What an amazing experience to live with the Lakota, to work with SImply Smiles and to learn so much about our brothers and sisters here in this beautiful land. Words can hardly express the power and scope of our visit here, but one thing is sure; we have been moved beyond any possible expectations. The contrasts here on the reservation could not be more obvious. You are all at once dazzled by the great expanse of territory and endless vistas as far as the eye can see. You find yourself asking who in their right mind could ever get tired of such beauty, such rich land and the opportunity to live here forever to soak it all in, day after amazing day. You notice open spaces like you’ve never seen before and yearn for just a moment to dash off and explore every hill and valley. And then you meet the people who live here, and you hear and see their pride, their honor and their traditions, and again you ask yourself how anyone could not want to at least visit here upon their first opportunity.
And then you hear of the struggles. The struggles to live, to struggles to stay warm in the frigid winter and cool in the scorching summer, to have food enough to eat, to stave off the temptation of drugs, alcohol and personal abuse born out of a lifelong struggle to maintain a minimal life against so many obstacles not of their own making. And suddenly you are faced with a powerful but obvious question: why? Why do such an honorable, proud and wonderful people still suffer at the hands of constant everyday challenges that most of us could never imagine?
The answers are so complex and by no means simple, and you just have to listen and process and appreciate a history that would humble the most confident individual. But the more you listen, and the more you witness what Simply Smiles has started here by listening and living with the Lakota, the more you appreciate the power of relationships and understanding as a tool to heal and move forward with the complexities of life.
Thank you, Simply Smiles; but most important, thank you, Lakota nation, for welcoming us into your home and offering us the privilege of your hospitality. Long live the Lakota.