Rosebud, South Dakota

Mission trips were nothing new to me when my youth minister told me we were going to South Dakota to work on an indian reservation for two weeks over the summer. I had been on many mission trips before, and nothing had prepared me for the suffering I encountered in Rosebud. This is a memoir I wrote about my experience for my English class :

                                                                                                        Why Zion Has Woohtika
  The brightly-colored mural on the wall outside of the Boys and Girls Club was a stark contrast to the gray block of cement built in an empty lot of the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation. The rest of the reservation wasn’t much better. The feeling of hopelessness hung in the air like a heavy jacket wrapped around me. Stepping into the town of Mission, South Dakota I got the feeling that these people here needed some love, and little did I know that the next day, I would meet a little boy who needed just that.

            Children were everywhere; running, jumping, laughing, screaming, crying. There were so many things going on all at once, I felt I needed to get away from the madness for just a moment. As I stepped out of the chaos, I noticed a little boy sitting with an exceptionally large grimace on his face. I don’t know what attracted me to him; he didn’t look like a very friendly eight year old, but nonetheless, I went and sat myself down next to him in midst of the events going on around us. Our first conversation went like this,

“Hi, I’m Katie.”

*something murmured*

“I’m sorry, what did you say?”


This outburst of anger took me by surprise. I had never been spoken to like that before in my life, let alone by an eight year-old boy. I was speechless. I sat there and stared at him, ready to admonish him for his bad behavior, when I looked into his eyes for the first time. It was as if I was looking into the eye of a hurricane. Beyond the quiet, youthful features of this child were pain, fear, and chaos I have never before experienced. At that moment I knew that Zion needed me.

            Not knowing what else to do, I started talking about myself, hoping I’d be able to say something that would get him to open up. I started talking about my parents and my brother, which he took a fascination to. As I was talking I could see something in his expression changed; the hard stare I was initially given was gone, and now all that was left was the raw pain I had seen before. I stopped talking for a second, hoping he would say something. After a minute, I heard in a noiseless whisper, “My mom doesn’t even know my own birthday.” Zion’s voice was one of a child crying out for help, powerless to the pain of careless parents. It was all I could do to keep the tears out of my eyes and pain out of my voice when I said, “Zion, I promise that you are loved.”

            The next day, I went back to the Boys and Girls Club, hoping to have another encounter with my new friend Zion. All the children arrived like they had the day before, but there was no sign of my buddy. After a half hour of searching, I went to the site director and asked if she knew where he was. She informed me that Zion has pushed down the stairs the night before by his alcoholic father and cracked his skull open. As I walked away, I felt a rush of pain hit me like a heat wave, and it took all my strength to keep myself standing. As I walked toward the door to the Boys and Girls Club, I came across the mural I had examined the day before. Painted in a brilliant array of color, I saw the word “Woohitika” meaning courage or bravery in the Lakota Sioux language. A feeling of relief came over me because I realized that Zion had woohitika, and everything will be okay.

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Nov 22, 2011