In the early 1990s The Rev. Asa Wilson (pastor, Makasan Presbyterian Church, Oglala SD, Pine Ridge Reservation) and The Rev. George Demass (pastor, Perry Hall Presbyterian Church, Baltimore MD) met and discussed mutual learning possibilities between members from their respective presbyteries, the Dakota Presbytery and Presbytery of Baltimore.
Conversations began on how this could take place. Today that relationship has grown into the Baltimore Dakota Learning Camps, the idea of which was initiated by Dakota and whose model was developed by Baltimore. Churches in both presbyteries are mutually supported as are over 20 Baltimore churches that have been active in this relationship. The spiritual/cultural and prayer exchanges widen continually year after year.
The Baltimore Dakota Learning Camps
The Baltimore Dakota Learning Camps were born out of a tutoring project that started in 1998 as an afternoon component of the Makasan Church Vacation Bible School (VBS). It was apparent that working on learning activities with the Lakota children was a beneficial endeavor for both the learners and the tutors as relationships were easily formed in this small group or one on one setting. The Makasan VBS/tutoring program was stopped in 1999 and a new model was born at the Makasan church in 2003 – the elementary learning camp model. This first camp was an activity based model but lacked structure and the need for a different model was identified. The Hau Kola Learning Camp station rotation model started at Makasan Church in 2004 and was very successful. The campers were guided by counselors to 5 different learning stations which were lead by one or two additional staff members. This rotation model was used in 2005 and 2006.
The Pine Ridge Baltimore Dakota Learning Camp was started in 2006 and had elementary and middle school campers. The curriculum was an activity based one and used the HOP (Hands On Projects) program of the South Dakota State Library system. The focus of the hands on activities was Color and Light and each day’s activities revolved around one of these topics. The HOP Dino Stories was used for the 2007 Pine Ridge Hau Kola site. This camp is currently on hiatus.
The Makasan Teen Camp was started in 2006 as a mentorship model. The camp staff numbered 9 and they worked with 12 middle school age students in small group and one on one activities. This small, mentorship model will be used again in 2007 with a project based focus with a GIS/mapping project, a puppet theater /Jr. Counselor – Leadership project that will evolve into a program for the elementary and pre-school camps, and a community work project where Hau Kola staff and Lakota teens work as a team to do work projects in the Oglala community. The 2011 Teen Camp added an additional project using Lego Robotics.
The Pre-School and Baby FACE program was started at Makasan in 2006 during the same week as the elementary camp. This program proved to be a very successful one and will continue as a separate camp in 2007. The morning pre-school camp will be open to 3 – 5 year olds and will be based on early childhood literacy and will have an activity rotation model. The afternoon Baby FACE program will be a family/child learning together program for parents and children birth – 3. The tribal Baby FACE grant expired for the Oglala site in 2009 and this facet of the Pre-School Learning Camp was phased out in the same year.
The Porcupine Bible Camp started in 2007 and was held at the Porcupine School working with the teachers and students who were in attendance at the summer school program. Creative writing, art, a literary magazine and Lego Robotics have been over the course of the years 2007 – 2010. The camp was on hiatus for 2011 and was revitalized for the 2012 camps season.
The Sisseton Family Learning Camp on the Lake Traverse Reservation started in 2008 and was held at the Goodwill Presbyterian Church. The camp moved to the Tiospa Zina Tribal School in 2010 and was held in conjunction with the school’s summer school program. This camp was put on hiatus at the end of the 2012 camp season. The camp restarted in 2018 as the Sisseton Family Learning Camp.
The Ihanktonwan Learning Camp was started in 2010 and is held at the Marty Indian School. The leadership team of the camp works closely with the teachers at the school to identify areas of focus for the summer camp. This camp, while held at the school, is not in conjunction with a summer school program.
The Pejuhutazizi Family Learning Camp was launched in 2013 to provide a chance for children from the Baltimore Presbytery and the Upper Sioux Community in Granite Falls, MN to get to know each other and keep their minds active during the summer months.