Serving in South Dakota’s Lakota Indian Country
Allow yourself to become immersed in the captivating culture and history of the Lakota Sioux. The Rosebud Reservation, located in the rolling prairies of south-central South Dakota, takes you back to the ancient traditions of the Lakota and introduces you to their struggles in the 21st Century.
The Sicangu band, also known as Lakota or Rosebud Sioux, is part of the Great Sioux Nation, an alliance of seven bands who once ruled the northern plains. The arrival of European settlers in the early 1800’s led to the near extinction of the buffalo, which the Lakota heavily depended upon for food, shelter, and clothing. This led to a series of events that greatly compromised the Lakota culture.
In the late 1800’s, the Fort Laramie Treaty established the Great Sioux Reservation across most of South Dakota. However, the United States government failed to live up to its promise to protect American Indian land from the settlers. The discovery of gold in the Black Hills led to a massive influx of people who did not honor the treaty or understand the Lakota way of life. In hopes of reclaiming their land, the tribes began performing the “Ghost Dance,” a religious ceremony designed to cleanse their land of the settlers and return the buffalo along with the cultural traditions of the Lakota.
On December 29, 1890, tensions mounted and eventually exploded into tragedy at Wounded Knee on the nearby Pine Ridge Reservation. Over 250 American Indians, mostly unarmed, were killed during a weapons search by U.S troops after suspicions of a Sioux uprising grew. Today, a single stone monument stands as a reminder of the struggle of all Lakota to maintain their traditional way of life.
The beliefs of the Lakota center on their quest to live in harmony with the universe. The four main virtues of the Lakota are bravery, wisdom, generosity, and fortitude. Values, culture, and spirituality are passed from one generation to the next through a rich oral tradition, sacred sun dances and traditional pow-wows. Continuing these traditions is vital for the survival of the Lakota culture in the 21st Century.
Community Partner & Work Projects
In 2018, Global Volunteers was invited to return to the Lakota reservation in Rosebud, South Dakota, by the Rev. Dr. Lauren Stanley of the Rosebud Episcopal Mission. The mission was established in 1875 and has 11 active congregations. The Episcopal Mission works with these congregations as well as the local tribal government to assist all residents, regardless of their denomination. The Rosebud Reservation is located in one of America’s poorest areas, with over 85 percent of the residents unemployed. The people of Rosebud struggle to overcome their tragic past and to create a better future for their children.
“In one short week, you will experience a culture that I have come to envy; a culture that is rich in human values and one that we can all learn from.”
~ Joe Testa, South Dakota Team Leader
Our hosts have requested that volunteers assist the local community on a variety of development projects, including help with planning, organizing and running a week-long summer camp for elementary-aged youth, helping community members with home repair, working at a local women’s shelter and helping build up the firewood supply for the brutal South Dakota winters.
Service Program Logistics
Your team will be led by a trained team leader. In cooperation with the community leaders, your team leader will facilitate your team’s orientation, assist you in becoming fully engaged in the work project, and manage all project-related logistical issues.
Meals & Lodging
As a volunteer, you will live, work, and eat your meals on the Rosebud Lakota Reservation. You will sleep in small, clean dormitory rooms in the village of Mission, SD. Volunteers will share bathroom facilities. The dormitory is also equipped with a full kitchen. Breakfasts and dinners take place in the kitchen with breakfast generally prepared by the volunteers and dinner by a local cook. Bagged lunches are prepared by the volunteers and brought to the work sites.
All airport transfers and transportation in the host community are included in your service program contribution, assuming you arrive and depart within the specified itinerary. A Global Volunteers team leader will greet you at the Rapid City airport and transport you to Mission in a van. The ride is about 3 hours to Rosebud on the Lakota Reservation. Note: transportation for free-time activities is not included in your service program contribution. There is no public transportation on or to the reservation, so if you wish to explore the area outside of the host community, we recommend you drive or rent a car during your service program.
Free-time activities in the evenings may include a class in which participants learn to make beaded bracelets in the Lakota style. Or perhaps a class on making Dreamcatchers, or a presentation on the important traditions of the Lakota people. Volunteers may have the opportunity to tour a buffalo ranch, experience a sun dance, visit the site of Wounded Knee, and view the Crazy Horse monument. All of these activities are optional, and some may require additional fees and extra drive time before or after your program.
Service Program Contribution
Global Volunteers’ service program contribution covers all lodging, three meals a day, airport and all project related transportation, all preparatory materials, onsite orientation, a full-time team leader, and administration costs. The service program contribution is $1,177 for one week. Please ask your Volunteer Coordinator about referral credits as well as discounts for students, companions, groups, and alumni volunteers. We encourage you to use Global Volunteers’ online fundraising tool to create a personalized webpage to request partially tax-deductible donations from family and friends to help cover your service program contribution. Airfare and free time activity expenses are your responsibility. The service program contribution and airfare are tax-deductible for U.S. taxpayers.
“Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children.”
~ Chief Sitting Bull