Created from millions of years of the ruthless ravage of wind and water, the Badlands of South Dakota is home to the Oglala Sioux Tribal Nation. During the summer of 2005 the OKU-Omega Omega Scholarship Foundation sponsored a week long externship for six New Jersey Dental School students to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

The purpose of the externship was to give these students the opportunity to expand their clinical education experience, professional competence, self-confidence and muticultural experience while treating an underserved population of Native Americans.

Approximately 120,000 acres of the 244,303 acres that make up the Badlands lie on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The deep gorges, jagged saw tooth ridges, cliffs, spires, eerie rock formation and mixed prairie grasslands that make up this harsh terrain are called "mako sika" by the Sioux. "Mako sika" literally translated means "land bad".

The Badlands is a place of extremes. The summer brings oppressive heat and violent thunderstorms, whereas the winter is chilled by cold and winds that roar unhindered out of the north. Landscape that is both barren and beautiful provided a bountiful learning experience for all.







The saga begins with a flight out of Newark Liberty International Airport on Sunday August 14. After a brief stop in the Twin Cities, we arrive in Rapid City, South Dakota .Loaded aboard 2 mini vans, we head south on our 150 mile journey through the Black Hills National Forest and Custer State Park to Pine Ridge. A trip to South Dakota would not be complete without taking in the breathtaking splendor and magnificence of Mt. Rushmore and fortunately Mt. Rushmore is on our way. Neither pictures nor words do justice to this tribute to four of our more notable presidents. As our journey continues through Custer State Park, we are all craning our necks to be the first to spot "Tatanka", as bison roam free in the park. As we wind around a bend in the road we find cars stopped in both directions. It seems a bison has found us! We disembark from our trusty steeds to get some close up pictures of this behemoth beast only to find we have a rather ornery animal headed our way. We scramble quickly to the safe refuge of the vans.In addition to herds of buffalo, Custer State Park is full of many other free roaming and equally beautiful animals including the pronghorn, prairie dog, mountain lion, coyote and our favorite, the "begging" burro. As darkness falls we stop for dinner at the Blue Bell Lodge and Resort to sample the local fare. Included on the menu was buffalo ribs, steaks, stew and meatloaf. We found dining on bison preferable than running from it. Our day's journey ended at the Jefco Inn in Gordon, Nebraska, approximately 35 miles south of Pine Ridge. The Jefco Inn is one of the few motels in the area, as there are no motels or inns in Pine Ridge.


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