Martin offers a mix of a small town South Dakota community with Native American heritage. With the Pine Ridge Reservation wrapping around to the north and west and the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation just east, the location of the small town provides unique access to the Lakota culture. The history of this area is a somewhat painful one: under the Homestead Act of 1863, the land in Bennett County was deemed to be good “farming land,” so it was taken from the native people and sold to individuals who were moving into the newly established Dakota Territory (now North and South Dakota). This created deep tension and frustration that still exists today between the whites and natives in the area. Martin boasts a Native American population of nearly 50%. It is also the county seat of Bennett county, in which about 35% of the population lives below the poverty line – nearly three times more than the South Dakota state average.
Serving in Martin
- Serve through painting, cleaning, yard work or other simple work projects.
- Plan and lead kids programming for children in the community, including Bible lessons, games, crafts and reading.
- Students will have the opportunity to participate with each of the above service sites during the week.
Since Martin is located near Reservations but not directly on one, this community is perfect for groups who desire to dip their toes in a less-intense intercultural experience, while still meeting very real needs in the community. Home improvement projects serve both the residents of Martin and the nearby tribal housing development. Kids Club serves children from those same neighborhoods and is hosted just one block from our housing site. Various activities allow for fairly relaxed evenings. Activities might include an in-town scavenger hunt, hearing from a local speaker, a small pow-wow put on by community friends, and community cookout.
YouthWorks marked its first summer in Martin in 2001. Over the years we have created good relationships with the community, especially at the Bennett County Schools, where we have stayed for the majority of our time in Martin. It is not uncommon for community friends to drop by throughout the day and interact with teenagers and adults.