by Alex Hultgren, Re-Member Social Media Director
Some of the greatest assets we have at Re-Member are the individuals who give up a “life at home” for a period of time and come out to work as staff on the Rez. I had a chance to sit down with project manager Shane Hughes to hear about his perspective of life on Pine Ridge, as well as some thoughts on how all of us can take something back to our communities – both for the Lakota and for ourselves.
“I have no idea … it’s actually really hard to pin down,” replied staff member Shane Hughes, sitting across the table from me in the kitchen. What I thought was a relatively simple question: What keeps calling you back to the Rez? had actually created the longest pause in our one hour interview. In retrospect, I shouldn't have been surprised, as clearly nothing trivial would have prompted this thoughtful staff member to leave his job hanging drywall in St. Louis and come to the Rez. “If I had to name one thing, it would probably be the sense of fulfillment I get working out here.”
Shane's path to a staff role is not uncommon; he first came to Re-Member in the summer of 2010 as a volunteer on an alternative Spring Break program and something about the place just hooked him. This last spring saw his second return as a staff member. Shane recognizes that his chosen path probably isn't typical, and that – although many people are enamored with the idea of coming back to Re-Member full-time – “It takes a certain type of individual to drop things at home and join the staff.”
Making the leap to come to Re-Member on staff is more than just the uncertainty of quitting a job – it is the recognition of the driving force behind how you want to spend your waking hours. “It’s very easy to get too comfortable at home [at work] and lose motivation. You can just show up, hang drywall and earn a living,” explained Shane. But Re-Member requires more. “Here, you need to have a passion for your work – particularly because it rubs off on the volunteers. The motivation is totally different,” he stated. Although there are a lot of places you can go volunteer for those in need, Re-Member “isn’t just about patching holes – it’s about building up a culture.”
From Shane’s perspective, “Re-Member has definitely made an impact over nearly two decades on the Rez. We are seeing fewer bunk bed requests and different kinds of needs being addressed.” The move to the Feather II site for Re-Member will also have a huge impact because the more centralized location will give Re-Member easier access to more of Pine Ridge, particularly those areas further north and east. But ultimately Shane would want Re-Member to be in a position where it isn't needed on the Rez. “In my opinion, the goal would be to make ourselves obsolete,” said Shane.
Shane was scheduled to head back to St. Louis a few weeks after our interview, but he had a good perspective on what to do when people return home. “First, think about what you can offer in skills, talents and connections. We go through periods when what Re-Member really needs are mattresses. Colleges and universities have access and insights into getting old mattresses from dorms – this is a great opportunity,” stated Shane.
There is also always a need to stay active in the issues facing Native Americans, “People need to be advocates for the Lakota and Indian issues and rights,” stated Shane. “You need to be a voice.” And it isn't just "big issues," it can be more subtle things we encounter every day. “When you hear something racist, or stereotyping, jump on it. We cannot let that stuff slide,” stated Shane.
Shane also challenged people to take the ability to change one’s perspective back home as well. “People see what’s happened on the Rez and they are moved. There is often a transformation in their thinking.” Shane continued, “But how about the issues in our own backyards? Think about the people in your own communities that are less fortunate than you are.” Clearly the history books' versions of the Lakota story are vastly different from the realities we encounter on the Rez. There is a value in re-examining those things we think to be “true” from another perspective, much like we're forced to do at Pine Ridge. Shane concludes: “Are you sure what you believe to be true about your own town is really the way it is?”
A heartfelt thanks to Shane for sharing his thoughts and experiences. Whether he returns for another season at Re-Member or feels called to take his talents to new areas, we know that Shane will be making a difference in everything he does. As the holidays approach, are you also feeling a need to make a difference? We need your help! Please consider supporting Re-Member this holiday season – either as a one-time gift or a commitment of ongoing support – by clicking here. And remember to go through Amazon Smile for all of your Amazon purchases and designate Re-Member as your charity of choice! Thanks – we can’t do this without you!