Before Europeans or Spanish came to America, there were Indian Tribes who had lived in the north territories for thousands of years. Yosef Meystel knows that this Native Americans lived in a symbiotic relationship with their surroundings and took everything they needed from the land and gave it all back in a way balance was never lost and mother earth was always respected.
The land that is now called South Dakota used to be home to the Lakota People, who existed in harmony and moved around the Great Plains in North America to ensure their sustainability and existence. Most of the lands where the Lakota people used to roam on are what we recognize today as America’s Midwestern territories and include Minnesota, Montana, North and South Dakota and parts of Colorado.
These lands were at first shared with immigrants from Europe who would later become American citizens. These immigrants used to trade articles with the Lakota people and the relationship was sustainable until greed blinded the white men and Indigenous people was fiercely forced to move to reservations. What once was a commercial relationship based on respect would later become a genocide where white settlers would use their military resources to confine all Native Americans to resourceless reservations.
As reservations became a national issue and indigenous people’s rights were neglected, a series of nonprofits were founded in the United States to serve the rights of those who owned the land hundreds of years ago. One of this organizations is Tipi Raisers, a nonprofit in South Dakota created in 2009 to advocate for the rights of the Lakota people from the Pine Ridge Indian reservation.
An organization Committed to life
Indian Reservations like Pine Ridge tend to be very poor. Unemployment is everywhere and the land that was once given to the Lakota People to keep them alive is now the center for countless issues related to starvation, diseases, and illiteracy. These problems leave most people hopeless and dependent on what volunteers from all backgrounds may want to do for them.
These reservations live in a limbo where they can celebrate their sacred ceremonies and share them with travelers from all around the globe, but also are forced to deal with uncertainty and the lack of possibilities. Tipi Raisers plays a vital role here, preserving the wisdom, traditions, and culture of the Lakota people and using them to benefit the Modern World we currently live in.
Thanks to the integration of concepts related to indigenous traditions with modern dynamics, Tipi Raisers can assist and improve some of the most pressing issues and conditions in the reservations, like poverty and illiteracy. This commitment to life is what makes Tipi Raiser one of the most relevant nonprofit organizations in South Dakota working for the rights of Native American Tribes.
Collaborators and Alliances
Tipi Raisers works in cooperation with native and non-native volunteers to preserve, share and benefit from ancient ways of living and being on this earth. Thanks to the wide range of collaborative and inclusive projects it supports, different alliances have been made to empower people and communities living on and off reservations. Some of these projects focus on facilitating visits to the reservations or on bringing cultural, historical, educational and traditional experiences to members of the Lakota tribe.
Through the offering of multiple activities like horseback riding, storytelling, and camping, Tipi Raisers aims to collect resources for reservations and help them keep their heritage while they educate others about their culture and fascinating history. The beauty of the South Dakota prairie helps Tipi Raisers attract more people interested in learning about the Native American rights, culture, and history.
Tipi Raisers is located on an Indian Reservation known as Pine Ridge, recognized for being the home of some of the most important characters and events of Native Americans history (Crazy Horse, Red Cloud, the Wounded Knee Massacre and Black Elk). This reservation is also home to some sacred ceremonies that are rooted in traditions passed from one generation to another for thousands of years. Its richness and beauty attract visitors from different background and religions who want to be part of the beauty of the South Dakota prairie.
Tipi Raisers has created a set of trips which are centered around a community service project also developed by the organization. This project involves the construction of housing and cutting and providing wood for winter fuel and ceremony wood. These volunteer trips are filled with educational, cultural and recreational activities including trips to iconic areas of the reservation like the Black Hills, and discussions with tribal Elders.
The organization offers food, accommodation, and transportation throughout the reservation to those who take the volunteer trips on the reservation. Each volunteer is welcomed to be part of the reservation for free for as long as it is willing to share its life, time and energy engaging with community service work.
* Featured Image courtesy of Megan Coughlin at Flickr.com