Virginia Ravndal founded the Lakota Animal Care Project in 2007 because there were no veterinary services on the 2 million-acre Pine Ridge Reservation. There still aren’t any vet services, other than those provided at clinics the mostly volunteer group sponsors throughout the year.
One essential aspect of the program has been to get Lakota kids involved with needy animals on the reservation in order to teach them responsibility.
But the focus of helping Lakota children is being refined, says Ravendal, as a result of the number of increased youth suicides on Pine Ridge.
“When any one of us knows that we have a friend…whether that be a person friend or an animal friend…that gives us a good reason to live,” Ravndal explains. “And another good reason to live is if another living being depends upon us…for food and water…for basic health care…for friendship…for love.”
The plan is to have one Lakota child accept sponsorship for one animal through the Sunka Scout program, and be responsible for it through the child’s school years. “Sunka” is the Lakota word for dog.
As respect for and from that animal grows, Ravndal hopes each child will learn to have respect for themselves and for life.