Native American tribes have long lived on the plains of the Dakotas. Eight recognized tribes maintain reservations in South Dakota, and American Indians make up five percent (~30,000) of the total population of North Dakota. Even these state names, meaning “friend or ally” in the Lakota or Sioux language, honor a proud heritage.
The native peoples in this area, like many tribal communities across the United States, share painful histories and face obstacles today. Recent controversy over oil pipeline access at Standing Rock shed light on a still tenuous relationship with government authorities. Tribal leaders work to cope with challenges of poor health and joblessness in many Native American communities, while protecting their unique status, cultures, and rights.
- Spend a week on federally-recognized Indian reservations in rural North Dakota and/or South Dakota. Stay with a local family and assist with projects at their home and around the reservation.
- Visit the veteran and senior centers and hear stories from elder members of the tribe. Sit in on a class at the local school and learn about challenges facing the tribe’s educational system.
- Tour a hospital and meet with a physician to discuss deficits in healthcare and insurance on the reservation.
- Meet Tribal Council members and learn about the relationship between the federal government and the governing bodies of Native American reservations throughout the country.
- Hear from a panel of young adults about the challenges facing a new generation of American Indian youth. Attend a Pow Wow and embrace the Native American tradition of coming together in song, dance, and storytelling to preserve the history of the American Indians.
- Journey outside the reservations to explore these sparsely populated plains states, from their rolling
- prairies to the dramatic outcrops of the Black Hills National Forest. Visit the towering granite peaks of Six Grandfathers/Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial, a tribute to the celebrated Native American tribal leader. Look across the layered landscapes of Badlands National Park, home to bison, bighorn sheep, prairie dogs and other unique wildlife.
Note: This is an immersive experience designed to learn as much as possible about one tribe and their way of life in one location. Looking for an overview of multiple tribes in different regions rather than an immersive experience with a single tribe? Take a road trip across multiple states, with guided day trips to multiple reservations. Available destinations include the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Nevada.
Relevant themes include community development, social justice, humanitarian studies, Native American history, sociology, anthropology, humanities, liberation theology, education, pre-medicine and nursing, psychology, leadership studies, law, criminal justice, family studies, social work.
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