Rapid City, South Dakota
After arriving in Rapid City, South Dakota, students will be greeted by our non-profit partner, the Knife Chief Buffalo Nation Society. For a variety of historical, geographic, political, and economic reasons, the Pine Ridge Reservation is the second poorest county in the United States. In the midst of these challenging circumstances, the Knife Chief Buffalo Nation Society is working to reclaim 1800 acres of their ancestral lands in order to restore the buffalo herds that once roamed freely on the Great Plains. It is their vision that reclaiming this land and reintroducing the buffalo will better connect the Lakota people with their ancestral home for both economic and cultural reasons. In addition to this buffalo project, the Knife Chief Buffalo Nation Society also hosts camps, guided by tribal elders, for Lakota children that are intended to revive vibrant traditional beliefs and ways of living.
While in South Dakota, the group will work shoulder-to-shoulder with the leaders of the Knife Chief Buffalo Nation Society as well as a group of local Lakota youth. The primary focus of their project will be helping to support a camp in the Black Hills that is designed to allow Lakota children to begin healing from any trauma that they have experienced in their lives. In order to enhance their understanding of the history of the Lakota people, the group may also gather materials for ceremonies that will occur during the camp, work at a Lakota school for girls, or build fences for a new buffalo pasture in Pine Ridge. During part of the project phase, participants will camp in a ponderosa forest close to where the Knife Chief holds their annual Sun Dances. SStS students will also have the opportunity to participate in traditional Lakota ceremonies. During their time in Pine Ridge, they will learn about how thoughtful and committed grassroots leaders are embracing traditional Lakota beliefs as a means to address modern challenges.
The Knife Chief Buffalo Nation Society works to reclaim 1800 acres of ancestral lands for restoring buffalo as well as Lakota culture and lifeways. To learn more, please visit their website.
The group’s primary focus will be helping the Knife Chief Buffalo Nation Society to facilitate a children’s healing camp. For example, students may help prepare and clean up for meals, put up tipis and gather plants necessary for traditional ceremonies. They may also help to build or repair fences for a buffalo pasture and volunteer at a school.
Prior to their travels, students complete a series of online activities (30 minutes each). While traveling, they also read engaging articles, participate in cultural experiences, and create presentations in small groups.
While on the reservation, the group may explore cultural and historical sites such as Wounded Knee on foot. They also might hike in the grasslands while collecting plants for the children’s camp or working on the buffalo pasture. Additionally, they will climb a mountain in the Black Hills that is sacred for the Lakota.
The group will stay in cabins at Camp Bob Marshall for while working at the children’s camp. They will camp in tents while on the Pine Ridge Reservation.
After arriving in Rapid City, the group will drive for a couple hours to the town of Porcupine. Then, they will drive another couple hours to the site of the children’s camp in the Black Hills. After completing their work with the healing camp, they will return to Porcupine for the last days of the course.
Although the group will stay near the children’s camp or the buffalo pastures, they do not stay in the homes of individual families.
Throughout their time on the Pine Ridge Reservation and in the Black Hills, the group will be staying or camping in rural and sparsely populated areas.
During the travel phase of each SStS course, students spend time reflecting about the learning that occurs through their immersion and service experiences. These posts capture the impact of our programs on individual students. Explore the posts below to learn about the SStS Pine Ridge program from the important viewpoint of our students.