By Megan Maiolo, Marketing & Communications Coordinator
June 6th, 2011: Pine Ridge Reservation, SD
We spent the last 4 days on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, home to the Oglala Lakota. With the help of over 20 volunteers, we planted 94 trees around homes on the Reservation. These trees will provide families with windbreak from the bitter winter winds, shade from the intense summer heat, and, most importantly, the beauty of nature around homes.
The majority of the trees were planted in the Fraggle Rock neighborhood, where many of the homes have been built by Alliance Builders, a great nonprofit based in Pine Ridge. After we were finished we enjoyed a community potluck, drum circle, and fire show. Celebrating the work with the communities we serve was the most rewarding part of this experience.
Pine Ridge is a magical place; the energy you feel when you are among the Lakota, our Nation’s First People, is powerful and often hard to describe. The Lakota have a strong connection to the land, physically and spiritually, a connection that American society could greatly benefit from if it was explored and respected more. This is a group of people that thrived on the Great Plains for thousands of years, up until the late 1800’s, when they were systematically slaughtered and pushed off their land by the U.S. government. This genocide culminated with the massacre at Wounded Knee in the winter of 1890. Since this time, the Lakota have been struggling to survive and preserve their culture.
Although this is the poorest place in the U.S., the Lakota are hopeful that positive change will come to their people, bringing with it a sense of healing for one of the most oppressed groups of people in this Nation’s history.
Thank you to our partner and dear friend Henry Red Cloud for hosting us and opening up his property for us to camp on. In addition, we would like to send warm thank yous to all of our Lakota friends who accepted us into their community with open arms. We are looking forward to the next trip to Pine Ridge, where we can share in the activities that make this a better place to live!