Ignatian Social Justice Essay: Building Tiny Home #2 on the Lakota Sioux, Cheyenne River Reservation

Nov 13, 2023

A group of six volunteers from St. Ignatius Loyola joined 13 YMCA Alumni for Wave 5 of the National Y Service project to the Cheyenne River Reservation in Dupree, South Dakota. It is here on the YMCA Council of the Seven Fires site where we built Tiny Home # 2 of four homes to be constructed.

The weather this year was sunny and warm with not much wind, so we were able to construct Tiny Home 2 during the week there with 19 pairs of hands. This year, we also had a forklift truck to help secure the panels and speed up the construction.

No special skills are needed to construct these SIP (Structural Insulated Panels) tiny homes. Under the direction of the Y Volunteer Construction manager, George Painter, from Lake George, New York, the panels were caulked, aligned, and nailed in place by 19 volunteers, mostly YMCA affiliated, from around the United States.

Two volunteers, Mike Turner and Mark from Ohio, who have extensive building knowledge, guided our enthusiastic group each day. St. Ignatius Loyola volunteers sprung into action every step of the way. Kathy McCulloch learned to caulk, Kevin Byrnes’s tall height provided much-needed assistance in many areas, Marianne Huntington climbed ladders and swung a hammer, and Xiomara Larios & I caulked and used a drill this year!

Dana Dupris and Ben Elk spoke to the volunteers about the history of the Cheyenne River Reservation and their childhood. Dana was five years old when he was taken away from his family to attend a boarding school. He spoke about the horrific treatment they faced every day and how those running the boarding school tried to “scrub the Indian” out of them. They cut their hair, they could no longer speak their language, and wear their cultural clothes. Despite this harsh treatment, Dana lives in gratitude. He is faithful to the Creator Spirit and learned there is no room to get angry. It does no good getting angry.

Recapping our service immersion trip to the Cheyenne River Reservation is poignant during November, Native American Heritage Month. All Americans need to be reminded that the Indigenous people of America were already living here before the European settlers arrived.

It seems like we need to ask ourselves tough questions: How can we help reconcile and heal the immorality that was done to our Native Americans? How can we learn about their cultures? Maybe you will be the hands and feet, as Jesus compels us, to help build a Tiny Home on the Cheyenne River Reservation and meet the Lakota people.

Come and join us next September as we build Tiny Home #3!

Contact Jean Santopatre, Pastoral Associate, for more information at [email protected].

If you would like to donate to the Y National Tiny Home Service Project, please visit https://national-service-project.constantcontactsites.com/giving.

— Jean Santopatre, Pastoral Associate