by Kaiya Grass
As we pulled on to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, I was not sure how to feel. It was wide open plains in all directions with an occasional rundown trailer in the distance. I knew I was going to be in for a new adventure, but I did not know how much it would end up changing me. The reservation itself might look poor, but the people certainly are not. They have a beautiful culture with rich beliefs and a strong community.
The Lakota community welcomed us with open arms. I had a wonderful time on the reservation. We did everything from hiking in the Badlands to riding horses on a local farmer’s ranch. This trip allowed me to get closer with my classmates and make new friends with the Lakota students. I also discovered how beautiful the Earth truly is and how nature is a release for the mind, an opportunity to be at peace.
It was such a privilege to be able to go to Pine Ridge and be immersed in the Lakota culture. They are such generous people! A meaningful moment on this trip was when my Lakota friend told me there was no word for goodbye in his language because goodbye is forever. They believe everyone will meet again, and there is no hell, only heaven. I found their beliefs to be beautiful and admired their great respect for human life. Everyone and everything has a purpose.
As I left the reservation, I contemplated how much our westernized culture could learn from the Lakota people and their respect for humanity and the Earth. Through the leadership camp, I learned the importance of reaching out to everyone because we are all human and all in this together as equals. This experience has made me think of all the other cultures left behind, especially the Islamic culture these days. It is heartbreaking to know how many people are out there suffering, and our country does not do more to help them. As human beings it is our job to look after each other and help relieve other’s suffering any way we can.
I have become even more passionate about leading a life of helping others, and I am more excited to pursue a career in medicine.
I was dreading the endless ride home but excited to see my family and share my newfound knowledge. I will certainly miss having a rez dog greet me whenever I came outside but glad I saw my own dog tonight. Yet after leaving, there is a void in me. I feel like I am leaving something important behind. The people on the reservation depend on their strong faith but still need our support. We can not forget about the Lakota people or any other group of people in need of help.