In July 2013, Counselors Without Borders (CWB) facilitated an outreach to the Oglala Sioux Tribe in Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. The trip was led by George Mason University (GMU) Counseling & Development faculty member Dr. Rachael Goodman and Dr. Elizabeth Warson of American Indian Art Therapy (AIAT). Eight master’s level counseling students from GMU (Eliina Belenkiy, Michelle Cantrell, Erika Davis, Richard Hang, Brian Jacobs, Jeny Martinez, Ricardo Sanchez, Heather Streetman) and one master’s level counseling student from Kean University (Siegna Willis) participated in the two-week cross-cultural counseling outreach.
The CWB team was invited to participate in and provide support during the Sundance held by Ricky Gray Grass, and leader and Tribal Consultant for the Oglala Sioux Tribe. Students used culturally responsive strategies to foster rapport with the Lakota community, keeping in mind the issues of historical trauma dating back to the advent of Euro-American colonization. Students also showed support of cultural practices by their attendance at and participation in sacred ceremonies, an important step toward promoting indigenous healing and support practices that had been outlawed by the United States government. In addition to providing support and counseling, a primary focus of this trip was to understand the strengths and needs of the community in order to develop an ongoing program in which CWB will partner with AIAT to take a group of counseling students to Pine Ridge each year. Depicted above, the group poses with a quilt that was created by the community during the Isnati Awicelewan (Coming of Age Ceremony) and then gifted to the CWB team.
CWB students worked closely with professionals at Wounded Knee District School (WKDS), including Marnee White Wolf, Bryan Charging Cloud, and Roberta Spencer. Students learned how WKDS has developed a language immersion program as a part of culturally relevant educational practices and to promote community healing through culture and language preservation. The CWB team helped to support the language immersion program and to develop positive relationships with primary school-aged children through culturally responsive play therapy and story-telling.