Six Middlebury students, funded by a CE Cross-Cultural Community Service (CCCS) grant, spent their spring break in South Dakota on the Pine Ridge Reservation. When this group of students met at the Architecture Table on campus, they did not at first imagine that they would end up traveling together to South Dakota to learn from the Lakota community and to work with the organization Re-Member. Re-Member is dedicated to raising the quality of life of Native Americans on Pine Ridge. Two students, Maggie Cochrane ’16 and Nicole Cheng ’17, reflect on the experience below.
“The program hosts groups of volunteers each week to help with home repair projects, from building porches and bunk beds to skirting trailers. There were also speakers each day who told volunteers about the history of the Lakota people’s culture and oppression. It was amazing to see the conditions on the reservation firsthand, and it was also amazing to see the amount of hope and determination we encountered. Native American communities in America often experience systematic poverty, as evidenced by and connected to their housing systems. Despite research beforehand, we did not feel that we had a grasp on what life on reservations was like until we were there. We came away with incredible new perspectives. There is a long way to go for us as a society on the scale of cultural competency, and working on Pine Ridge gave us a better sense of all that there is still to be done. We were very inspired by the people working at Re-Member and by their passionate commitment to the community. Even though we were only there for a few days, the experience felt well organized, and our small contributions still seemed to make an impact. […] Re-Member has only been on the rez for 18 years, but it has made a huge difference. It was an honor to be a part of their work.”
Alison Haas ’16