March 7, 2008
Thursday was tour day for the group.
Loading into the Re-Member bus, the team had high spirits after two days of service, and five days of learning here in Pine Ridge. The family dinners, group seminars and months of preparation had prepared individuals as best as can be expected…but being on the ground, putting faces to the stories, and seeing life here first hand will always defy the ability of any of us to adequately describe what we’ve seen.
This week, students went outside their comfort zone; they experienced anger, hope, disbelief and pride. They saw things, heard things, and did things for which no one could prepare. Yet, they leave with an overwhelming sense of hope, diminished only by the desire that they could have done more while they were here.
Someone who had never picked up a power tool was sanding square edges on plywood minutes later. Drywall repair became a trade skill. Building, and installing an outhouse door became possible. The group learned about themselves, their peers, their understanding of American history, and their ability to make a difference. They will always remember.
Driving through Pine Ridge on Thursday and looking down side streets with windowless homes, burned out cars, and trash-strewn sidewalks, it was easy to forget we were in the middle of the United States. This was in the middle of Pine Ridge, the service center of the reservation, where the only hospital, the only supermarket, and many of the only public services are available for an area roughly the size of Connecticut.
We will all remember the names, the faces, and the stories that have been relayed to us while we were here. We will remember the work that was done, and the hope of the Lakota people. We will remember the family in Porcupine with a new door for their outhouse, and we will remember Kevin, and his overwhelming perseverance to do whatever it took to feed his family.
We will remember the staff here: Tom, Phil, Jerry, Jerome, Theresa, Abby and Vicki - all of whom went out of their way to make our time here memorable and comfortable. Whether it was waiting up until after 1 a.m. to welcome the group upon it’s arrival, to boiling another pot of water for hot chocolate, or offering personal reflections and stories during times of emotional unrest…we will never forget their antics, their companionship and the empowerment they offered.
Today we depart Pine Ridge, but we will always have a piece of this reservation with us. From the incredible panoramic views at the Badlands, to the incredible stories we were told, we will always carry these pictures and words with us; we will always remember.
On Friday, the group will depart the Pine Ridge Reservation en route to Mount Rushmore, before returning to Rapid City in advance of their return to Saint Anselm College on Saturday.