Last week I was in Pine Ridge, SD, on the Oglala Lakota reservation. I went to work with an organization called Re-Member. They do things like fix roofs, make beds for people who don't have them, skirt trailers, build outhouses, and generally work to make the lives of the people of Pine Ridge better.
They also mix the work with an immersion program into Lakota and Native American culture. In the mornings we would hear from Ted, the director of the program, about the Wisdom of the Elders. Quotes and thoughts from Native Americans from many tribes. Words about their thoughts on life, the earth, the conflict with the American Government, and so forth. In the evenings we had Lakota speakers come and talk to us about modern politics, social issues, Lakota spirituality, and even a language lesson. Any and all questions are welcomed by these speakers, even naive questions.
When I went, I had every intention of staying in the background, being a wall flower, and learning as much as I could in the short time I had. But the other volunteers there sort of overrode my plans. Groups from Hope College in Michigan, Hendrix College in Arkansas, University of Maryland, and high schoolers from Denver Academy were all very open and friendly, and it was hard not to respond in kind.
Over the next few, or many, posts, I'll be writing about each day I spent out there, drawing from the journal I kept, the pictures I took, and the memories I have. I am still processing a lot of what I learned, as there was so much fantastic information and experience packed into the week. But I think I've reached a place where I can start putting it down into words, both in blog form and in song. The biggest thing is to get it down, because I don't want to forget a thing from last week. I want to Re-Member.