By Dr. Chad Thurman
The July medical team really had a great week. Jenn, Carol, Kim & Tabby made for a fun group. I am always impressed with how our volunteers come together to form a team, begin friendships, and have fun along the way. This group had the perfect combination of positive attitude, flexibility, desire to soak in the culture, and impressive bladder control during road trips!
Our team witnessed the problems that come with poverty that plague the reservation. Lack of access to resources, violence, drug abuse, gang related issues, and tragedy were all present at different times during our trip. But we were also able to meet a lot of great families and witnessed progress and hope. One shining example of hope is Dakota High Hawk. Many of our volunteers have been blessed to listen to Dakota deliver his oral presentation of the Lakota history. When we met up on Wednesday, Dakota told me about his most recent project. The youth near Wounded Knee have a great need for a safe environment free of substance abuse and violence. Dakota has developed a community wellness program on his own, with very little resources. He approached the tribal council about turning on the lights at the local basketball court for the youth to play at Wounded Knee. When he was told that he would need to come up with the funds to pay for the lights, he did. He was able to raise the necessary funds from contacts outside the reservation. He has taken his idea and turned it into Thursday night basketball during the summer months this year. The event begins with food and socializing. Then he holds a discussion about various topics to include bullying, substance abuse, etc.. Finally it’s time for hoops, which is a big sport on the reservation. I really admire this 25 year old for his ambition, creatitivity, perserverance, and dedication to his community. We need many more Dakota High Hawks in this world! Rather than getting lost in all of the ills of the reservation, we need to focus on bright lights like the ones shining on the basketball court at Wounded Knee on Thursday nights.
A Spiritual Journey
By Kylie Slaby
All my experiences here at Pine Ridge have been very eye opening. Today was no exception. We began the day by driving to Eagle Nest Butte. After an interesting drive on back roads, we made a large prayer circle with our Lakota friends. It was really interesting to hear Ethan and Brianna lead us in a spiritual song and prayer. Brianna asked The Great Creator to watch over all of us as we hiked and biked at the butte. One of the most powerful things I have noticed on this journey has been the spirituality that exists among the Lakota people. As I hiked to the top of the butte, I couldn’t help but feel power of The Great Creator.
A Special Hike
By Lindsey Lichucki
Today our group went to Eagles Nest Butte for hiking. It was quite an honor to be invited to such a sacred area. Before we started there was a song and prayer preformed by two students. One of the elders instructed us on the precautions we had to take because this area is not open to everybody. We had to make sure to stay away from tobacco ties to respect their beliefs. On our hike I was shown a few of camper’s favorite spots to visit. He showed me where not to sit because it was dangerous due to the eroding rock. I was told how he has been there millions of times. He goes here for school ceremonies as well as going by himself. He told me it’s a great way to think about life and how to get in touch with nature. The view that we saw was definitely worth the heat. It was one of the most beautiful hikes I’ve ever been on.