This fall break, Augustana will take its annual trip to the Pine Ridge Reservation after being on a hiatus since the pandemic.
Pastor Ann Rosendale, who will lead the service trip, described it as a great opportunity to learn and appreciate Native American culture and history.
“We will be learning alongside Native people, sharing meals with them and we’ll also be visiting the Wounded Knee, a site where the massacre of many, many Native people happened years ago,” Rosendale said.
After a drive of five-and-a-half hours, Rosendale and students will arrive at Pine Ridge to gain a new perspective on Native American and Indigenous culture. They will also have the opportunity to learn from various Native artists.
“Dreamcatchers are one of the arts that some of the folks on the reservation do, and we might make dreamcatchers ourselves,” Rosendale said.
Rosendale said students will spend their time meeting different speakers and seeing different sites that will impact students’ points of view.
“At the end of the day, we’ll come back and reflect on what we’ve seen,” Rosendale said. “We’ll talk about how we’re being changed by the experience and what questions we’re asking.”
With Augustana being built on Native territory, Rosendale said the university community has a moral duty to the land.
“The land that we are on is the ancestral land of Indigenous people,” Rosendale said. “How do we honor that location that we have? How do we work for justice when injustice has been done to the people?”
Several faculty members from Augustana’s religion, philosophy and classics departments have had experience working closely with Native American groups and include Native American voices in their classes.
“From the perspective of a Christian institution that has as its mission a goal to integrate faith with life, I suggest that Augustana has an obligation to care for its neighbor,” Julie Swanstrom, assistant professor of philosophy and religion, said.
According to Swanstrom, Augustana can be a good neighbor to Indigenous communities by building relationships, if welcome, with members of local Indigenous groups. The university could also promote knowledge of the historic realities of people in this region and create opportunities to celebrate local Indigenous groups.
Augustana also has a responsibility to refrain from objectifying or tokenizing members of Indigenous groups, Rosendale said.
“Neighbors get to know one another as people, not as stereotypes,” Rosendale said.
Rosendale also said she hopes the service trip to Pine Ridge will prove to be a new and worthwhile experience for the students.
“I love the way that Indigenous people care for the land and feel a connection to the land,” Rosendale said. “I think some of us, especially here in America, feel like the land is just ours for the taking. My Native friends would say we have a relationship to the land, and we as a people are only as healthy as the land is and as the animals are. We want to do things at Augustana to continue to remember the place in which we’re situated.”
Rosendale also said that the university will celebrate Indigenous People’s Day at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church on Sunday, Oct. 9. The event will include a Native meal and a talk by guest-speaker Prairie Rose Seminole.
“[Seminole] has also worked in the Lutheran church,” Rosendale said. “We can have the opportunity to ask her questions and learn with her about how all of us can coexist and also how we can honor Native culture.”