Sleepless in Pine Ridge

By: Andrew Novinski

This is going to be a semester of no sleep because the transition week was packed full of fun, but very busy and active. Do not fear, parents, we are all healthy and doing well. When we arrived at Pine Ridge I was expecting nothing less than to be very busy and that is just what we got. We arrived Saturday evening and became oriented with our surroundings. The next day was a tour day and we went to see the Badlands, where were given 30 minutes of complete silence to prepare for the week ahead of us. It was dry, hot, and dusty, but how quiet it was and the uniqueness of the landscape made up for that. There is nothing like pure silence and it can only be discovered through an experience and it seems easy to describe, but it is more complex than your mind would think.

The next day was our first work day. We wake up at 6:30 and have breakfast and then we discuss which groups are working where and then we are off to the job sites.  My first day was building bricks and as monotonous as it was mixing dirt and filling buckets, it was impressive to see what we accomplished. One of the groups made 256 bricks in a day. After a day of working we go back to the Re-Member home around 4:00 pm and dinner is at 5:00. Every night there is a speaker and he or she speaks about something dear to the Oglala Lakota culture.

My second day was much different and more physically demanding. We were digging holes for outhouses and they had to be six feet deep, 2 feet wide, and 3 feet long. The ground was really tough but it was very satisfying to get in a hole that was as tall, if not taller than you. We dug one and a half holes and went back home. The speaker that night was very riveting and talked a lot about the kids that lived on the reservation and it was very eye opening. I got to play with a 5 year old girl that day named Jalissa and she was so happy and laughing all the time, which in return, made me so happy I could not stop smiling.

The third work day was my favorite because I got to use power tools. I used the circular saw, impact driver, drill, recipro saw, and the chop saw. We were building a front porch and had to add a hand railing to the back steps. It was very rewarding to see what we had constructed out of just a pile of wood. Thank you Dad, Uncles, Grandpa for educating me in the art of craftsmanship.

The last day was more touring and we got to see the reservation in a wider perspective. We saw the hospital, a high school, a college, a trading post and my favorite part was a Catholic church. Religion is a very spiritual thing for Native Americans and seeing how they connected their ideas with Catholicism really caught my attention and really intrigued me. The sweat lodge for Native Americans is essentially a place for spiritual purification. It is small enclosed circular hut where they put red hot stones inside and pour water over them to create steam. They pray in there as the steam is making the room extremely hot, purifying their souls. They brought this into Catholicism by making the confessional room a perfect circle, which I thought was very cool. The church itself was circular too.

Pine Ridge was a very incredible experience and truly eye opening. I encourage everyone to research and make a visit because you will never know the real story from the history books. There is so much more to learn.

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