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Re-Member

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Centers to Support the Independence of Specific Populations, Children & Youth, Education, Homeless & Housing, Human Services

Mission: Guided by the aspirations of the Oglala Lakota communities we serve, Re-Member seeks to improve the quality of Reservation life through relationships, shared resources, and volunteer services.

Target demographics: Oglala Lakota Oyate (Nation) living on the Reservation.

Geographic areas served: Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

Programs: Re-Member is a non-profit outreach that has coexisted with the Lakota people on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Re-Member works through a small group of staff and more than 1,100 volunteers each year. We spend time on historical and cultural immersion, sharing meals, celebrating alongside Lakota at local powwows, and working to improve living conditions of the tribal members.

Community Stories

4 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I really enjoyed my trip to Re-Member. It was a great experience. I was only 10 years old when I went, but it was family week so younger kids could come. I did not get to go out to the work sites with my mom, dad and sister. They built things like bunk beds and out-houses. Instead, I got to go see things like buffalo! They were so cool. I got to see them really close up. We had great leaders that were really fun and taught us tons about the Lakota culture. We also got to go on a long but fun hike in the badlands. It was hot, but very neat. I liked climbing and looking for fossils. We also did art projects. The staff that taught us were very nice and funny.
In the evenings, we all regrouped at Re-Member. We slept in bunk beds and they were very comfortable. That surprised me because I thought it would be uncomfortable. I was very happy. The food was good too. It wasn't Lakota food, but the quality was nice and there was something different every day.
I also liked the pow-wow. The dances were cool. I had never seen anything like that before. Kids my age were dancing in cool outfits. I liked all the colors and designs.
Overall, the experience was great. I may not have worked, but the stories we were told by the Lakota elders were fascinating and the facilities were very nice. The people I met were very nice to me. It was a great way for my family to do a volunteer trip together. We are planning to go again next year when I will be old enough to be part of the adult program and do the hard work. I'm looking forward to going back. I'd recommend it. Thanks, Seb

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I believe Re-Member is one of the best non-profit organizations out there. They are reaching out to the Lakota people and bringing awareness to thousands of their story.

I started volunteering at Re-Member in 2006. I was persuaded to go by one of my very best friends. Her witness had a profound impact in changing my life. She took a group of people out to Pine Ridge, South Dakota to do a volunteer week at Re-Member. It changed her life and she came back and shared her story with me. Her spirit touched mine and my journey began. Before I knew it, I was volunteering with about 25 others from our church. This year will be my 12 year going out to Re-Member on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

People ask me why I continue to go back every year. The answer is simple: my need to give and receive compassion and love struck me like a lightning bolt 11 years ago.

It was our third day working and my group was assigned to go deliver bunk beds. The home we were at was a small two-bedroom home and housed about 20 people. It was a hot day and at the home we were at there were about 5 kids that were hanging out watching us the whole time. They were between the ages 5 – 12. We put up the bunk beds and put new sheets on them along with a blanket and pillow and a new indigenous book. It was a good feeling to be able to provide this to the families. Then some hours later, we were out packing up the truck getting ready to go, when the lightning bolt hit me.

I was standing there looking at the house, and all of a sudden this little boy of about 10 years old comes running out with tears running down his face. As he gets closer, I can see he is smiling. I ask him if everything is okay, and he looks down at the pillow that he is hugging to his chest and says, "thank you!" With tears in my eyes, I say your welcome. Then he proceeds to tell me that this is the first pillow he has ever had, and tonight will be the first time he had every slept in a real bed. I almost couldn’t breath because I was so choked up. He smiled at me and turned around and ran back into the house. In that moment, my life was changed forever.

I knew without a doubt I was needed here. Not just for what type of work I could do or what material things I could provide, but because love and compassion were needed. This little boy’s story needed to be told. I couldn’t let him be forgotten.

I went with my crew back to Re-Member, and as I'm trying to deal with all the emotions of the experience, I began talking with the others who were there volunteering. We started conversations of friendship, faith and spiritual growth that are still going on to this day.

Over the last 11 years, I have continued to go out to Re-Member every year. I have made a commitment to the people of Pine Ridge. Re-Member gives me a place to go to reach out and make connections with the people of Pine Ridge and volunteers from all over the world.

There have been so many people that I have met out at Re-Member who have shared their compassion, friendship and insight and I feel humbled and blessed beyond words can express.

I am thankful there is an organization like Re-Member who gives people from all over the world the opportunity to come to Pine Ridge to meet, help and learn more about the Lakota people.

Re-Member along side all the volunteers that come out to Pine Ridge, dare to care. They care about a group of people that others would just forget and ignore. They are helping to make sure that little by little, our Lakota friends have a chance to have a life full of hope, love and compassion.

The Re-Member organization gives us a chance to use our hands to work, use our ears to listen to the wisdom of the elders, use our eyes to see the beauty of land of the Lakota's and to open our hearts to a beautiful people, allowing us to walk in peace along side them.

I would highly recommend this non-profit.

3

Volunteer

Rating: 5

A week at Re-Member has the power to change your life - seriously. At least it did for us.

My wife and I decided to go to Re-Member because a speaker came to our church and talked about the dire situation and statistics on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. He then talked about Re-Member and their mission to improve the conditions of the Lakota while standing along side them, which is distinctly different from just offering aid or charity. Also, although a lot of churches send groups to Re-Member, it is not a religious organization and they do not want people evangelizing to the Lakota while they are on the reservation. Just focus on helping where you can and interacting as often as you can. We signed up on the spot.

Once we arrived, we realized it was much more than just a week of manual labor on worksites. You learn a lot over the week with teachings from the "Wisdom of the Elders" in the mornings (which is a collection of teachings from native peoples worldwide) and from local speakers in the evenings. As you discover, the reality of how the U.S. Government has treated the Lakota is really, really hard to hear - but it's a perspective I never received in school. As a white male, what I appreciated was that this information didn't create a sense of "white guilt" in me - it just allowed me to fill in some gaps in the reality of the horrible history of how the native Americans were treated. Now, the fact that the existing systems we have in place (Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Indian Health Service for starters) are perpetuating the poverty and problems on the Rez, well that's a different story and something to take up with my Congressional Representative.

As far as the actual work and interaction with the Lakota, we built and delivered outhouses the week we were there. In some ways, it was great to be able to provide this for a few families that didn't have running water/plumbing - it really made a difference to them and they were quite friendly and sincerely grateful. On the other hand, this is the 21st Century and in the middle of hte richest country in the world, and we are delivering ... outhouses? Seriously? Again, you don't realize the magnitude of the challenges and poverty on Pine Ridge until you go out there and see it for yourself.

We came with a group of 12, but ended up making a lot of new friends from all over the country over the course of the week. Seeing the transformation of some of the younger people (late teens) over the week was incredible as well.

Did we have to clean up after ourselves and help out in the kitchen? Absolutely - this wasn't a resort, nor is it advertised to be. Do I wish we could have helped more people and met more of the Lakota? Absolutely. But again, when you get out there and see the magnitude of the challenges facing the Lakota, even being able to make a small difference in the lives of a few families felt like an accomplishment.

Re-Member is doing an amazing job by providing people a chance to learn about an amazing people and make a difference in their lives. Already signed up to go back next year.

9 Laura G.

Volunteer

Rating: 2

Re-member is a charity that helps the Lakota people primarily by bringing them beds, skirting (to reduce heating costs), creating wheelchair ramps, outhouse installation, and minor home repairs. It costs $546 to volunteer there for a week. That pays for housing (bunkhouse with 8+ in a room), food (it's all cheap, processed food), touring the Badlands, and Pine Ridge, and lectures by Lakota people.

I was hoping for personal interaction with the Lakota, but this was not really part of it. Our days were scheduled from 7:00 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. They say to slow down and listen, but there was no time. They also use "Rez time" as a one way excuse to be late (waste time), but hold you accountable if you are slow, late, or not on their schedule.

Volunteering entails a lot of not well organized work so it felt unproductive. The week I was there, we delivered about 11 beds and skirted 2 homes. A Native came looking for someone in the office because he said he'd been waiting for a bed for a year. Another told me that he's been waiting for roof repairs for 4 years.

The total income produced by the 50+ volunteers was in the neighborhood of $23,000 for the week. That doesn't seem like a great return on investment. There were so many volunteers and so little work that the volunteers were loaned out to Red Cloud Renewable Energy. We pulled weeds to get them ready for a visit by potential investors.

They ask for your money while condemning you for being privileged even though I know that some people there scraped together their pennies to be there.

The staff was brusque, bossy, and rude and treated the volunteers like children. We had to clean the bunkhouse, vehicles, kitchen, and laundry room as part of our service because, as one paid staff put it, "We'll have to do it if you don't."

The worst part was the proselytizing. If you want a healthy dose of white guilt, go here. They are liberal with it. You will know (if you are white) that you are a total piece of trash. We were even told by one speaker that Republicans can see themselves out. For the record, I am not a Republican or an Anglo, but I am a human being and I don't like seeing people treated like that.

Here I learned that there is only one race, the human race - but if you are white, you are a devil. I learned "Do not feed the animals. It only makes them dependent" while they were giving bunk beds to people who (some) didn't ask to help bring in the pieces or help with assembly.

I am happy that I came to Pine Ridge. I actually learned a lot. I dug deep and asked myself a lot of questions. I left with more than I brought, but it was hard won. Re-member's vision of the Red Road is not my vision. "Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that." ~Martin Luther King. That means love for all people, not just the ones with the politics that agree with yours or those with the right skin color.