By: Nathan Hunnicutt
Before arriving at Re-Member my knowledge of the Lakota People was very logistical – Unemployment rate of 80%-90%, per capita income was $4,000, life rate on the reservation was the second lowest in the Western Hemisphere, only behind Haiti, teen suicide rate is 4 times the national rate, etc. I knew that several of the adults did not work, but were alcoholics. There were very few small businesses on the reservation owned by Lakota, but the small businesses seemed to be on the rise a little. They had more than 13 teen suicides on the reservation in the past year. I was in awe. I knew that it was going to be an impoverished area, but I didn’t think that it would be this drastic. Some people described it as a third world country, and I thought how is this possible, to have a third world country in the middle of the U.S? The irony is that the first thing you notice when you meeting one of the Lakota People is how welcoming they are.
When we first arrived at Re-Member, we were invited to a Pow-Wow. Immediately when we arrived they invited us to play the games with the kids, and get involved with the dancing. I was expecting a society weighted down by poverty, and I viewed a community coming together to celebrate their culture and faith. When I child would when a three legged race or red light green light they would receive a prize. This shocked me. I thought they were impoverished. I thought they didn’t have enough money. Why wouldn’t they be saving money for food and housing and electricity? As I continued through the week, trash was everywhere. The houses were small and some in bad shape. The inside was often worse than the outside, housing 10-20 people, littered with more trash and junk food. But that was and is not my first impression. Every house I went to were greeted with welcoming arms. The Lakota People were joyful to see us. It just shows that although the facts might be true and physically what you see might describe the poverty and society, but the inside, how a person acts and feels is how they truly are. You can never read a book by its cover. It might be true that they have terrible options for water, they might not have any plumbing, they don’t enough beds, but welcoming faithful and passionate about their culture and history. It made me really question who I was. I have no faith. I do not know my family’s history very well. They do though. When they greet a person, they introduce their name and their ancestors’ names, what nation they are a part of. Imagine if everyone introduced themselves as such. Imagine if everyone could name the generations of their families. Imagine the knowledge that runs through our blood tree. It must be glorious.
For now though, it is off to St. Louis. Till next time, good-bye.