Bravery and Flexibility

The key words for the Unity Presbyterian Church/Hot Metal Faith Community 2017 Lakota Art Camp on the Pine Ridge Reservation are bravery and flexibility.  One of the core values of traditional Lakota culture, bravery is the underlying theme to the art projects and Lakota mythology we are sharing with the elementary and middle school students attending the art camp.  On the other hand, organizing a week-long art camp with our friends on Pine Ridge, some 1250 miles away from Pittsburgh, requires a high degree of flexibility.

Little wound school

Thus after the art camp got off to a great start at Kyle, South Dakota’s Little Wound School on Monday, with 16 attendees participating in a variety of activities – from reading along with and, later, coloring the first section of the White Buffalo Calf Woman graphic novel to starting a clay modeling project as well as laying the groundwork for other Lakota craft projects and a student play – we were saddened to learn of the passing of Charlie Long Soldier.  In light of the fact that he was a pillar of Kyle’s educational community, it was only fitting that Charlie Long Soldier’s funeral would be held at the Little Wound School and thus Tuesday’s art camp was cancelled.

The unexpected “vacation” day enabled the Art Camp “staff” some free time – time which was spent visiting the Badlands National Park but also meeting with some of our friends on the reservation including Geraldine Little Boy and Everett Charging Crow, who graciously agreed to accompany our group’s annual pilgrimage to the Wounded Knee memorial to pay our respects and pray for healing among all of God’s peoples.

Did I mention flexibility?  A 90 minute drive from Kyle to Wall, SD to pick-up tee shirts for another art project slated for Wednesday was met with disappointment as the tee shirts had not been delivered; rather, they are due today, requiring another 120 mile round trip this afternoon to get the missing tee shirts, not to mention rescheduling the tee shirt project for Thursday and shuffling around some other projects to fill-in the gap on Wednesday.


Have I mentioned flexibility yet?  Owing to a computer glitch, my lap top seems bound and determined to rebuff any and all attempts to connect with the Internet, thus there were no entries for this blog on Monday or Tuesday, and I am only posting an entry today thanks to the generosity of the library at Oglala Lakota College which kindly offered their computers for our use!

With all that in mind, students and teachers reconvened at the Little Wound School today for Day Two of the Lakota Art Camp on our third day in Kyle.  Happily, attendance showed no signs of being hurt by the unexpected day off; indeed there was a healthy boost in attendance as nearly two dozen students ranging in age from four to 14 attended today’s program.

Following a healthy breakfast, we adjourned to the school’s distinctive interior amphitheater where – making up for the lost day on Tuesday — we read the second and third sections of the White Buffalo Calf Woman story, followed by John Connolly’s thoughtful observations on some of the lessons embedded in the story.

John C

We then returned to the class room where the students spent a half an hour or so coloring the White Buffalo Calf Woman story book before diving into the second part of their clay-modeling project, namely painting the sculptures they’d made on Monday.  Suffice to say the multi-colored turtles, hearts, bowls, giant worms and even a recreation of Wind Cave (home of the Lakota ancestors before they moved to the surface of the earth) are destined to become treasures of many a household in Kyle in the coming years.  Likewise the parfleches (leatherette bags) and ceremonial icapsintes (soft quirt-like devices with wooden handles) which the students began painting and assembling before breaking for a lunch of apple and orange slices, grilled cheese and ham sandwiches or beef noodle soup.


After lunch the students assembled in the amphitheater again to continue preparing for the “Rainbow” play – which shows that all colors are necessary to create a rainbow and which is scheduled to make its off-off-off Broadway debut on Friday in front of a, doubtless, appreciative audience of family and friends.


The students returned to the classroom one last time for what was surely the highlight of their day – delicious strawberry/pineapple smoothies prepared by the Art Camp staff who then, after the students were dismissed to their parents, adjourned to the nearby Prairie Lodge and Resort where we will welcome the students, their parents and other members of the Pine Ridge community for a picnic this evening.


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