My Summer Experience: Kristena Moses
Volunteered at Pine Ridge Indian Reservation
Sociology Major, Firelands
Visited Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in Kyle, South Dakota
I know that there are many people out there who are in need and that it only takes one person to make a difference. That is what I want to do for others, connect with them and help make a difference.
The journey to South Dakota began when I took Dr. Jolene Buehrer’s Native American Literature class. When I heard the class was going to collect donations for the Pine Ridge Oglala Lakota (Sioux) Indian Reservation, I had to get involved. I wanted to drive to South Dakota for a selfish reason - I wanted to experience firsthand how the Native Americans live so that I could better connect with what they are going through.
My boyfriend and I left from Norwalk, Ohio, on June 14, 2012, in a Penske truck stuffed with furniture, clothing, kitchen items, craft materials and more. On June 16 at 1:45 p.m. we arrived at the Wakanyeja Okolakiciye Youth Center in Kyle, S.D. Although we first thought we had made a wrong turn, our excitement continued to grow. Once we turned onto the dirt road where the Youth Center is located, we noticed a red pickup truck honking at us and two guys in the back flagging us down. My heart exploded - it felt as if we were arriving at a family reunion. Never before have I felt such warmth and friendliness from total strangers. To witness firsthand the joy and happiness we brought to our friends in Kyle was an experience of a lifetime. This was a trip I would take again just to see our friends smile.
When I walk outside in the town where I live, I notice the trees, the grass, and the different colored flowers. As I drive through town I notice the shops, restaurants, and the playground for our children to play at. I see houses nicely sided, with fenced in backyards surrounded by beautiful landscaping. Until now I never thought of my life as being “fortunate.” After arriving in Kyle, I have realized just how fortunate most of us are.
There were no shops, no restaurants, trees were few and far between, and no grass grew green—it was mostly weeds. I did not see any children playing outside; there was not a playground in sight. The houses are small and in need of repairs, and not a flower grows anywhere. To witness such living conditions, but then feel such warmth upon our arrival was an amazing experience.
For those who do not know about the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and the needs of the people who reside there, here is a good website with lots of information and statistics: http://www.re-member.org/pine_ridge_reservation.aspx
I have had a passion for Native Americans since I was in grade school. My heart goes out to them and I feel anything I can do for them is worth doing. I pray that when I have completed my education I will be able to work on or near the reservation and help in any way I can. I cannot give them their land back, but I can give them my respect and offer whatever help I can.
Seeing the conditions that they have to live in pushes me harder to get there. The warmth I felt from them was the most wonderful feeling. When they all hugged me thank-you and goodbye I knew we made a difference. If more people knew and understood what took place in history maybe they too could help make a difference.