“Mitakuye oyasin” which translates to “all my relations”, is a Lakota Sioux term. However the term goes more in depth. It means all my relations with all humans, animals, plants, rocks, forces of nature, and elements. Everything is connected, and nothing exists in isolation. I’ve weaved that idea into my life. I’ve had the pleasure of traveling with four other rising seniors and my economics teacher. Our grouped merged with another group of high schoolers from Memphis, Tennessee and their teacher. Our trip was planned out by SAGE, whose mission is to provide youth with opportunities to experience and gain a better understanding of themselves and the world. This trip was to learn about microfinance and the Lakota culture.
After visiting the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, I received a fresh new set of eyes. I heard all kinds of stories. Various creation stories about the muskrat and turtle and even one that told about how all races come from elements. I watched a traditional drum performance during a thunderstorm. What hit me was how close to the sky I felt. The raw beauty within the black hills, and the badlands was breathing taking. I even got to visit Mount Rushmore, but it was bittersweet. It was amazing, but it was built on sacred lands. Plus mountains, are important in the Lakota culture. I visited Crazy Horse, which in my opinion is far more marvelous than Rushmore. The Wounded Knee Massacre site, was indescribable. You could feel the sadness, it just lived in the air. The people, are still and will always be warriors. Not only do I ache for more adventures, but I feel as if I have been given an obligation to use my experience to teach others. This trip was an eye opener because it showed how much work this generation is going to have to put into the future. The Pine Ridge Reservation is one of the poorest places in the country. There is a very high unemployment and suicide rate. Out of all the horrible facts, the one that was the most shocking was that selling alcohol isn’t allowed on the reservation, yet alcoholism is at it’s highest there. White Clay, is a town close to the border, in Nebraska with only about 7 people living there. It makes 6 million dollars each year off of all the alcohol it sells to the Native Americans. How can those people sleep at night, knowing how many lives they have destroyed? Mitakuye Oyasin, and yet people don’t care for others even though everyone is connected in a intricate web of life. What I found beautiful is that people are trying to pull the reservation out of poverty. Through various programs. One of them which I’m fond of is the Lakota Solar Enterprise. Henry Red Cloud founded this program which helps bring jobs and green technology to Native American Communities.
I don’t know how I left. It didn’t even hit me in the airplane that I was leaving. I feel like it’s because I know I will go back. It has always been hard for me to say goodbye. So now I say “Toksha (which is short for toksha ake wacinyuanktin ktelo)” meaning “I shall see you again”.
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