Sunlight plays peek-a-boo through the yellowed blinds, and shutters my body awake. I let out a silent groan thinking “I want to sleep,” but my mind keeps wandering to the day plans. I clamber out of bed to go fill my grumbling stomach with a bagel. Then Skyler, Ashley, and I go out to explore the grounds a little more. Behind the school we see a dome shaped green house and an old looking building with chipped white paint which is probably used as a storage shed. A couple yellow-orange buses are parked, with the words “Red Cloud Indian School
Pine Ridge, South Dakota” gleaming in shiny black paint on the side, dried mud is splattered across the the bottom part.
Being considerate of our time we play on the playground a bit before heading back towards our rooms so we could get started with the plans for the day. First on our agenda is to stain a deck and the skirting of a trailer for a local woman named Robin. In the previous year, the group had helped with fixing up the home, but it was a surprise to hear that she still had yet to actually move in.
After some time into our work, Robin comes by to introduce herself to us; her daughter and son-in-law, Daisy and Nolan, also come to visit along with their five children. We decide to take a break and have lunch together. Lola, one of the girls, is coloring with Ashely. Although she is super shy at first, soon her chipper personality bubbles out. After some time, we say our goodbyes and go back to finishing the little bit of work we had left. Then we head back to Red Cloud before our departure to the other school.
Painting horses, a Game of Ninja, and a Skateboard
I start out in the painting room again, and sit next to Twila. She doesn’t say much in the time she sits next to me, but I can tell that she is intrigued by my painting. I glide the paintbrush with brown paint over the paper, making curves and lines until at last I have a horse. I see her hand copying the same motions. Then I goop some black paint to make a mane and tail. She makes her paintbrush do the same. At last we both finish our bay horses, “Wow, that looks really good, Twila! You’re an artist!” A smile slithers across her face. I smile back.
We head to dinner, and then play a game of Ninja afterwards, a game that I have yet to master to this day. Then we shuffle off to play Bingo with the kids and some of their family members. I don’t win anything, which I am definitely ok with, because I would find it hard to decide on which kid I’d give the prize to. There is a young man sitting diagonally from me who gets a Bingo and wins a skateboard. He is super excited to be able to share it with his best friend.
A Hospital Far From Reach
We travel to the one and only hospital on the reservation in Pine Ridge, and a lady who has been here for 11 years now gives us a tour and talks to us about the hospital. One hospital and two health care centers on 3,469 square miles of land. To put that in perspective, that’s one hospital and two health care centers for 3.32 Rhode Island’s, or 1.78 Delaware’s.
As the lady is talking to us she mentions how there are two health care centers located in Kyle and Wanblee, and there is one ambulance being utilized because they are extremely short staffed. For some people, it can be a 2 hour trip to the hospital. The next nearest hospital is located in Rapid City another 2 hours away. It made me think of how we as Americans can easily take for granted what’s given to us, and quickly become oblivious to problems right in front of us. We’re too blessed and that has made us spoiled.
The more I hear the woman speak about her family and how much she actually enjoys her job and just wishes there were more people willing to help, the more my brain rattles on about how I have to come back. Someday.
To learn more about the Native American Health Services here.