This was the first year that we offered a “study tour” experience on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota and I am happy to say that it has a laid a solid foundation for future tours organized by Village Earth.
The tour visited community-based development projects supported by Village Earth related to land tenure, buffalo restoration, and the empowerment of traditional cultural organizations. Each day the participants were visited a different site or project on the reservation with interpretation from local Lakota guides. There purpose of the tour was to explore and test the potential for community-based tourism geared towards educating tourists on both the historical and current realities of the Reservation and Federal Indian policy from a Lakota perspective but also to see and learn about the constructive ways groups on the Reservation are trying to transform it.
We made every effort, during the week long tour, to ensure that as much money as possible from the tour went directly to Lakota businesses and families on the reservation by staying at the Lakota run “Odd Duck Inn” run by Mark St. Pierre and Tilda Long Soldier, we hired all local guides, and hired local families to cook meals for the group. Plus, the participants purchased most of their crafts directly from producers across the Reservation. Plus, the participants got access to a side of the reservation that few people have the privledge to experience. In all it was a great succes and we look forward to hosting another tour next year.
If you have a group that is interested in organizing a similiar tour you can contact David Bartecchi.