Ever since I’ve been back from Pine Ridge I have been frequently asked to describe my experience and what I’ve learned. It’s difficult for me to verbalize all of the intangible and, in my experience, incommunicable events that took place. Although I had doubts about having learned anything of significance in comparison to other students, upon returning to the college, it could not be more obvious that I had undergone significant changes in my perception of the world. I felt completely out of sync with CC at first and when performing acts of inauthenticity , I felt as though I were sick.
My world has been opened along with my heart because of my experience in South Dakota, having seen and felt things I found highly plausible, if not laughable, not too long ago. When I hear things that I used to consider far-fetched I am now intrigued rather than dismissive.
While I was caught in the ebb and flow of reservation life, I also was retreating from the life I have been living for the past semester. Upon returning, I saw with a fresh pair of eyes and higher perspective that gave me some insights that “should” have been glaringly obvious at the time. I hope that I possess the power to take these insights to change that which I know is not right.
Sweating often, lead to a purification of thoughts that, while impossible to maintain, gave me a goal to strive for and showed me that if I possess a strong constitution, I have the tools at my disposal to alter my life for the better. And although I do sense many immediate effects of my experience, such as this, I am doubtful I will ever grasp all of the significance of what happened but I do believe that, with time, I will further my understanding.
Overall this experience did not exceed my expectations, it obliterated them and removed the need for them in the first place. Spending only a few days on this amazing reservation with an open mind yielded profound realizations I am slowly beginning to grasp at and hopefully integrate into my life. The trip instilled in me a sense of unity between people, in the small scope of our class and the people we interacted with, but also on a larger scale. As the Lakota say and I truly believe:
Mitakuye Oyasin – We are all related