Rising women's soccer senior Trista Rivera joined men's soccer classmate Michael Hodgen and several other Iona students in an Iona In Mission trip in following the completion of the pring semester. Rivera reflects on her experience in a brief piece for ICGaels.com
"What’s in South Dakota?" was the question I heard countless times in the weeks and months leading up to May 25, 2013. From May 25-31, I traveled with a group of ten students and a moderator to the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Our group worked alongside Re-member, a non-profit organization that looks to improve the quality of life of the Oglala Lakota people. The Iona team lived with other student groups and fellow volunteers in a dormitory-style building called Shelem.
Upon our arrival in the mid-western state, my team and I quickly realized the beauty that South Dakota encompassed. We saw rolling grass hills and enormous mountains in the distance. During our van ride from the Rapid City airport to the Re-member site we drove past weather-beaten trailers and stray clumps of garbage. It was during that car ride that my team and I realized why we were called to serve in a place that is too often forgotten.
We spent our first afternoon on "the Rez", exploring the Blackhills and visiting the site of the Massacre at Wounded Knee. A native man took his time to tell us the story of the massacre and the great pain that Americans inflicted upon the native people. It was sad to think that we had only learned about one -fourth of the total truth regarding several horrific events during which Americans degraded the Native American culture. The group of volunteers also learned a great deal about their culture during "Wisdom of the Elders" - listening to the thoughts of great Native American leaders and chiefs - and from the daily native speakers who were willingly to share their stories.
In addition to learning a great deal about the culture and the history of the Oglala Lakota people, we spent three days building, assembling, and repairing. The various "work day" jobs included skirting a trailer, repairing a roof, fixing the siding on a home, and constructing and delivering bunk beds to families in need. It was during these work days that we saw the devastating poverty that these people lived in. The lack of material goods and unstable financial states led the Lakota people to appreciate everything they had. They were proud of their homes and proud of the culture that they were a part of. Their unselfish nature exemplifies that true meaning of the word give. It is through these people that I learned a great deal about being content when I wake up to see yet another beautiful morning.
The unbelievable group: Kellianne O’Connor, Shanice Gilchrist, Michael Hodgen, Kristie Statuto, Cassondra Richards, Kate Ann Gonta, Megan Broderick, Diana Parlato, Ethan O’Sullivan, Lauren Keller, and Carl Procario-Foley.