MANDERSON, S.D. - Their home was destroyed by an electrical fire in December of 2007, but Alex and Debra White Plume haven't skipped a beat in their activities both close to home and abroad.
The former Oglala Lakota Nation president has been tapped by a biofuels company to travel to Africa where he said he will be able to accomplish some of the goals he had set for his tiyospaye on the Pine Ridge Reservation.
''I am finally getting to do what I wanted to do here on the reservation, but I have to leave this country in order to do that,'' White Plume said in a phone interview the week of Feb. 18.
He said he was on his way to Rapid City to get the last of a series of immunizations required for international traveling.
White Plume said he has been ''so busy trying to get the temporary shelter built'' before he leaves for his upcoming project in early March. He has met that goal since then, but said there is still a lot of work left to do.
''I have my wife and my daughters here that I have to leave for a few months and that's hard, but I just would like to get back to work,'' he added.
In a short press release from the company who sought him out, Terry Van Dien, CEO of Rociada, New Mexico-based Dragonfly Industries, said as a consultant White Plume will be responsible for setting up all hemp, Jatropha and caster seed oil plantation and farm operations in Ghana, Cameroon, Chad, Nigeria and the Ivory Coast of Africa.
His role will include teaching the local farmers in the technique of planting, cultivation and harvesting as well as organizing a co-op for the farmers.
Van Dien said White Plume's expertise in hemp farming on the Pine Ridge Reservation and his great ability to work with the community makes him invaluable to their team.
''We are very proud to have him on board,'' Van Dien added.
According to a recent post on the Hemp Report Web site, volunteers and the White Plumes' family and friends have been ''hard at work'' rebuilding after the devastating fire. The post goes on to say that the rubble was cleared with a borrowed skid-steer and has built a shelter that will serve as an office after they build a new house in the spring.
''I hope to have construction begin on a house in May - ideally it will be a 100 percent hemp house,'' said White Plume about the rebuilding project.
The cold South Dakota winter gave the family a new appreciation for the help extended by their relatives. ''I appreciate all my friends that helped me during my loss,'' White Plume said. ''I am building a stick frame house to finish out the winter. It was 19 below last night.''
Matt Rankin, who has been assisting the White Plume family, sent along a brief update saying that the rebuilding is going well and that the family will be moved in soon.
For more information, friends are directing donation inquiries to the Hemp Report Web site, www.hempreport.com. Family friend Kent Lebsock wrote a blog recently about the strength of the family to work through such hardship. ''It is going to be a long road to get things where we want them to be, but any help anyone can give is a true blessing.''