Student service trip to Pine Ridge

Convent+of+the+Sacred+Heart+junior%2C+Alexa+Granser%2C+plays+with+the+Lakota+children+of+Pine+Ridge+Reservation%2C+South+Dakota+after+they+have+ended+classes+for+the+day.%0ACourtesy+of+Alexa+Granser+%2715

Convent of the Sacred Heart junior, Alexa Granser, plays with the Lakota children of Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota after they have ended classes for the day. Courtesy of Alexa Granser '15

 

Convent of the Sacred Heart junior, Alexa Granser, plays with the Lakota children of Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota after they have ended classes for the day. Courtesy of Alexa Granser '15
Convent of the Sacred Heart junior, Alexa Granser, plays with the Lakota children of Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota after they have ended classes for the day.
Courtesy of Alexa Granser ’15

From the thriving and affluent town of Greenwich, Connecticut to the poverty stricken Pine Ridge Reservation of South Dakota, Convent of the Sacred Heart students and faculty traveled 1700 miles west to experience a lifestyle completely different from their own.
Eight members of the Convent of the Sacred Heart Upper School community journeyed to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota this past summer. Sacred Heart teachers and students participated in a variety of service activities, including teaching and interacting with the children of the Native American Lakota tribe at the Red Cloud School, as well as attending mass at the small Native American church.
Junior Abbi Wilson, one of the students who attended the service trip this summer, recognized the extreme social and economic distress of the Lakota people.

“The Native Americans face many hardships including alcoholism, poverty, and their land isn’t good for growing crops, so all of their food has to come from a grocery store which doesn’t always have the freshest foods,” Abbi said.
Unemployment has been a dominant issue for the Lakota people throughout the history of the Pine Ridge Reservation. The Lakota’s small government houses and trailer homes demonstrate the reservation’s economic hardship.
Alcoholism is also a major adversity for the Lakota people. It is illegal to sell alcohol on the reservation, so many of the Lakota people smuggle alcohol from White Clay, a town on the outskirts of the reservation. An election held Tuesday, August 13 legalized the selling of alcohol  in an effort to bring more money into the reservation instead of having the people of White Clay benefit from the profits. However, there is still unsettlement and disagreement over whether alcohol should be sold on the reservation. Senior Tara Hammonds noticed the effects of this controversy during her time there.
“We saw a big protest in the town against the sale of alcohol in White Clay,” Tara said. “In fact, the week we were there, the president of the reservation was actually arrested for his part in a protest.”
Despite suffering from immense economical and social problems, the Lakota people of the reservation value the power of education. At the Red Cloud School, the Sacred Heart students and faculty worked to help educate the Lakota children by teaching lessons and playing with them at recess.
“At Red Cloud, you could tell that the kids really wanted to be there learning,” Tara said. “Talking to a lot of the kids, I realized that they, for the most part, really wanted to get a good education so they could study at university and get jobs such as doctors or tribal lawyers that would really help the reservation.”
Pine Ridge Reservation is taking progressive steps toward enhancing educational development. The reservation has even established Oglala Lakota College, a tribal college.
In addition to engaging in school activities, Sacred Heart students and faculty were able to immerse themselves in the Lakota culture. They participated in the Inipi ceremony, a cleansing ceremony and one of the Lakota’s seven sacred rituals.
Sacred Heart students and faculty explored the Lakota people’s rich culture, became aware of the hardships of the impoverished reservation, and volunteered their time and energy in the process. In an effort to continue to reach out to the Red Cloud School and the Lakota people, Sacred Heart plans another service trip to Pine Ridge Reservation in the summer of 2014. 
Junior attendee Grace McKenney said, “The impact that the children and the culture had on me is difficult to put into words, but it really gave me a whole new perspective.”
 – Alice Millerchip, Co-Sports and Health Editor
Sources: http://www.oglalalakotanation.org/oln/Home.html