Pine Ridge

Camp Life: Montana-Utah

Enjoy our second edition of our camp life photo series, in which the Westies travel across Rockies and back again!

Meet Our Speakers: Gus Yellowhair

Gus Yellowhair walks to the front of the room on soft, moscasinned feet. Dressed in a buffalo bonnet with a colorful headband, hide shirt and khaki pants, Gus begins a telling of the creation story of the Oglala Lakota people for the gathered crowd inside. He opens with a prayer song from the Native American Church, accompanied by the beat of a handheld drum, his voice deep and resonant. Interspersed throughout his telling are jokes referencing Kung Fu Panda and flairs of showmanship. Gus and his daughter Tiana work at the Chamber of Commerce on the Pine Ridge Reservation in southern South Dakota and are practiced storytellers, taking time out of their days to share this piece of their culture and history with visitors. At the end of the story, Gus and his daughter traveled around the room, passed a braided portion of sacred Sweetgrass to smell, and shook every visitor’s hand. 

By: Amanda Champion

Meet Our Speakers: Marilyn Pourier

“I feel so honored to be a small part of this,” says Marilyn Pourier, the Institutional Development Director for Oglala Lakota College. Based in Kyle, South Dakota, the college currently has around 1400 students and is one of only a few dozen tribally run colleges in the United States. Pourier’s passion about the college shows as she explains that the school is about 97% tribal members and their average student is a mother in her early twenties. Oglala Lakota College has nine centers around the Pine Ridge reservation as well as an extension in Rapid City. This decentralized arrangement helps connect the college to communities and encourages the teachers and administrators at each center to really know their students. The college also runs a K-6 Lakota language immersion school and head start programs for early childhood education.

            Pourier was born and raised on the reservation with seven other siblings. She attributes her dedication to education to her mother, one of the only Lakota schoolteachers at the time. Pourier previously worked in Colorado bringing school boards under tribal control but was drawn back to Kyle because, in her words, “this is my home.” When discussing the history of the oppression and mistreatment of Native Americans, Pourier proudly states, “You can do what you want to me, I am still a wild Lakota woman.”

By: Willa Johnson