by Hannah Turnipseed
On Sunday July 16th the Health Science Academy Youth leadership camp and Lakota youth campers made our way back to LaCrosse. Throughout the week I was in South Dakota, I learned more than what I could imagined. I was told by many that I would come back home with a different outlook on life, and they were right. My heart and mind were touched in multiple ways by all the knowledge shared by each and everyone I met at Pine Ridge.
I was mainly intrigued by how cultural the Lakotas really are. For example, in one of our activities we had to list six of our top leaders in our life. One of the Lakota campers listed almost all Indian leaders such as Sitting Bull. I was shocked because a lot of others listed their parents or grandparents. When we had to go around and share our list she expanded on why she chose them and her detailed knowledge about the Lakota leaders and what they did to become leaders. She was only 14 and already knew so much about her culture.
My favorite day included when we went on a spontaneous trip to Custer State Park and Needles Highway. It was truly beautiful and something I have never seen before. On our way through the Loop road in Custer State Park we had the opportunity to pet donkeys that would come up right to our car windows. We eventually got stuck for 15-20 minutes by a herd of buffalo crossing the road. I was just feet away from them; it was fascinating.We all then had the chance to swim in Silver Lake which had huge boulders in the middle of it. Our bonding as a group grew even bigger. Overall, the day brought many nature related opportunities I may never get to experience again that’s why I consider it my excursion.
After thinking about all I have experienced on this trip, I could go on and on. I do not regret my decision on coming, even though I may have been homesick the third day there! Pine Ridge has made me a better person and leader. The Lakota’s gave me the gift of being able to appreciate everything I have in my life. Coming back to Pine Ridge has been added to my bucket list.