Wingsprings

Immediately immersed in an unfamiliar environment at a retreat and learning center at the Center for American Indian Research and Native Studies, Kaitlyn Abrahamson completes service-learning project

In Introduction to Peace and Conflict Studies, a class required for global studies minors, Paul Baggett requires his students to do a service-learning project all semester. Baggett encourages his students to step outside their comfort zone when it comes to choosing their service-learning project—Kaitlyn Abrahamson did just that.

Kaitlyn Abrahamson celebrates the open spaces at the Center for American Indian Research and Native Studies near Martin.

Kaitlyn Abrahamson celebrates the open spaces at the Center for American Indian Research and Native Studies near Martin.

Abrahamson, a junior majoring in global studies, went to Wingsprings, a retreat and learning center at the Center for American Indian Research and Native Studies, a nonprofit research center committed to advancing knowledge and understanding of American Indian communities and issues. Wingsprings is part of the Lacreek District of Pine Ridge Reservation, near Martin, S.D.

She was immediately immersed in an unfamiliar environment when she spent the weekend working with Craig Howe and Teach For America.

While at Wingsprings, Abrahamson was surrounded by culture.

“The best part about participating in service learning for CAIRNS was talking with the organization’s director, Craig Howe. I was able to ask many questions about American Indian culture and learn about current issues surrounding the Lakota people,” Abrahamson said.

“Experiential learning allows students real-world experience. It allows them to synthesize and digest the material in the classroom and library—it takes learning to a whole different level,” Baggett said.

Traveling to unfamiliar land can be intimidating, but Abrahamson said that fear quickly diminished upon her arrival. “Honestly, I was scared that I was not going to be welcomed on the reservation, but upon arrival, I realized that I was never in any danger. Craig welcomed me graciously, and in the end, I could never picture myself being afraid again,” said Abrahamson.

The CAIRNS facility.

The CAIRNS facility.

Some of the tasks she completed at Wingsprings included cleaning, cooking and assisting Howe with teaching the Teach For America students. Teach For America recruits individuals to become teachers in low-income communities.

“I would definitely do it again and hope to stay even longer. There is so much to learn about land rights, ecology, reservations and culture that it would take many trips to dip into that education,” said Abrahamson.

Craig Howe, CAIRNS’ director, talks about the organization.

Craig Howe, CAIRNS’ director, talks about the organization.

Howe graduated with a doctorate of philosophy from Michigan State and has taught at multiple universities and colleges. Howe served as deputy assistant director for cultural resources of the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., and director of the D’Arcy McNikle Center for American Indian and Indigenous Studies in Chicago.

“I learned to appreciate my natural surroundings more than I already do. The admiration and respect that Lakota people have for the land around them taught me to value the natural ecology of the landscape,” Abrahamson said.

Julie Klimavicz

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