Into the Badlands

March 4, 2008

Buffalo Waking at 6 a.m. Monday, the sun was just cresting the horizon with the fiery colors offsetting the bleak and dreary surroundings of the pre-spring terrain. Inside Re-Member, the group rose and was seated for breakfast. Shortly thereafter, work groups formed and headed into the workshop to work on one of Re-Member’s signature programs: building bunk beds.

Following an “orientation to power tools” seminar, the workshop literally began to buzz with activity. Lumber was measured and cut, following well-tested specifications. Re-Member has assembled and delivered some 2,500 beds to the Lakota people since forming. With a backdrop of rolling hills set against a deep blue sky, many participants focused on sanding down the wood. Laughter permeated the constant buzz of power tools, and in short time, a number of frames had been completed.

SBA studentsFollowing lunch, the group loaded into Re-Member’s bus for the 45 minute ride to Badlands National Park. For many participants, this was the first real view of the reservation - as they had arrived under the cover of darkness on Saturday night.

During the initial drive, many commented on the overwhelming darkness of the area. Baring a smattering of streetlights illuminating the yards of some houses, it seemed there was certainly nothing else to be seen.

With the veil of darkness removed, reality became apparent. No more than 25 feet off the roadway were abandoned vehicles, stripped of all reusable materials. A child-sized bicycle was left on its side, next to a deceased dog. Houses, many with boarded up windows, and front yards full of refuse, and unserviceable vehicles dotted the landscape.

student Upon arrival at the Badlands, the group piled out of the bus and moved into the barren landscape. Massive geological formations rose high above as they walked about on the porous clay. After scaling a small ridge, the group was treated to a view that provided an overwhelming panoramic view, a perfect opportunity for several group photos.

Taking time for personal reflection, the group fell silent while in a natural basin. Where only the sound of the wind whipping through the landscape could be heard. Following a streambed back to the barbed wire fence through which the group had entered, cameras snapped a few final photos.  Several individuals took time to break away from the group, enjoying a private moment to process their surroundings.

On Tuesday’s schedule: The group will travel to worksites on the reservation. Extensive remedial work is planned on existing structures for the full workday.

Follow Spring Break Alternative -an introduction to our student reporter

Additional photos are available on our Flickr photo sharing site.


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