Lakota Children Get to Spend Time in the Black Hills

Many things are special about Camp Laugh A Lot, including where it takes place. Camp takes place in the beautiful Black Hills, a sacred place to the Lakota people. This area, almost 100 miles from the Reservation, was excluded from the Reservation when boundaries were redrawn. As a result, Lakota children rarely get to visit what is their Tribe's most sacred area. Camp Laugh A Lot provides an important opportunity for children to get to know the Black Hills.

Learning About Nature and Caring for the Environment

Camp Laugh A Lot offers many learning opportunities, especially related to animals, nature, and the environment. Campers enhance their awareness and compassion for animals, study wildlife and plants, and learn indigenous knowledge about these with the help of Tribal elders and wildlife professionals who volunteer to share their knowledge. These learning activities are fun, but also provide an important foundation on which to build a practical knowledge base for gentle living with respect for others (of all kinds) and for the environment. Across the country, environmental issues are highlighted on tribal lands. It is important for Native American youth to appreciate the natural environment, and to become aware and informed of environmental issues as they grow up. Likewise, many children have a natural love for animals and may wish to pursue jobs or advanced educational opportunities related to animals. Enhancing awareness and compassion for animals beginning at an early age will help bring about positive societal change in how we relate to animals.

Camp Promotes Volunteering by Campers and Other Tribal Members

Giving children the chance to go to camp is special, but equally special is the opportunity Camp Laugh A Lot gives people to give of themselves. Many Camp Counselors volunteer their time. Tribal elders have always helped organize for Camp and share their knowledge about native plants and animals with the children. Volunteering by Tribal members lifts spirits and inspires people to be involved in other positive, self-help initiatives. Indeed, part of the mission of Camp Laugh A Lot is, through camp, to promote volunteerism by Tribal members as a way of encouraging self-help and enhanced self-image.

Through their own volunteer efforts related to earning the Kindness Counts badge and the Reading with Animals badge, and through observing the volunteer efforts of Camp Counselors and others involved in Camp, campers are encouraged to adopt an approach of self-help and of taking initiative.

About The Group Badges

The "Reading with Animals" Badge

Children read 7 books to/with an animal to earn this badge. They can read to a dog, a cat, a horse, a turtle, any animal. They can read to the same animal each time or to a different one. They can sit under a tree and read to the birds if they want to. They read the books after school, on the weekends, on holidays. They must have at least one witness (preferably another child who can read the book together with them.) If they read a book in Lakota language, it counts for 2 books. They fill in a checklist (which CLAL provides) listing the titles of the books they read and who they read the books with (what animals and what people). They turn this checklist into their teacher before school lets out for the summer.

The "Kindness Counts" Badge

Children do 7 acts of kindness for animals to earn this badge. CLAL shares an illustrative list of acts of kindness for animals with teachers as part of the lesson plan on “All Our Relations”. Students fill in a checklist describing each of the acts of kindness they performed and turn this into their teacher before school lets out for the summer. Teachers set aside a lesson for students to present what their acts of kindness to their classmates. Badges are earned before camp (during the school year) and are awarded at camp during an awards ceremony. There is no cost to go to camp but children must earn their way by earning the two badges.

Team building

Team building activities form an important part of many Camp activities. Campers work in teams on treasure hunts that use nature-related clues (and where the treasure is something useful for further nature study). As an example of a past team building exercise at Camp, campers learned to use the Global Positioning System (GPS) and engaged in team orientation activities using GPS with the guidance of a Camp Counselor and Tribal member (Charlie Comes Killing) trained in GPS. Animals are often part of our teams.


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