By: Marta Djalleta
September 13, 2015
Today was our second day on the reservation. The day was focused on setting the stage for our purpose on the reservation this week. We were able to learn a lot about the history of the Lakota people, much of which I unfortunately never knew. I am astounded with the amount of Lakota and Native history that is left out of our textbooks back home. Having taken advanced American History, I was shocked by the amount of Native reality that is left out of the curriculum. Our first destination today was the Badlands, which is the desert-like, infertile land that was given to the Lakota people by the government, in exchange for the very fertile Black Hills. While it was amazing to see this former glacial turned desert, it made me further realize the manipulation that the government played on the Lakota people and many other indigenous tribes. After seeing the Badlands, we went to the site of Wounded Knee, where a descendent of one of the survivors spoke the untold story of the Native massacre. To be blunt, the massacre of these innocent men, women, and children reminded me of the awful war crimes that are committed against suppressed populations all over the world. It was an eye-opening experience to learn about such a significant piece of American history so late in life. One of the things that struck me most about the speaker was one of the last things he said, “to my people, this massacre feels like it happened yesterday, it feels like it happened a year ago.” I am always really intrigued with certain points in history that still take a toll on people today. Later tonight, we had a speaker come to the Re-member site. The man recently had a 12 year old granddaughter commit suicide this past year. As one can imagine, he was very passionate with spreading awareness of the excessive amounts of suicide that have been occurring on the reservation, especially the escalating amount in this past year. However, he spent very little time talking about suicide compared to how much he talked about the importance of prayer. He kept reinforcing the importance of praying not just when life doesn’t go your way but every single day. One of the last things that the speaker said was asking us to take down the name of a child and become the pen pal with this child. He plead that it would save this child’s life. He also proceeded to say that as he smudged sage on all of us, he noticed that all of our spirits are whole; many people on the reservation have broken spirits. He reported that hundreds of emergency hospital visits occur every year due to adolescent suicide attempts. When he asked this of us, chills ran through my body. I could see the desperation in his eyes, having dealt with this problem directly in his family. He needed us to do this for the survival of his people. He needed to see a change before he passes. With that, I have a different perspective on my purpose here this week. While it will be wonderful to build bunk beds and such, I am most excited to hear the stories of these troubled souls and make genuine connections.