Lakota Tipi Camp

2012 Lakota-Tipi-Camp

Retrospect of Mario and Nadine

Since childhood I have been fascinated by the history and culture of the plains Indians. By chance I heard of the Tipi Camp of the Lakota Waldorf School and immediately knew that this was where I wanted to be. Nadine was also fascinated by the idea and so we both set out to go there. In the hotel in Rapid City we eagerly waited for our companions that were going to be with us for the coming two weeks. Isabel, Tabor and Robin cordially welcomed us. First we learned that this year only four persons would be attending the camp. For us this meant more fine-tuning of the daily activities – for the organizers however it meant less funds for the benefit of the school.

When we arrived at the Waldorf School we chose one of the tipis set up on the hill to be our home during our stay. Just to spend the nights in a tipi in the prairie would have been enough to make the trip worthwhile for us - although we were quite exposed to the changing weather there on the hillside. Or – how Charlie whom we soon would get to know expressed it: „What the hell is so romantic about freezing your ass off in a tipi“.

During the next two weeks we visited different locations that had played a significant role in the history of the Lakota. Tabor told us a lot about how life was in the old days but also how it is today. We learned why the Lakota were driven out of their native lands and into the reservations. For visitors like us the landscape of the Pine Ridge reservation with its gently rolling hills, its endless wide space and its dry Badlands are very attractive. Thus we much enjoyed the horse rides in the early hours of evening in front of this magnificent scenery. On the other hand we also could imagine how difficult it must be to cultivate this land. In summer it is very hot and dry but in winter it is savagely cold. In contrast there are the wonderful Black Hills which - thanks to Tabor and Robin - we were privileged to experience from a different perspective. Most tourists are not aware of the fact that this is one of the most holy sites for the Lakota and that originally it was also part of the reservation. But after the first discoveries of gold it was taken from them. The U.S. government today acknowledges that this was unlawful and has offered money to compensate for the loss - but the Lakota want their land back not the money. Today the Lakota – like all visitors – have to pay an entrance fee when visiting their holy land. Similar problems we encountered again and again.

The Pow Wow in Pine Ridge was one of the highlights of our stay in the reservation. The artistic costumes, the drums and the chants really got under our skin. We could watch how an ordinary man putting on his costume immediately transformed into a proud Lakota. During a workshop we were instructed how to produce moccasins. This gave as an idea how much labour it involves to produce a whole costume. And everywhere people met us with an unforgettable cordiality.

We experienced how the Lakota fight for the preservation of their culture. For example today only ten percent of the people in the reservation still speak the Lakota language. We think the Lakota Waldorf School significantly contributes to the improvement of this situation. We wish that the Lakota will succeed in preserving their culture in a modern world and hope that the school will be able to start soon with its expansion plans.

For us this two week stay was an indescribable experience. We thank all the people of Pine Ridge who shared their everyday life with us. Pilamaya.

Mario Blumer and Nadine Plüss

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