Father George Winzenburg S.J., the sixth board member and ninth president of Red Cloud Indian School, traveled to King Street alongside Red Cloud teacher Mr. Roger White Eyes to speak to the Sacred Heart Greenwich community Tuesday, February 26. Fr. George and Mr. White Eyes attended an Upper School prayer service which included presentations, prayers, and songs from the visitors and students who visited Red Cloud during the school’s annual service trip.
For the past 14 years, Fr. George has worked with the Lakota people and the Red Cloud School, creating new opportunities for the students, families, artists, and parishioners. At the prayer service, he discussed the nature of the Red Cloud academic environment and how it promotes the teaching of Lakota tradition and cultural practices, which senior Olivia Batal noticed during her visit to the reservation.
When Olivia volunteered at Red Cloud in 2018, the Lakota people welcomed her into their culture. She observed and participated in traditional practices and learned about Lakota history.
“On our last night, we were invited to a pow wow where they ate traditional food, played traditional games, and even set up teepees,” Olivia said in her reflection. “There I met Talon, a boy my age who has been practicing traditional Lakota dancing. He explained to me that each dance told a story about the triumphs and struggles of the Lakota people.”
At Red Cloud, Mr. White Eyes is a Lakota language teacher. He teaches level one of Lakota to freshmen, using Spiritual teachings and Lakota history to instill the language in his students. Mr. White Eyes began teaching in 1997 and started instructing the Lakota language in 1998.
During the 2018 annual Pine Ridge Service Trip, Sacred Heart students worked in the Lakota Immersion classroom which consisted mainly of five-year-old to seven-year-old children. Olivia explained how English to Lakota was a difficult transition for the volunteers, but she believes learning a new language is an integral aspect of visiting a new place.
“As Americans, we sometimes believe that everyone speaks English and therefore rely on that as we traverse new places,” Olivia said. “However, the willingness to humble oneself and try to learn a new language is a true demonstration of respect.”
Three thousand five hundred people live on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Six hundred are students in grades pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade. One-quarter of the 600 students solely speak Lakota, while the rest of the students are bilingual, practicing both English and Lakota.
The Red Cloud School is a Catholic Institution administered by the Jesuits and Lakota people in Pine Ridge, South Dakota that works to develop and grow as a Church through education, social justice, spiritual formation, and a strong commitment to serving others. The Lakota people also educate their students’ minds and spirits to promote Lakota and Catholic values, according to redcloudschool.org.
To conclude the prayer service, junior Gabby Petrizzo, who attended the service trip in 2018, presented a video reflection of the trip to the Upper School.
“I decided to create the video commemorating my group’s trip to Pine Ridge because my trip to Red Cloud was an amazing and transformative experience and I wanted to share that with our community,” Gabby said. “My goal was to inspire others in the community to apply for the Pine Ridge trip and have that unique experience for themselves.”
Featured Image by Jacey Heffernan ’21