Local leaders building bridges, relationships on Pine Ridge Reservation tour

PINE RIDGE RESERVATION, S.D. — Understanding was deepened after community leaders from Rapid City spent Thursday on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

“I think it’s just so important that we know each other and we understand some of that common history,” says Val Simpson, the regional manager of public relations and corporate citizenship for Black Hills Energy.

Img 0837The tour was organized by the Rapid City Human Relations Commission and has been weeks in the making.

From a stop at Red Shirt Table, the group – consisting of county commissioners, city council members and local business leaders – started the day at Red Cloud Indian School.

“It’s really important for us at Red Cloud that we advocate on behalf of our students and our families that we work for,” says Tashina Banks Rama, the executive vice president of Red Cloud Indian School. “When this opportunity came for us to build bridges, to have conversations with Rapid City leaders, we thought that’s really important.”

From there, they traveled to the Oglala Sioux Tribe headquarters, where the group sat in on a legal and finance committee meeting and met with President Kevin Killer’s staff.

“I think anything we can do to continue to learn and bridge cultures is really positive, and I always encourage my friends and colleagues if they’ve never had the opportunity to come to the reservation – it’s just an hour and a half down the road from us – and I think they will learn a lot,” Simpson says.

They also stopped at Wounded Knee and the new Oglala Lakota Arts Space in Kyle.

“I think this would be an important thing for people from all aspects of the community to experience and perhaps we can do more of this with leaders from the hospital, other governmental agencies in town, even our own school district,” says Bill Evans, a ward two alderman in Rapid City.

It was a day of understanding and building bridges.

“I hope that our leaders from Rapid City who are visiting with us today start to look past any stereotypes that may exist with native people, with native families on the reservation. This community is a beautiful, thriving community,” Banks Rama says.

Karen Mortimer, the chair of the Human Relations Commission/Mniluzahan Okolakiciyapi Ambassadors, says, “Our goal is that we will do better when we know better.”

Categories: ConnectCenter1-Culture and Art, ConnectCenter1-Events, Local News, South Dakota News