Reflections on Pine Ridge

Whenever I think back to our trip to Pine Ridge I’m overwhelmed with the wishes that I had written in my journal more while I was there. I thought I was going to be able to remember all the things that I wanted to but with distance from the reservation comes distance from the feelings I had while I was there.


Upon arriving back at CC I felt incredibly strange. I couldn’t process any of my thoughts and every interaction I had seemed very weird to me. It took me sometime to realize that this was because the pace of life here is much faster than that on the rez. Everything moved so quickly and it was hard to me to understand. The Lakota people have such a great appreciation of life and take their time with everything. At CC, students do not. I felt rushed around and I didn’t have any time to really think about anything. The adjusting time made me feel like an outsider and in turn made me skeptical of how we live our lives. There’s something very unnerving and uncomfortable about being an outsider and for me it’s hard to process without being skeptical.


All these feelings of feeling like I don’t belong brought me back to the headspace I was in at Pine Ridge. Immediately upon arriving in White Clay I saw some graffiti that read death whiteman. This was the first sign to me that I didn’t belong. The feeling of unwelcomeness was not aided by the looks we received at the gas station. Although Mike and Jamie couldn’t have been more welcoming nothing they did could help me feel more at ease about my inherent foreignness to the Lakota culture. Throughout the trip I felt very skeptical of how these ceremonies actually worked and if they had any validity. Again, I think this skepticism came from the feeling of being an outsider. I tried my best to be actively engaged in the ceremonies but none of my efforts seemed genuine to me.


Pine Ridge is a beautiful place filled with a tremendous amount of love and respect but I was so ready to be back at CC. I very much enjoyed being there and being a part of the Lakota ceremonies but those ceremonies are not for us. We were there to be educated not to be a part of their culture. I’m very much grateful for this education but I wish I could’ve experienced the ceremonies like the Lakota people do without my own veil of skepticism clouding it.

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