Page 19 - winter_11-12

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2011-12 19
A group of students and staff from William Woods
University traveled to Pine Ridge Reservation in
South Dakota in May for a week of service-
learning among the Oglala Lakota Sioux.
“When you consider all the factors that go into
the quality of life index, the challenges on Pine
Ridge Reservation are considerable,” the
Rev. Travis Tamerius
, university chaplain and
director of the Center for Ethics and Global
Studies, said.
“Pine Ridge has been described as a third-world
country inside a first-world nation. The agency
includes the poorest counties in the United
States with an unemployment rate at a
staggering 80–90 percent. It has one of the
lowest life expectancies in the Western
Hemisphere, and the teenage suicide rate is
four or five times the national average.”
The trip was part of Woods Around the World,
an academic program directed by Tamerius that
is multicultural, interdisciplinary, collaborative,
and service-based.
The group included current students
Sydnee
Kuster
(Bunceton, Mo.),
Madeline Ortego
(Fayetteville, Ark.),
Courtney Shotwell
(Chesterfield, Mo.) and recent graduate
Tiffany Bounds
(Kingdom City, Mo.).
They were joined by
Tammy Carter
, director of
multicultural affairs;
Rebecca Seitz
, campus
counselor, and Tamerius.
Cyndi Koonse
,
former director of multicultural affairs at WWU,
also accompanied the group on the trip and
shared her knowledge of Native American ways.
While there, the group participated in a cultural
immersion program at Re-Member, a nonprofit
organization on the Pine Ridge Reservation.
According to its website, Re-Member exists to
“improve the quality of reservation life through
relationships, shared resources, and
volunteer services.”
“Re-Member is doing some fantastic work on
the reservation,” Tamerius said. “Their mission
statement describes their purpose as ‘an
organization that exists to recall our country’s
treatment of the Native people of the Americas
and to repair the broken pieces of that
relationship.’ Similarly, Woods Around the
World is focused on student trips that help us
to appreciate differences between cultures and
identify ways that we can bridge those gaps
through friendship and mutual respect.”
Each day the team learned about the Lakota
people from various guest speakers. The
Native speakers told stories about the history
of their people, their cultural values, the current
challenges for those living on the reservation,
and their hopes for the future.
"As an aspiring social worker, the trip to the
reservation allowed me to redefine my focus
on what I plan to do once I graduate,” Ortego,
a senior, said. “To see firsthand how the third-
world status poverty has plagued the area of
Pine Ridge and its residents was an eye-open-
ing and humbling experience. I plan to pursue
an internship at Re-Member next summer to
acquire more experience and knowledge about
the reservation that I will surely pass along
to others."
The team also spent time each day doing
various work projects—building bunk beds,
skirting a trailer, and constructing outhouses.
continued on page 20