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‘We’re just relatives taking care of relatives:’ Camp Mni Luzihian serves homeless near Rapid City

The camp, located on land owned by the Oglala Sioux, Rosebud Sioux, and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes, has multiple sleeping tents and tipis, a cook shack, a mess hall with movie night capabilities, and communal fires.
Published: Jan. 6, 2021 at 4:41 PM MST|Updated: Jan. 6, 2021 at 7:23 PM MST
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - Two and a half months ago, Camp Mni Luzahan was created to support the homeless community in Rapid City.

Since then, the camp has been closed to the media, but Tuesday afternoon, we got a glimpse into its day to day operations.

”The whole goal is so that nobody freezes to death out there and that everybody makes it through the winter,” these are the words of Mark Tilsen, one of Camp Mni Luzahan’s main volunteers. During a media tour, he and other volunteers gave insight into the homeless camp.

“We’re just relatives taking care of relatives,” said Sunny Red Bear a volunteer and Director of Racial Equity for NDN Collective. “We don’t think we’re better than anyone that is staying here. That we try to create relationships with them to see what their goals are, what their stories are. It’s really important to humanize them.”

“The pros of it, it’s away from all the liquor stores. It’s away from all the traffic downtown,” said Hermus Bettelyoun, a camp volunteer. “It’s real peaceful. It’s so beautiful, all you hear is the wind. You hear laughter, joking and it’s something that really warms you up.”

The camp, located on land owned by the Oglala Sioux, Rosebud Sioux, and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes, has multiple sleeping tents and tipis, a cook shack, a mess hall with movie night capabilities, and communal fires.

The camp has received numerous donations including food, money, and everything in between. And Red Bear says the camp is here to stay.

“We definitely have some goals and some plans for the future as far as tiny homes and supporting,” said Red Bear. “And we’ve just been a supportive role for Creek Patrol here at camp and being an advocate for them and lending our resources but then also advocating for the relatives too.”

The camp houses anywhere from 50 to 80 people referred to as relatives. And Mark Tilsen says the current goal is to make sure relatives find a place that works for them.

“We go out every single night looking for folks, we don’t make anybody come here,” said Tilsen. “For folks who want to go to safe bed or detox, we take them there. If they have relatives that they can stay with, they can go there.”

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