Pine Ridge

Sometimes I take a break from posting content related to SaaS. Instead, I write about an interesting topic. It’s really hard to write these days, especially in this age of data consumption and social media.

Back in the 90s, I made a trip to the Pine Ridge Sioux Reservation in South Dakota. It was part of a school project to give back to the community. College students from around the country visited the reservation to help with tech literacy programs. Among others, Apple Inc. was a major benefactor and funded the Pine Ridge School System. The Pine Ridge Reservation was chock-full of poverty and historically oppressed. They leveraged nonprofit programs to attract idealistic change-makers like me, wanting to mentor and teach disadvantaged youth.

For most youth, getting a high school diploma became a passport for opportunities outside Pine Ridge. Life afterwards often meant joining the US Armed Forces or going away for college — a huge shift from the slower, simpler way of life which awaited youth if they could survive gripping poverty, alcoholism and malnutrition.

Yet, I kept hearing stories of alienation encountered outside the reservation. A majority of these young adults would return to Pine Ridge — after being homesick for their families and the close-knit culture fostered by the strong community. At Pine Ridge, they quickly realized that they had limited opportunities to grow a career, but found ways to grow culturally and give back with newly-developed skills. Some would become teachers, civil engineers or doctors. Most importantly, they could become elders in the community and influence future Sioux generations. The Circle of life would continue by preserving the culture. Some Sioux felt they broke this tradition by leaving the reservation and feared repercussions.

Similarly, a lot of immigrants in America feel indebted to their roots, and wish for a stronger culture here to connect families and communities together. Like Native Americans, some go back to their homeland because they missed their own version of Pine Ridge —a place where the Circle of life preserved culture.

Culture matters in America, too. What you do and what your company stands for is often what matters the most. 😉  Of course, it’s much more than that. 🙂

I’m dedicating this post to the short film below which was featured at the Wild and Scenic Festival held last week in Nevada City. The full version won honorable mention for its ‘independent’ filmmakers, even though it was sponsored by Levi’s.

Some companies figure out creative ways to weave culture, purpose and service together. Kudos to Levi’s for shedding light on the plight of Native Americans by ‘giving back’. Maybe skateboarding will become the game changer the Sioux have been waiting for.