Here are a few pictures of Re-Member, the organization facilitating our service. Each night, Re-Member invites a Lakota speaker in to educate the volunteers about some aspect of Lakota culture. On the right, speaker Will Peters poses for a photo with the Marietta group. Will spoke about youth on the reservation and their exposure to the trauma and crime associated with such severe poverty, which leads to a high teen suicide rate on the Rez.
The Marietta group poses for a photo in the Badlands. The staff of Re-Member refer to this area as "the Sanctuary," and they allowed us time to silently reflect in this beautiful space. There were no other tourists in this part of the park.
|A typical home on the reservation.|
Members of our group worked on a skirting project for this particular home.Staff from Re-Member give instructions on how the skirting is prepared and installed, and us volunteers fill in to complete the work. By the end of the week, even the least experienced of us feel comfortable with a drill. Junior Maggie Watt and freshman Hollie Young are working on skirting insulation in the photo below.
Another group went out to Custer National Park to collect large tree trunks that were cleared from the trails. Back at Re-Member, another group chopped the wood that we brought back. Volunteers and Re-Member staff then deliver the wood to those families on the reservation that need it most in order to heat their homes. Junior Abby Romesberg is in the photo on the right, splitting wood.
You may have been wondering about the title of this blog: Mitakuye Oyasin. Throughout the week, exposure to Lakota culture and tradition also exposed us to quite a bit of Lakota language. Mitakuye Oyasin is a phrase used at the end of Lakota prayers, sort of an "amen," so to speak. It means, roughly translated, "we are all related," and I think this phrase summarizes the Lakota culture and philosophy better than I ever can. These are a people from a society structured very differently from ours. Their world is centered on the family unit, with children viewed as sacred beings, elders as sources of wisdom, women as leaders, men as protectors. The world is sacred because it produces life, and is therefore respected and cared for. The humility, the compassion, the strength of community of the Lakota taught us all the value of ourselves, our relationships, and of one another. We learned that all of us - as a part of this world's creation - are related. And despite a long history of pain, we all possess the ability to begin to heal some of the harm we've done to our brothers and sisters, with whom we share this world. Mitakuye Oysin.