Hometown: New City, NY
Major: Social Sciences (7-12)
Study Beyond Experience: Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, Pine Ridge, SD
“There was a big hill just outside the building we were staying in on the reservation. I loved sitting on the hill at night. There’s no pollution. There’s no light. There’s nothing there but stars.”
When Jason Dore enrolled in STAC’s Native American Activism class, he knew his studies would culminate in a service trip to South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. He didn’t know the trip would change his life.
“This was a real learning experience. None of us had ever seen this level of poverty. Pine Ridge is one of the poorest communities in the western hemisphere,” Jason explains. “It gave us the perspective that we have it pretty good.”
Jason spent the week installing skirting around the base of reservation trailers. The region’s extreme climate (sub-zero temperatures and 10-foot-high snowdrifts in winter and temperatures in the 100s in summer) makes living in the reservation’s ramshackle trailers intolerable. The skirting helps keep the trailers warm in winter months and cool in summer months.
Jason says the experience was a lot of work, but a lot of fun, too. He enjoyed meeting student volunteers from other colleges, playing cards and basketball with kids living on the reservation, and taking part in a tribal dance paying tribute to a Lakota elder. While in South Dakota, Jason took opportunities to visit the site of the Wounded Knee Massacre, Badlands National Park, and the grave of Red Cloud, war leader and chief of the Oglala Lakota from 1868 to his death in 1909.
“This experience will stay with me forever,” Jason reflects. “I take for granted how much I have. An elder said to us, ‘We’re not wealthy in terms of money, but we’re rich in culture and heritage.’ I’ll use that in my teaching someday.”
Jason plans to earn his master’s degree and become a high school social studies teacher.