Lakota Reservation, SD

In 2003, parishioners of St. Timothy’s had a vision to reach out to the people of Pine Ridge and share God’s unending love. So we began our journey of friendship to the Lakota Nation, giving a level of relief from their daily trials, and providing a commitment to a people so often forgotten.

Our first year, we created a mission statement for the team. It reads: With God’s love, we extend our hand to serve the needs of the Lakota, to build friendships, and to foster cultural exchange. With God’s help, we will: volunteer our time and talents: perform work projects agreed upon with the Lakota Community: and make an annual trip to the Pine Ridge Reservation. The annual team activities, the work, the cultural education and the sharing hand and heart, are the embodiment of the mission statement. While on the reservation, we repair homes, bond with the children, learn about the rich spiritual past and present of the people, and share in their daily lives. By returning to the Lakota Nation each year, we confirm our commitment to them, honoring them in the giving of ourselves – sharing God’s love for all His people.

Many of our team members have returned to the reservation since the first trip in 2003 and new members are added each year. We are always welcomed into the lives of the Lakota people with warm hearts and open arms. We worship at the local Episcopal Mission and attend to the needs of the people through the efforts of our host, a local Lutheran Pastor. The Retreat Center, where we stay, offers opportunities to interact with the Lakota people in a variety of ways, experiencing their culture and growing in our own faith.

The Lakota Sioux are not the only ones to benefit from the mission trips – so are the people from St. Timothy’s. Each member has been deeply moved by the experience. We see God’s hand in the midst of some of the worst national statistics – the poorest region in the United States, where most of the population suffers from extreme poverty, alcohol abuse, drug addiction and rampant diabetes. Despite these troubles, the people are deeply spiritual and culturally connected. They are willing to give everything, though they have so little. We are very thankful for the assistance St. Timothy’s has provided through the Agape and other fund raising activities. It has helped us to make our vision into a reality.

Why Pine Ridge?

The Pine Ridge Reservation is consistently among the poorest counties in the United States, with unemployment over 60 percent and many residents traveling more than 120 miles to outlying communities for seasonal employment. About half the people over 40 have diabetes. Tuberculosis, alcoholism, and infant mortality rates are way above the national average. Housing conditions on the reservation are poor, and residents contend with temperature ranges from 105 to -30 degrees F. Nearly 40 percent of homes are without electricity and running water. Life expectancy for those on the reservation is 48 for males and 52 for females. The remoteness and limited resources in many communities, lack of suitable land, and the severity of the climate are all contributing factors to the difficulty in providing adequate housing on the reservation. As a result, homelessness and overcrowding of homes is a chronic problem. Because many families will not turn away any family member who needs a place to stay, it is not uncommon for as many as 25 people to live in a two-bedroom home. The desperate housing situation is compounded by the fact that much of the existing housing is substandard.

St. Timothy’s Lakota Team fulfills its mission by spending a week on the reservation, dividing their time between work projects, cultural learning opportunities, and daily interaction with Lakota gradeschool children during an after school program at the Retreat Center where the team lives during their stay.