May 31 – June 6 2014
Joined 6 people from Eagle Harbor Church to volunteer with construction work at Pine ridge reservation. They provided dorms and basic food. I took a supply of nuts and dried fruit for when I could not get gluten-free.
One of the 3 poorest counties in U.S. – third world conditions – huge unemployment, heavy alcoholism.
The week included several cultural components – readings every morning “Wisdom from the Elders”, four evening talks from elders, two tours Wounded Knee, a local radio station and a High School (planning a university in a few years). Perhaps the best was informal conversation with people when we delivered an outhouse (and dug a 6 foot hole to go under it) or installed a wheelchair ramp. Most interesting was the kids, who wanted to help. We helped one girl into the bottom of a hole so she could remove dirt from the bottom of it to make it deep enough.
There were many signs of despair, especially evidenced by the drunk adults we saw, but also signs of hope, especially the attitude of the the children. Re-Power has been coordinating this work there for many years and people on the rez recognized that we were there to help and were grateful for that.
The teams were well led and we had everything we needed when we got to a site. When I needed to rest after a little digging, no comment was made. Apart from our Bainbridge group, most of the volunteers were young and strong, and we all worked together harmoniously.
The Bainbridge group met the previous week to look at a film about Wounded Knee and we agreed to read Kent Nerburn’s book “Neither Wolf nor Dog” about an 80 yo Lakota man who tells the story of going to a boarding school (to take the Indian out of the man) and what it’s like to be a Native American today.
5 of us drove to South Dakota in a van. On the way there we dipped in to Yellowstone and on the way back we looked at the Crazy Horse monument.
I didn’t take a camera, but pics from the others are at http://1drv.ms/1hK0BlH