South Dakota – Wednesday, May 27th

Blog by: Evan McQuirns, Barbara Brennan, Suffi Qarni Today, Wednesday the 27th was the second work day that we completed.
We were now used to what we would be doing and the groups were sent to deliver outhouses made the day before, help clear a field and plant a communal garden or worked on a local families trailer, doing various home improvements. This was also the first day of beautiful weather!

Sunny and in the 70s without a cloud in sight.
My group was sent with Phil to the garden site, which was a giant field that needed to be dug up, cleared of hay grass and leveled to plant rows of seeds and plants grown by a local group of students.
Luckily a neighbor offered his tractor to help dig up and clear the land, something that’s much harder to do with just a shovel and wheelbarrow! During that morning, the woman who lived at the house next to the property and who was helping to coordinate creating the garden was by our truck picking out seeds to plant. I was lucky enough to get into a conversation with her about the garden, the education system and life on the reservation. She informed me that the garden was going to be open to everyone who was willing to help out with it, and they would be able to take vegetables once they’ve put in their hours. This was really great to hear how open and available it was to everyone in the area due to the lack of fresh food available. We went to one of the local convenience stores for our bathroom break, which is where most people purchase their household items as there is only one regular grocery store on the entire reservation (all 9200 square miles of it). This store was stocked with canned goods, processed foods and frozen foods; no where near the balanced meal that we take for granted. Type two diabetes is extremely prevalent on the “rez” because of this. Families also rely on canned and packaged foods because they will still last even when the electricity goes out and will not spoil the food. Loosing electricity and water seems to be a normal and uncontrollable occurrence on the res, but not all families will be affected as many families on the res do not even have water or electricity to lose. This garden will bring the community together, improve the diets of families and be a great step towards changing lives on the reservation.
One of the most important experiences that I like to get out of service learning trips is being able to talk to local people who are being directly effected by what is going on. I learned so much from just one conversation, and I hope that I can make an impact even after I go home because of it.

Night Time Discussion
Community Service Learning Tree
As a group we looked at the root causes, effects, and possible solutions that deal with the Reservation here at Pine Ridge. Sitting in a room with 26 people from all walks of life it was profound the impact the issues such as healthcare, shelter, and hunger had on all of us. Many related the issues to a history of Indian American degradation and failed government policies. Others saw issues as a part of poverty that has existed in the USA and the World. While the reasons may vary it was agreed upon that there was something we must do. Students decided to take part in campus awareness activities once we return to school and others went as far as planning to lobby the federal levels of government.
The most touching moment of the night came from the Director of the Re-Member Program Tom. Here sat a beat up man who stares these extreme issues day to day. That along with personal stresses he expressed the immense amount of energy we brought to him. Our diverse personalities, races, and religions gave him hope that people do care and his work has an impact everywhere,.

Wednesday Night

After a long day of work, we came to Re-member, had dinner, and listened to a presentation by Larry Swaller, a native Lakota Indian.
Larry told the Indian creation story with his descriptions. He also performed native songs related to the creation story by chanting and drumming as well.

Listening to the story, I found it to have many similar elements of creation myths of other religions, demonstrating how not that different the Indians are for from us. The creation story, however, was more spiritual and had a more people based feeling to it, providing a new look on how I look at how things were created. I may convert to the Lakota religion, but I could definitely relate to the spirituality and am adopting a lot of the concepts in my own life.

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