Skip To Main Content

Proctor Rosebud Summer Service Trip 2023: Living, Learning, Connecting

Scott Allenby

In mid-July, Proctor students and teachers traveled to the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota for a two week summer service learning trip. This engagement of Proctor students alongside the Lakota community in Rosebud continues a nearly 40 year relationship between the two communities. Read reflections from this year’s trip below. 

Proctor Academy Native American Program

In recent memory, Proctor has sent a group of students to the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota for five of the last seven summers. Every time I see the community, the land, and the Lakota culture through fresh eyes. This is the gift of being a teacher. The lessons and experiences never tarnish because with each new group of students you are awash in that sense of discovery. This year was no different. 

The twelve students who were visitors, joined a current Proctor student and four Proctor alumni in their community to learn and to work for ten incredible days. The trip is a sprint marathon. At the end of every day we muse, well tomorrow will be a busy day. Truthfully, everyday is busy. As JR White Hat ‘00 aptly said one evening after a good meal and as a storm rolled in, "You don't come to South Dakota to sleep!" No, our days were filled with painting walls, pruning trees, mowing grass, organizing clothing and materials, hauling sand, building retaining walls, grooming horses, learning, listening, and wondering.

One evening, as dinner wrapped up and I watched Mark White Hat ‘14 chat with his former advisor Patty Pond and listened as Dee Lonehill '92 shared about her time at Proctor with Freya Crooks's mom, I could feel the web of Proctor's community grow stronger. We were reminded that the most valuable thing we can give one another is our time. The students were on board with this attitude and gave every moment all they had. We weren't there to sleep.  

Lori Patriacca ‘01, Dean of Faculty Development and Native American Program Coordinator 

Proctor Academy Native American Program

I walk away from my time in South Dakota simply in awe of the White Hat family and how they continually give of themselves for the betterment of their community. It is hard not to stand in awe while listening to, and watching, each matriarchal figure share their work in the community. Marlies White Hat works diligently to help provide things for the reservation by means of grants and programs for the community. Linda Vargas Garriett works each day to provide resources for the reservation through her work leading the Tree of Life, a thrift store, food pantry and community outreach center. Each woman greeted our group with enthusiasm and kindness. Their leadership qualities have spread to their children and grandchildren. 

JR White Hat ‘00 has a way of speaking that encapsulates pride for his Nation, pride for his family and cultures, but more so a pride for humanity, like none I have ever seen. When he speaks, people listen. You want to listen. You want him to feel respected and heard. He works hard to continue his parents’ community outreach as well as continuing Lakota traditions and culture. He is a natural teacher and our students truly enjoyed spending time with him in a sweat, learning about the Sundance ceremony and seeing the love he has for his family and community. As he shared with us, "Lakota people believe that the only thing that you truly own is your body. It is the only thing you can truly give. The biggest gift you can give to someone, is your time."

Proctor Academy Native American Program

As a person who does not practice a specific faith or have strong ties to religion, I was eager to learn more, and was truly humbled by the dedication and sacrifice the Lakota people make for their culture and beliefs. Even after the almost 100 years of cultural devastation Native Americans endured while not being allowed to speak their language, practice their faith, and truly be the people they are, they have held tightly to their own customs, traditions, and beliefs. The American Indian Religious Freedom Act passed in 1978 ensured Native communities the ability to freely practice their faith, speak their languages, and embrace the fullness of their way of life. I was born in 1979. This is a really hard fact to swallow, one that I struggle to fully put into perspective as I think about the oppression of these communities that has only recently been acknowledged by the federal government. 

Lastly, being able to witness the connection that both Patty Pond and Lori Patriacca ‘01 have with the White Hat family, and other Lakota people, I felt proud and thankful. They have spent so much time on the Reservation, they are respected members of Proctor, and without that, our students would not have the opportunity to visit, learn, and work. Because of the work that Patty and Lori, and so many others before them - George Emeny, David Fowler, Albert White Hat, Bert Hinkley, John Around Him, and others -  have invested in the Proctor/Lakota Sioux friendship, I was able to experience a truly remarkable connection between two communities for two weeks in the middle of July. I look forward to returning to learn more and to help steward this relationship into the future.

Jill Jones Grotnes, Art Faculty and Faculty Co-Leader Summer Service Trip

Proctor Academy Native American Program

“I had the most amazing time being immersed in the Lakota traditions and experiencing them firsthand. Watching the Around Him Sundance unfold in front of me was definitely my favorite part because it felt incredibly spiritual. The buffalo hunt was quite magical as well, especially because the process was respectful, as well as kind to the presenting bison.” - Freya ‘26 

Proctor Academy Native American Program

“The White Hats welcomed us with open arms inviting us to observe their sacred rituals such as the Sundance, sweat lodge, and buffalo hunt, treating us as an extension of their family. I am constantly reminded how rarely these opportunities to learn from and witness these ceremonies comes along. Leaving with a new perspective and a sense of fullness from my contribution, I feel so grateful for the relationship Proctor shares with the Lakota people.” - Whistler ‘25 

Proctor Academy Native American Program

“With every question we asked our daughter about her experience, she answered with such detail and reverence for the Lakota community and their practices. We can tell by the way she spoke so adoringly about JR and his entire family, that they opened up their world in such a kind and meaningful way, and because of that, she brought home such a lasting understanding, respect, and genuine appreciation for the Lakota way of life. The seeing, the feeling, the doing, and the truly connecting to each other and the world - that’s the good stuff and we are so grateful.” - Nifty, P’23, ‘25 

Check out more photos from our 2023 Summer Service Trip! 

  • Equity and Belonging
  • Native American Program
  • Off-Campus Program