The first week of July, Mike and I took eight Plymouth students – joined by ten students & leaders from Greeley First Congregational – to the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota. We partnered with the local Episcopal Mission, working hard for three hot days to help out around the Bishop Hare Center and a church in Parmelee.
There was plenty to learn from the Lakota people who graciously spent time with us. We heard the truth of the way our government continues to mistreat and neglect the indigenous people of the land we live on. Hospitals on the reservation are naval hospitals, a subtle oppressive reminder. Due to the General Crimes Act, native law enforcement often loses their jurisdiction to the FBI. We heard stories about General Custer, Sitting Bull, and Spotted Tail. A man named Nico played traditional drum songs, teaching us about native music and prayer. The students learned to make fry bread from Rich Brokenleg. And it was delicious.
We spent the first couple days cleaning up around our home base, the Bishop Hare Center. A house on the property had some pipes burst, so we moved out several years’ worth of furniture and belongings left behind by the intentional community that lived there. We did some yard work, reorganized a tool shed, and sorted old scrap wood. On the last day, we cleaned up the Church of the Holy Innocents in Parmelee after it had been broken into. A grocery store owner came by with a box full of popsicles to thank the students for their work.
The trip was full of hard work and good learning, but we also had tons of fun. We played some typical youth group games, pet lots of rez dogs, got some ice cream, played kickball, and spent time getting to connect with each other. More than anything, I love to see our students building relationships with each other and with students from other progressive churches. So, while the week was exhausting, I was totally in my element.
On a personal level, I was struck by two things. First, the Rosebud Episcopal Mission needs our help. I am excited to go again, and I am grateful for this partnership. Second, God is experienced across cultures and across history. God transcends all our human-made boundaries. As a seminary student, this is an idea I have encountered in my studies before. But on the reservation, with the Lakota people, I got to see it for myself. I will be carrying all of this with me for a long time, and I am so grateful that our Plymouth community gave us this opportunity. ]
Brooklyn is Plymouth's Director of Christian Formation for Children & Youth. Brooklyn has served in local church and student ministries for the past several years. A native of northern Colorado, Brooklyn has professional experience leading in worship, youth, and children’s programs. Read her full bio here.