Hello and thank you for visiting this site! My name is Ava. I started this program as a teenager, who enjoyed the comfortable life of many suburban girls, a life abundant with educational and enrichment opportunities that included athletic leagues, camps and summer academic programs on university campuses. Some years ago, when I first learned that, in the aftermath of the shameful history we’ve had with the Lakota, social problems prevent teen girls on the reservation from realizing the potential so many take for granted, I decided to reach out and invite one girl to come and share her story with peers here and to benefit from one of the enrichment opportunities I’d known (an empowering self-defense camp). From hosting that girl for two weeks, I learned enough to reconsider the focus of my outreach and to invite a slightly older teen girl to come here to participate in a shorter camp, that one devoted entirely to nurturing girls’ sense of worth and esteem through music. That camp is now available to girls right on the reservation and an immensely generous donation facilitated set-up for two Pine Ridge schools’ music programs, so I shifted focus anew to exchange in an enriching weekend STEM workshop for girls at Northwestern University.
The years since I met Ed Young Man Afraid of His Horse and conceived of my modest plan have been an education for me in every sense. I have learned not only about history and life on the Pine Ridge reservation, but also just how delicate it can be to try to represent that in telling the story I feel needs to be shared for people to understand just why I believe exchange (in the spirit of friendship and in whatever iteration) is so important. Poking around four or five stories at Pine Ridge Community Storytelling Project on Cowbird gives some very loose sense of just how diverse feelings on Pine Ridge are about that representation. In the end, I have settled on trying to balance the moving images that Aaron Huey captured (see links on the Home page) with the joyful images here of ceremonies like those the Lakota were not allowed to openly practice until the Native American Freedom of Religion Act was passed in 1978.