Students Take a Fresh Look at Their Backyard During Badlands Camp

posted on March 25, 2013
by Christopher Ives

During the week of March 18, students from Red Cloud Indian School spent four days camping, cooking, hiking and learning during an annual youth camp at Badlands National Park in Interior, SD.

Harlen Standing Bear, Kristian Big Crow, Cody Janis, Daniel Kills Small, Floyd Brings Plenty and spiritual formation teacher Russ Cournoyer were accompanied by students and staff from the Calhoun School in New York City, park rangers and scientists as they explored some of the 242,756-acre national park just north of the Pine Ridge Reservation.

“I’ve learned more in the last few days here than I have living in this area my whole life,” said Standing Bear during an interview with KEVN FOX News during the camp. For Red Cloud students, the camp provided an opportunity to take a fresh look at their own backyard through the eyes of others.

“[The Camp] has helped us learn that what we see every day we can’t take for granted,” said Big Crow. “Seeing the expressions and excitement on other kids faces—seeing what we see everyday—we are able to learn from each other by seeing what they’re taking in and finding out what we can give them.” 

In addition to studying the park’s resources and natural history, Jessica Bryant, the Artist-in-Residence at Badlands, provided the participating students with an opportunity to reflect on the landscape in a different way.

“We’ve provided sketch books and art supplies for the students to journal about their experiences,” said Bryant. “Whether that’s writing, drawings or anything in between…it is a means to document their experiences and incorporate art into what they are doing.”

According to a press release from Badlands, the youth camp “supports nationwide National Park Service initiatives that focus on creating meaningful connections with diverse and under-served youth that could encourage them to pursue related careers.”

With the South Unit of Badlands National Park poised to become the first tribal national park in the country, the youth camp took on a new level of relevance for Red Cloud students, whose experiences this week could inform their future career aspirations.

“By bringing these young people to the park today, we are not only growing the future leaders of what may become the first tribal national park, but also inspiring the next generation of scientists and leaders,” said Badlands Superintendent Eric Brunnemann in a recent press release.

The camp also marks the start of a partnership between Badlands National Park and Red Cloud Indian School aimed at providing increased educational and employment opportunities for the students. This summer, students and staff from Red Cloud and the Calhoun School will return to engage in a more in depth internship program, allowing students to further explore what the Badlands and the National Park Service have to offer.

For More Photos from the Youth Camp Visit our Flickr Gallery

Top-Right: Left to right, Krisitan Big Crow, Harlen Standing Bear at Big Foote Pass in Badlands National Park.
Bottom-Left: Badlands Park Ranger talks to Youth Camp about 'Leave No Trace' ethics.
All Rights Reserved ©Red Cloud Indian School / Christopher Ives, 2013