It's Not About the Mascot

A few months have passed since I spent some time thinking and learning on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. There is rarely a day that passes that I don't think about sustainable solution making in this space and how individually and as part of connected communities the right support can be given to the incredible people working tirelessly on the reservation. It leaves me wondering about a lot of things.


I wonder how we can support the tribal executive. He administers over 50 programs and oversees hundreds of permanent and temporary employees. It is difficult to believe that he can sustain the current programming and build modern programming at the same time without support. Can we support his work? 


I wonder about mental health services. Though we have seen additional dollars splashed into this area (which are much needed) since we visited, there is still a lot of work to be done around shifting the stigma surrounding mental health both at Pine Ridge and across the country. This shift could begin to bring a new calm to the crisis around youth suicide on the reservation. Can we support this shift? 


I wonder about access to technology resources. Though a new initiative from the White House is bringing resources to a tribe in Oklahoma and other areas in poverty around the country, there is a huge need for cost controls around bandwidth costs at Pine Ridge. Places like the OLC Woksape Tipi Academic and Public Library and Archives are ready to be a resource to the reservation. Can we support their work? 


I wonder about growing small businesses into job creators for the Oglala Sioux. The Pine Ridge Area Chamber of Commerce has incredible literature that outlines the opportunities like: cultural events, camping, hiking, horseback riding, sightseeing, and fishing. How can these opportunities draw more visitors and dollars to the reservation to support services? The chamber literature reminds everyone that "we are a nation rich with history and powerful vistas." Can we support visitors headed to Pine Ridge?


I wonder about learning on the reservation. The need for more tribal teachers was clear, and the work of Oglala Lakota College Teacher Training Program was creating a pathway for more teachers. Can we support the acceleration of this path so more teachers from the tribe can do incredible things for kids? 


I wonder about South Dakota GEARUP and how it can bring more college and career readiness to the children of Pine Ridge. These types of programs are providing fresh opportunities to kids across the reservation and throughout South Dakota. What other programs are already available to kids that need adult champions for their success? Can we support the expansion and execution of these types of programs? 


I wonder about school cooperation. With tribal controlled schools, parochial schools, county schools, and bureau schools all serving kids on the reservation, it seems to create communications issues, curriculum issues, and shared service issues. All of these groups have a common mission of supporting kids, and getting all of them thinking and serving in the same energy flow could benefit kids tremendously. Can we support paths to working together for schools? 


Finally, I wonder if we spent more time talking about the things above instead of sports mascots, logos, and symbols could we support change from the inside out? The solutions for Pine Ridge will come from within, and there are so many people wanting to see these changes happen on the reservation. Let's support with the right tools, in the right places, with the right sustained energy. After months of reflection and thought, this seems to be the right journey for those of us that really want to see change.