, the group felt locked-in with God. “The enemy can’t interrupt anything,” one woman explained, “because God is talking to me. And whatever He’s telling me is not a lie.”
Though many smaller dance sites are limited to a few dozen participants, some, such as the well-known Thunder Valley, can attract five hundred or more. Because the forces behind this latter event are particularly dark, this was where God made his statement.
As the intercessors gathered at the site, they were joined by a humble man from Papua New Guinea who had witnessed God’s supernatural deeds on numerous occasions. An experienced transformation catalyst, he knew how to pray in situations like these.
And what a prayer! Fueled by a sense of God’s deep displeasure with that place, the group asked him to strike the very heart of its deceptive power.
What happened next would send chills up their spines. Shortly after leaving the site, they learned that a powerful windblast had uprooted the sacred center pole and tossed it aside like a matchstick!
For traditionalists, this was deeply significant as it is forbidden for the center pole to touch the ground. Shocked at what had happened, even the medicine men were forced to acknowledge the Creator was unhappy.
“That’s how powerful He is!” Norma Blacksmith told me with the giddiness of a school girl.
But the story was not over. Across the reservation, several other Sun Dance sites began to close for reasons ranging from landowners pulling permission to the deaths of spiritual organizers. Another longstanding site at Red Shirt Table was badly vandalized, including the total destruction of three sweat lodges. To this day, no motives or perpetrators have been identified.
Of course, not all of God’s interventions involve uprooting and pulling down. He is a creator, and as such, is continuously looking to design, build, heal, and deliver. It is the essence of who he is.
Having spent a good deal of time on Pine Ridge in recent years, I have encountered this side of God’s résumé many times. This has included interviewing both eyewitnesses and direct beneficiaries of supernatural healings, resuscitations, deliverances, and other miracles. The evidence is plentiful.
However, I have also found that such things can be difficult to convey — not only because so few people have encountered them, but also because (in this case at least) of the sheer volume of these stories. Job calls them “marvelous things without number” (5:9 ESV), while David, who wants to talk of them, laments “they are more than can be told” (Psalm 40:5 ESV).
So I have decided to conclude my storytelling with a lovely account of God’s intervention on behalf of a young Native girl facing a life-threatening crisis. I offer it not only because it is beautiful in its own right, but because it serves as a fitting representation of the kinds of things Jesus has been doing on Pine Ridge.
It all started innocently enough.
Eleven-year-old Annetta Littlebear and close friend Charlotte Thunder Horse, looking to add a little excitement to a typical lazy day on the Rez, had decided to navigate a bike into the rough and wooded terrain near Wounded Knee. It was quite the picture: Two girls, one bike, no shoes.
Charlotte was doing the pedaling while Annetta, snug at her back, dangled her legs on either side of the rear wheel. The carefree girls screamed and giggled as their bike bounced along the makeshift trail. It was sheer bliss.
Then, in a killjoy moment, an unexpected bump caused Annetta’s right foot to become entangled with the wheel spokes. A second later, her screaming lost its lighthearted tone.
As the bike jolted to a stop it was immediately evident Annetta had a problem. Her foot had been skewered by one of the mangled spokes that had broken off. Blood was everywhere.
Charlotte ran off to get help.
“I was home when one of the kids came running in,” Annetta’s mother told me. “Charlotte was out of breath and trying to explain what had happened.”
Hearing the commotion, Annetta’s dad and brother Michael sprinted out the door. When they arrived on the scene, they found the spoke had not only punctured her foot, but had become attached inside. She was one with the bike.
When Michael finally managed to remove the spoke, Annetta’s father scooped her up in his arms and brought her home. Belnita Littlebear, Annetta’s mom, didn’t like what she saw. “It was really a deep, deep gouge. So I took her to the tribal hospital.”
After bandaging her wound and providing crutches, the hospital released a very tired Annetta back to the custody of her mother. For the next week, Belnita kept vigil over her daughter and changed her dressing. As the days passed, however, Annetta’s recovery seemed to have stalled.
By the weekend, Belnita was tight on money but needed to get out to find some food. Someone, possibly a neighbor, told her a group of Christian women were providing food, clothing, and health care just eight miles up the road in the town of Porcupine. Liking the sound of this, she left Annetta in the care of family members and headed north.
In her interaction with the team, Belnita mentioned Annetta’s accident and worried aloud that she did not seem to be improving. Group leader Lisa Nelson, a big-hearted woman who for fifteen years had been making the 12-hour journey out from her home in Illinois every few weeks, offered a suggestion: “Bring her to the service tonight and we’ll pray.
But prayer was not the only benefit the group had to offer. Robin Rose, a trained oncology nurse at Northwestern University who frequently volunteered on missions to Pine Ridge, agreed to assess Annetta.
“When I saw the wound, it was pretty significant. So I cleaned and dressed it, and told Annetta’s mother where I’d be for the next few days. I was also praying against infection because the wound was wide open.”
At one of the evening services, Belnita led Annetta into the building on crutches. Walking over to Lisa and Robin, she informed them her daughter was struggling.
“I could see that she was pale and lethargic,” Robin told me during a late 2019 interview, but I kept getting pulled away by other duties and wasn’t able to get back to her until the worship started.” By then, however, the fever had spiked.
By then, however, the fever had spiked, and Robin was seriously concerned. Annetta was manifesting all the symptoms of sepsis. If allowed to go unchecked, there was a real risk of major organ failure and even death (septic shock). “So I gathered her in my arms and carried her up to the altar.”
After the ladies prayed and sang over Annetta, she went out. The only question in Robin’s mind was, “Is this Holy Spirit, or is it sepsis?”
She did not have to wonder long.
Keeping an eagle eye on Annetta’s breathing, Robin noticed something was changing. Though the young patient remained unconscious, her color was returning.
“I went to this most beautiful place,” Annetta later recalled. “There was a playground with kids all around. I wanted to stay there, but the people told me it wasn’t my time yet.”
Suddenly coming to, Annetta sat bolt upright. The blissful playground delights gave way to a surrounding chorus of prayer. It wasn’t heaven — and yet, there was a connectedness, a sense of compassionate presence and unfolding miracle.
“My foot was uncovered and there was skin growing over the wound,” Annetta recounted with wonder undiminished by time. “It was healing before my own eyes. I never seen nothing like that in my life!”
Belnita was slack-jawed. “I seen that skin growing back over the deepest part of the cut,” she gushed. “I looked at everybody like, ‘Is this really happening?’”
Robin, with her trained nurse’s eye, found it amazing that the skin grew according to a natural pattern — but in fast forward.
“It began with the subcutaneous tissue, the fatty tissue, appearing like little starbursts — chu, chu, chu! Then, in quick succession, came what we call granulated tissue. It’s a very bloody, pink layer if it is getting good circulation. That’s a sign of healing, and we look for it when we change dressings. Last, we watched as a thin layer of outer skin, the epidermis, formed. It appeared kind of shiny. “I’ve seen healings, Robin added, “but never anything like that!
When the process was completed, Belnita looked at her daughter and asked, “Did that hurt? And she just said, ‘No, mom. It was tickling me!’”
When Belnita got home that night, she had Annetta lift up her foot so her unsaved husband could see it. “Look at this!” she said. “Look what the Lord did!”
Stunned at the sight of his daughter’s foot, whole and without even the hint of a scar, he began to weep. It was one of those moments when the heart wants to speak, but the lips refuse to cooperate.
Eventually, surprised and overwhelmed by true majesty, he blurted out the truest thing he had ever spoken: “He’s real! He’s real!”
Ask Annetta about that day and she will tell you the events quickly became a community discussion topic. Genuine miracles will do that. “It’s the best feeling to have someone love you unconditionally,” she says with an ear-to-ear smile. “And its so amazing what He can do!”
I have taken the time to send you this account of God’s recent activity on Pine Ridge for two reasons. First, that you might be encouraged and edified by the Father’s wonderful works, and secondly, to ask you to help me spread this news to others so they might be similarly blessed and enlightened.
As I have often said, If God is shorn of his fullness, our audiences may be informed but they will never be awestruck (see Psalm 145:3-6). Techniques and shortcuts are a poor substitute for divine wonders.
So while a lengthy report, such as this one, may fall victim to the delete key, I have elected to accept the risk. If you are still reading these words it is likely because your heart has been captured by expressions of divine power that you were previously unaware of. And if this has happened, I am sure it has caused you to love him more.
Imagine the hope these stories can inspire in other towns and reservations beset by similar brokenness. I want to see this!
So, again, I am going to humbly ask you to consider sowing into the completion of The Gates of Whiteclay video. The first installment of this two-part presentation is due for release between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Part two is set to follow in America’s late spring or early summer of 2023.
A supportive foundation has generously offered to match all donations up to $40,000. This is a big deal and could provide everything we need to complete this wonderful story — on schedule!
One thing I have learned over a quarter century of documenting revival is that God loves it when we proclaim his exploits.
With deep gratitude for your love, constancy, and prayers.
George Otis, Jr.
Producer
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