Twelve students in a class entitled Psychological Perspectives of the Lakota studied American Indians of the Lakota Oyate tribe on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.
It feels odd and dehumanizing to write about this news item and the “study” of American Indians. (Indians have long criticized anthropologists for this kind of behavior.) But as the news report states, because American Indians have been oppressed and alienated since Europeans arrived on this continent nearly five centuries ago, Native Americans have had to overcome many obstacles in order to achieve freedom and acceptance. So perhaps a study of Indians and how they have physically and psychologically survived these kinds of trauma is a logical and reasonable basis of study?
The report states that the objective was for students to gain first-hand accounts of the lives led by the Lakota people in South Dakota while simultaneously participating in community service projects.
The reservation obviously could use assistance with all sorts of community projects. The Pine Ridge reservation has 85% unemployment and an average yearly income of about $3,400. Pine Ridge reservation is among the poorest communities in the nation.
While the school trip included attending Lakota cultural events and hiking in the Badlands, its focus was on serving the community and addressing the needs of its residents. For example, to aid people living with diabetes, the students helped build a wheelchair ramp outside of one home, and helped repair another home that consisted of a double wide trailer that was broken into two separate parts.
In their education about Lakota culture, students were introduced to the concept of “Mitakuye Oyasin,” a Lakota belief translated as “we are all connected.”