Honestly, I don’t even know how to write this entry….it’s been truly unbelievable to be here. The experience of being in Pine Ridge changes you – it shapes and re-writes parts of you and leaves you scrambling to accommodate a new perspective.
Our last couple days on the reservation brought some of the most powerful moments during our experience: visiting the site of ‘the Massacre of Wounded Knee’ left a number of us emotionally pained and fatigued: many of us cried, some of us offered prayers and ceremonial bundles, and we all reflected on the atrocities committed against the Lakota people. It was a time of great silence and the heaviness of emotion was ever-present.
Today, our last full day, we left the reservation and traveled to Denver. On our way, we said goodbye to the members of Conscious Alliance – a group of people to whom we are greatly in debt. Without their help, their support, their love…many of our opportunities for service and intercultural exchange wouldn’t have been possible. It was hard to say goodbye, but with a tight schedule and a strong desire to reach the Pow Wow in Denver, we kept our parting short and sweet.
Once in Denver, we made our way to the Coliseum to join our Pine Ridge hosts Natalie and Floyd Hand. I don’t think that any of us could have asked for a more exciting, powerful close to the trip: once inside the arena, we witnessed traditional American Indian Dances from multiple tribes across the region. We joined Natalie and Floyd stage-side, witnessing both the young men’s and young women’s ‘fancy dance’ – a speedy, beautiful blend of grace and athleticism. As we watched the dancers on center stage, Natalie invited us to take part in the amazing display. Both honored and humbled by the opportunity, we all made our way through the crowd to join the dancers: the fluidity, the drums, the songs….you couldn’t help but move with sincere amazement and appreciation. It was a surreal moment, and we cannot thank Floyd and Natalie Hand enough – throughout our time in Pine Ridge, both Floyd and Natalie have offered us incredible insight, lessons, and friendship. As hosts and teachers, their nobility and kindness is unquestionable. We thank them for everything we have experienced for without them it would not have been possible.