I just returned from my 3rd volunteer trip to the Pine Ridge Reservation with the Tipi Raisers and for the 3rd time in a row, it was a carreer-changing, unforgettable, informative, well-organized, powerful, and beautiful trip. We always had something to do whether it was learning about the Wounded Knee Massacre from elders, participating in an inipi ceremony, dancing to Lakota drums and singing, and helping the people that have been oppressed by the US for centuries. These trips have revived in me a profound compassion for others that I had while growing up in developing countries but started to fade after moving back to the western culture of the US. If it were not for Pine Ridge Reservation, the Lakota, and the Tipi Raisers, I would not be the person I am today.
I think living on the Pine Ridge Reservation for a week was honestly one of the greatest experiences I've had and I would even say it was a life changing experience. During that week, I meet some of the most humble, compassionate, hopeful and resilient people I've ever meet. I was able to meet people like Waylon and his family, Thurman, Virgil, Romana, and many others and learn about their lives and what it meant to be a Lakota man or woman. And not only was I able to listen to their stories but to a certain extent I was able to live it. By participating in hand games, drum circles, horse back riding, and inipi, I was able to live like a Lakota and by doing so I was able to fully appreciate their culture. At first I felt guilty because as an American, I understand and further learned of the economic, social, physical, and psychological damage that we have inflicted upon Native Americans. But I greatly appreciate the members of the Lakota culture living on the Pine Ridge reservation for willingly opening their home, land, and more importantly, their heart to us. I know that the physical work that my group and I did over the week was very little. But I know the emotional work that we did such as listening to these individuals and their stories is a step in the right direction in terms of bridging the differences between Americans and Native Americans. And I just want to thank Dave along with Tipi Raisers for granting us this very special opportunity- its something that I will hold near and dear to me!
I had an amazing experience with the tipi raisers! I learned more in this one week of volunteering than I have on any other trip. I learned about myself and the Lakota people. Working on Virgil's garden was inspiring and I hope to go back to do more! We also enjoyed some sight seeing, horseback riding, raising a tipi and hearing from guest speakers.
Tipi Raisers gave me the most important week of my life when I volunteered with them from March 4-11, 2017. Each day was carefully planned by the executive director and involved 3 days of 6-hour shifts working on the demolition of an abandoned retreat center in order to salvage lumber to build a home for a local family and working on the construction of a community garden. We also retrieved and delivered firewood and food to a family in need. We personally met with and worked alongside all of the individuals we were serving and were able to get a real sense of how they struggled on a day to day basis. Additionally, we had daily activities and outings that taught us so much about the Lakota culture, history, and way of life. We visited schools, churches, national parks, powwows, and learned from many leaders and elders from the Reservation. By the end of the trip, I felt so moved and inspired by the people that Tipi Raisers had brought in to talk to us and so motivated by the work the organization helped us get done that I plan on coming back to Pine Ridge many more times in the future. Tipi Raisers was extremely thoughtful in its planning of our itinerary, professional in the execution of our work projects, effective in making a direct impact on Pine Ridge families, and personal in its investment in bettering relations between natives and non-natives. I cannot stress how effective and inspiring this organization is, and the fact that the executive director, Dave, and his family and board members are so well-loved and known on the Reservation is proof of the enormous impact of Tipi Raisers.
Experiencing the Lakota Tribe with Tipi Raisers was a remarkable experience. Exceptional planning and execution, meaningful education, and personal interaction with tribe members made for an unforgettable and life-changing experience. This was a unique blend of humanitarian service with first-hand cultural exposure. Thank you to Tipi Raisers for an incredible week!
During my 10+ years working in international development, I have evaluated hundreds of development organizations regarding their financial and social impact and suitability for additional funding. I was thoroughly impressed with how Dave and his team approached working with the local Pine Ridge Lakota population. I felt a genuine desire from Tipi Raisers to help our group gain an appreciation for the challenging historical, cultural, economic, spiritual context the Lakota people are living in. I left the project with a strong desire to get to know the Lakota culture and traditions better and find ways to establish meaningful connections with them. Thanks Tipi Raisers for an amazing experience and I hope to join you again in the near future on other worthwhile projects.
We had a tremendously memorable and impactful week with Tipi Raisers -- and I am confident that the positive impacts accrued more to us than the people we came to help. Our activities spanned working closely with a specific family to address their acute needs, attending multiple cultural activities that exposed us and endeared us to the Lakota people and culture, as well as a lot of fun.
I had the opportunity to bring my oldest son with me on the trip and he definitely feels that it is one of the more meaningful experiences he has had in his life. He wants to go back and as my children become old enough to meaningfully assist in the work that needs to be done, I would like to involve my entire family in repeated projects with Tipi Raisers.
The trip with the Tipi Raiser was truly an amazing experience and one that I will hold dear for a long time to come. I went on the trip with the intent to provide service to an under-served community but left having gained so much more from spending time with the people, learning about their culture and soaking up the incredible landscape. I got to say it's hard to beat a horse back ride on the open terrain overlooking the reservation.
Tipi Raisers has created a volunteer experience that enables participants to work with their minds and hands to experience a deep cultural exchange with the Lakota Native Americans. Tipi Raisers was very flexible and accommodating in working with our volunteer group to maximize our experience. We met a handful of community leaders both young and old, built a few significantly impactful things for a family, had some traditional Native food, and experienced several unique cultural experiences. When you leave this volunteer experience, you'll have built stronger relationships and created a lifetime memory.
There are few times in life when a single place or group of people will positively change who you are in the short course of a week. Pine Ridge changed my perspective on the world, and Tipi Raisers provided the means to spend time at Pine Ridge, the space for meaningful reflection, and the opportunity for action.
Society has a tendency to filter history into its most digestible and anecdotal form. Even within the progressive curriculum of my high school, my experience of American history was grossly dominated by the eurocentric white man’s perspective. Huge historical events were often summarized into less shocking forms that made them seem like fairy tales, with each obstacle or tragedy portrayed as a hump in the road on the way to more power. Although I will never fully understand what the Lakota people have been through, and continue to go through, nor the strength it takes to overcome the adversity they face, I left Pine Ridge knowing that American history is not a determined narrative made to fit in the thousand pages of a text book. Our history is a web of stories and tragedies that come together to create the human experience, the Native American experience, the American experience. There is no one history.
After hearing stories of the Lakota people first hand, it was easy to resort to an instinctual feeling of guilt for what the American government has done, and continues to do to Native American people. But as I continued to build relationships, listen to the elders, and hear stories from the Lakota youth, it became apparent that Lakotas are not sharing their history for the purposes of making white Americans feel ashamed. Lakota stories need to be told because they hold the inherent truth that all humans are related, and in that realization is the intangible power to create a humane world of compassion. From Inipi on the first night, to listening to Basil Braveheart speak, to shouting into the badlands desert, the amount of compassion and love on Pine Ridge and from the people there is incredible, and I think (at least in part) it rubbed off on me. Even now that I have left Pine Ridge, what I learned there and the idea that all humans are related, is constantly on my mind. Going on a trip to Pine Ridge should be a mandatory fee of being an American citizen. It fundamentally changed how I look at the world, how I look at other people, and how I handle the responsibility of being an American. Tipi Raisers gave great context to the power of our experiences, and I would not have had the takeaways I did without the support of Dave and the organization. I plan on returning to Pine Ridge many times in the future.