WWU students assist Lakota Sioux on Pine Ridge Reservation

Some people learn about the Native
American way of life by reading
such books as “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.” Others, including a group from William Woods University, learn about it firsthand.

This month, the Rev. Travis Tamerius, chaplain and director of the Center for
Ethics and Global Studies at William Woods University, is visiting the Lakota
Sioux on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota for a second time. Accompanying him for the week are students, faculty and staff.
“My experience at Pine Ridge last year was a humbling, eye-opening and rewarding
experience,” said Madeline Ortego, a student who also is making her second trip. 
“Not only was our group privileged to participate in various volunteer projects throughout the community, but
we were also able to learn about the history of the reservation and experience a cultural immersion of
the Oglala Lakota people.” 
She added, “It was nothing short of shocking to see the severe poverty-stricken nature of
the reservation—it literally takes your breath away.”
Student participants, in addition to Ortego, are Nick Hoover, Stephanie Chism,
Vanessa Davidson, Katherine McCurren, Andrea Garcia, Rayel Little, Kayla
Ferguson,Victoria WomanDress, Jennie McFadden and Dana Gibboney.
Also making the trip are Tammy Carter, director
of multicultural affairs; Michael Fredrick, assistant professor of physical education; and Cyndi Elliot Koonse, former director of multicultural affairs.
“A good education, a wise education should increase our capacity for a greater pliability of heart and this kind of trip allows us to see
the world from someone else’s perspective,” said Tamerius. “A trip like this can help cultivate important virtues like humility, respect and love.” 
While at the reservation, participants are working
with an organization called Re-member to improve the quality of life in the reservation. They are learning about Lakota leaders in the morning and evenings and working during the day.
“We’ll do whatever is needed that week, including building bunk beds for children, skirting a trailer, building outhouses or playing with the children of the Rez,” Tamerius said before the trip.
He said he was looking forward to returning to the reservation.
“There is a great deal of heartache on the Rez,” he said. “When
you enter into the tribal lands it is easy to forget that this place exists in the United State of America.  But there are also so many beautiful stories of resilient,
courageous and inspiring people who are determined to improve the quality of life in a hard place.”
Ortego was also eager to return.
“After my first visit to Pine Ridge, I was
certain that it would not be my last,” she said.  “I saw
no other option but to return to the reservation that had significantly left an impression on my life.  Last year I left with a sense of urgency and advocacy to serve
the people on the reservation—and I will undoubtedly continue to return many more times.”
For more information about the trip, visit www.watw2012rez.wordpress.com or
contact Tamerius at travis.tamerius@williamwoods.edu.
Rayel Little, Kate McCurren, Kayla Ferguson and Victoria
Woman Dress use their skills to
build an outhouse.
WWU students hike the
Badlands for an afternoon of stunning quiet and beauty (photo by Madeleine
Dakota Hawk tells the story of the Lakota people at