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What Camp Offers

Camp is offered to Lakota youth ages 7-13 from the Pine Ridge Reservation. Short 3-day camping sessions in the Black Hills and around the Reservation focus on different age groups within this age range, and on different communities around the Reservation.  We partner with Reservation schools which help implement the Camp Laugh A Lot badge-earning program so that students can earn the "Reading with Animals" and "Kindness Counts" badges to go to camp.  There is never a charge for youth to go to camp, but learning to earn is important, and these badges inspire this and also contribute to improving reading skills as well as promoting and facilitating volunteerism by Native youth in our own communities.  The number of campers each summer varies depending on available funding, but averages around 100 to 150.  Sadly, many youth who would like to go to Camp are denied this opportunity for lack of adequate resources.  If resources were available, we could offer camp to at least 1,000 youth every summer!

Through carefully planned activities and approaches, Camp Laugh A Lot helps Native youth...

  • Experience days full of learning, fun and adventure in the Black Hills, the ancestral sacred land of the Lakota people (but no longer easily accessible to most Tribal members)

  • Learn about nature and indigenous knowledge related to the natural world, thereby enhancing appreciation of nature and safeguarding traditional knowledge related to the natural world

  • Build positive relations with others & enhance self-image

  • Enhance physical and mental well-being

  • Assume greater personal responsibility

  • Become involved in service to our communities

  • Improve reading skills

  • Enhance awareness and compassion for animals

We strive to impact not only individuals, but also the societies in which we live, bringing about positive change in the relationship we as humans have with animals and with nature.

Our Mission

Camp Activities

  • ​Nature Study Hands-On Activities

  • Lake Swimming

  • Hiking with appreciation for nature

  • Canoeing and Paddleboarding

  • Treasure hunting using nature clues and natural treasures

  • Learning Lakota and other campfire songs, stories and traditional games

  • Activities on learning respect for animals and earning respect from them including care of the sunkas (dogs) who share our lives.  Every summer, several sunkas in need of extra care and love join at Camp.

  • Setting up tents and tipis

  • Visits to sacred ancestral sites in the Black Hills accompanied by Tribal elders

  • ​Learning Lakota names for the plants and animals 

  • Learning ecology of the Black including indigenous knowledge about the natural world

  • Sharing knowledge regarding nature and culture between Tribal elders and Native youth

  • Fun, outdoors team building activities (build positive relations with others)

  • Being aware of what we eat (healthy for the environment, healthy for us)

  • Fun games to teach Kindness Counts Every Day in Every Way​

By providing camping opportunities in the Black Hills, Lakota youth spend time in an area sacred to their Tribe but no longer easily accessible to many.

What Makes Camp So Special?

Our Mission

Lakota Youth 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, many Lakota youth rarely get to visit what is their Tribe's most sacred area. Camp Laugh A Lot provides an important opportunity for youth to get to know the Black Hills accompanied by Tribal elders.


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 Volunteerism by Campers and Other Tribal Members

Giving someone the chance to go to camp is special, but equally special is the opportunity Camp Laugh A Lot gives people to give of themselves. Tribal elders have always helped organize for Camp and willingly share their knowledge about native plants and animals.  Many community members volunteer to make Camp possible in many different ways.  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.

Environmental issues are highlighted on Tribal lands. It is, therefore, especially important for Native youth to appreciate the natural environment, and to become aware and informed of environmental issues. Many children have a natural love for nature and animals and may wish someday to pursue related jobs or advanced educational opportunities. Enhancing awareness and compassion for nature and animals beginning at an early age helps bring about positive societal change in how we relate to nature and animals.


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.

Our Mission

Enhancing Literacy


​Campers read books to animals to earn the "Reading with Animals" badge.  They read to birds, butterflies, horses, cats, dogs -- any animal.  Books read in Lakota language count double to inspire re-uptake of the Lakota language.


 "Camp Laugh A Lot Reading Circle libraries" have been established in various Reservation schools so that students who would not otherwise have access to check books out to take home (as not all schools have libraries), can now do so.  

NEW in 2023! Fun outdoor "Reading Camps" for 3rd and 4th Graders!

The "Kindness Counts" Badge

gorl cradling little moon while he sleeps.JPG

Campers do 7 (an important number in the Lakota culture) acts of kindness to earn this badge. They describe their acts of kindness and share this with their teacher before school lets out for the summer. Teachers set aside a lesson for students to present their acts of kindness to their classmates.  


There is no cost to go to camp.  Youth earn their way to go to Camp by earning the badges.  Learning to earn inspires self-confidence and self-esteem and instills a sense of pride.  

In this photo, a camper cradles "Little Moon", one of the sunkas (dogs) who was brought to camp because he needed some extra love and care.

We Need Your Support Today!

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