Millikin University's Human Service Connection (HSC) brings the issues of social justice and awareness to life with activities such as Box City and annual spring break experiential learning trips. During Millikin's most recent spring break, the Human Service Connection traveled to Pawnee, Okla. to engage with the Pawnee Native American Tribe and experience the tribe's culture.
"As the advisor for the Human Service Connection, I pick a place to go where the students can be engaged," said Mary Garrison, associate professor of social work in the behavioral sciences department. "We specifically went there to work with Native Americans, and the students who attended the trip spent the previous fall and spring semester learning about the culture of the Pawnee Tribe. We basically went out and immersed ourselves and allowed the tribe to share their culture."
"Pawnee Nation not only provided education about an oppressed population, but it also gave us a better insight into our own cultures and how we are impacted by the environment we live in," stated Carissa McCallister, a senior from Granite City, Ill. "I gained a new perception of myself and where I come from as well as a better understanding of the Native American culture."
Throughout the week, the organization learned about the Pawnee Tribal Government and met with members of the council, including its President and Executive Director. The students also engaged in work that was connected with the culture of the Pawnee Tribe such as participating in after-school tutoring, working with an elderly center, attending a Pawnee language high school class, and cleaning the tribal cemeteries.
"Our time with the Pawnee was possibly the most enlightening and educational experience any of us have ever had," said Jade Anderson, a senior from Mt. Zion, Ill. "We cleaned litter and tree limbs from the tribe's two cemeteries, and also picked up trash along the road. We participated in the tribal community playing games, listened to men sing and play a big drum. Their humble and caring attitude was contagious."
"Cleaning their cemeteries is quite sacred to them," said Garrison. "You learn so much about who they are and their ancestry through this work, it's really quite powerful. The tribe was in awe that the students would clean the cemeteries and this really connected the students with the culture of the Pawnee Tribe."
Historically, HSC has been to Pawnee three times and has visited other locations such as Baltimore, Md.; Denver, Colo.; Wilmington, Del.; and Mississippi following Hurricane Katrina. Eight Millikin seniors attended the 2013 HSC trip along with Associate Professor Garrison and Director of the Kirkland Fine Arts Center, Jan Traughber. The students will be presenting their experiences from the trip during Millikin's annual Celebrations of Scholarship on Friday, April 26 at 10 a.m. in Room 422 of Shilling Hall. The majority of the students that participated will be graduating in May 2013.
"As for my experiences, I really appreciated their sense of history as living," said Jon Williamsen, a senior from Beecher, Ill. "All events and individuals that came before them were spoken in the present - showing that time does not matter in regards to historical impact, it all depends on how an individual respects their ancestors. Working with the Pawnee is completely uplifting, as they had such a joyous sense of life and appreciation for their history and developments."
"Putting yourself into an unknown place can make anyone apprehensive at any age," said Garrison. "The students learned to be open to new opportunities and they understood how important it was for them to connect with a different group of people. This was a learning experience for them and I think they are still processing many things they learned from the trip."
"It was a whole different world for the students and it was really neat to see how that world operates," said Garrison. "I was so proud of the questions they asked and how they were willing to take appropriate advantage of these people that were willing to educate them. They certainly got the most out of the trip."