The kick-off of this year’s Day of Dignity campaign was at the Crow Creek Reservation in South Dakota last week, and it was a sobering, yet satisfying day that we spent there. There is beauty in the land and people of the reservation, but not in the conditions they are living in.

Driving through South Dakota is like driving through time–a time when America was a much simpler place. As I rode through this scenic state, I passed countless farms with grazing cattle and general stores. You could ride for hours and not see a stop sign. For a city guy like myself, this was very different from what I am used too.

Then suddenly the scene changes. The picturesque farms are replaced with trailer homes and temporary housing. Joblessness and poverty plague Crow Creek and many other reservations. Reservations were intended to give the Native Americans their own sovereign land. But instead they have become outposts where the original people of the Americas have been sent to and generally ignored.

As we drove through the reservations, we saw the homes that had been built for the mostly Sioux population. Some of the people live in dilapidated structures. Jobs are scarce and also the opportunities for many Sioux people are limited on the reservation. Despite the difficulties on the reservation the people of Crow Creek are very welcoming.

We wound our way through the reservation up to the parking lot of the community center. From there our Islamic Relief USA volunteers, who had taken the two and a half hour ride from Sioux Falls to Fort Thompson (where the Crow Creek reservation is), hopped out of the bus eager to assist. They quickly unloaded the van and began to stuff the Islamic Relief bags with goods, including food, hygiene kits, blankets, and other basic living supplies. Next to the supply van the volunteers set up a small kid’s carnival equipped with a variety of children’s games and prizes. More than 800 recipients stopped by; enjoying the games and the goods that Islamic Relief and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints had donated to this cause.

Members of the community and the tribal council thanked IR USA and its volunteers for their efforts. We left the day hoping that we made a small a difference, if just for one day. Inshallah, I pray that we can do more to assist these people, whose ancestors lay the foundation for this land that we now know as America. Click here to learn more about the Day of Dignity campaign, when it is coming to a city near you, and how you can help out.

–Karim Amin, Islamic Relief USA Domestic Programs Coordinator