2018-06-07 / Voices

CAIRNS Among Honorees at Community Unity Day Celebration


In Rapid City’s Memorial Park on Saturday, June 2, four individuals and one organization were honored by the Healing and Transformation Team of Rapid City Community Conversations at their Third Annual 4 Directions-5K Run/Walk and Community Unity Day Celebration. Honored as “Healers & Transformers” were Stephanie Grunze- Swanson, Vaughn Vargas, Erik Bringswhite and Hani Shafai.

Ms. Grunze-Swanson was selected “for her work in conflict resolution and her efforts to advance the building of positive community relationships.” Mr. Vargas was selected “for his work with the Cultural Advisory Committee and the Rapid City Police Department, as well as, his willingness to stand up to the challenges of the role.” Mr. Bringswhite was selected “for his work with at-risk youth in the juvenile justice system and his leadership in the College Park events that promote positive outcomes for the Native American population. Mr. Shafai was selected “for setting a corporate and personal standard for being a consistent unwavering champion of dignity in the community.”

Honored as the 2018 “Community Innovator” was the Center for American Indian Research and Native Studies (CAIRNS) “for their work with individuals and organizations to provide educational opportunities to learn and understand the significance of the area in which we live, and how our history still impacts us today.”

Throughout our organization’s lifespan, CAIRNS’ strong adherence to our mission and the “Four Rs” of Rigor, Reliability, Respect and Relevance, which are grounded in both academic scholarship and cultural competency, has guided our trajectory. Rigor means that we set high standards for ourselves and our clients. Reliability refers to the fact that our work is evidence-based and can be counted on to be accurate. In our initiatives, we strive to show respect for traditional tribal perspectives and uphold them whenever possible. Also, by recognizing, supporting and promoting tribal sovereignty, our work is relevant to tribal communities today and for the future.

Since our founding on December 21, 2004, much of our organizational focus has been on working with key partners across our state to fulfill our mission. These have included large organizations, city, state and federal governmental entities, and rural and urban school districts. Our work with them largely involves providing training for their staffs so that they can better serve the Native communities they work with and in.

In addition, CAIRNS has always looked for ways to expand our programmatic reach. For example, one new initiative we launched in 2014 was the Lakota Lands & Identities “classroom on wheels” that CAIRNS and Rapid City Area Schools (RCAS) developed and led in June of that year. Twentyone RCAS teachers and 25 community members shared a five-day traveling learning experience within the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty lands to promote collaboration between RCAS teachers and citizens of the Rapid City community and to encourage critical thinking about the intersections of Lakota history, culture and land. Participants visited and learned about sacred sites in the Black Hills and sites of important events located within and outside of Pine Ridge Reservation. Feedback from the seminar was so positive that we have conducted two more Lakota Lands & Identities every summer since then with RCAS and Regional Health.

In 2014, CAIRNS also initiated an annual Lakota Film Festival in the reservation border town of Martin, ND then in 2015 we curated the first of our annual Lakota museum exhibitions that are changing how and where Lakota history and artists are represented. CAIRNS also continues to produce educational resources for use in K-12 classrooms.

The Center for American Indian Research and Native Studies thanks the Healing and Transformation Team of Rapid City Community Conversationsforhonoring us as the 2018 Community Innovator. We could not accomplish what we have without the assistance of countless individuals and organizations. Wopila Tanka—Thank You!

Center for American Indian Research and Native Studies (CAIRNS) is an Indian-controlled nonprofit research and education center founded in 2004 and located in the Lacreek District of Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

*The Center for American Indian Research and Native Studies is an Indian-controlled nonprofit research and education center founded in 2004 and located in the Lacreek District of the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

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