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Pine Ridge

Global Partners-Pine Ridge works with organizations on the Pine Ridge Reservation of South Dakota to empower and inspire the Lakota community to improve their health and quality of life. Our partnerships with Pine Ridge extend care, support and opportunities to the Lakota people by complementing existing healthcare and education systems, while consciously addressing effects of experienced trauma. Current data demonstrates the need for continued assistance:

  • The average life expectancy on Pine Ridge is just 66.81 years, the lowest in the U.S.
  • The diabetes rate is eight times greater than the national average.
  • Indian Health Service, the sole healthcare provider on Pine Ridge, provides $3,107 annually in healthcare per Native American resident. Healthcare expenditures for the average American is more than $8,097 a year.
  • There is a 70% high school dropout rate

Through our partnerships, Global Partners' and Pine Ridge leaders work together to bridge the gap in essential healthcare services on the reservation due to lack of funding and availability of care.


Behavioral Health Partnerships

We partner with Pine Ridge Reservation communities and organizations to promote mutual learning and culturally-appropriate training to address behavioral health issues.

Why this matters: Suicide is the one of the leading causes of death among American Indian/Alaskan Native population in the United States. Through initiatives such as our Healing Camp and our partnership with Viterbo's Mental Health Counseling program, we are better able to address this issue and work on prevention methods.

Physical Exams

Global Partners volunteers perform annual physical exams for students and staff at Pine Ridge Reservation schools, as well as for Oglala Sioux Tribe police officers. These include routine and mandated physicals for Head Start, middle and high school athletes, as well as vision screenings in schools.

Why this matters: Access to physical exams on the reservation are extremely limited due to lack of transportation and facilities. Without a physical exam, children cannot enroll in Head Start nor participate in school sports due to state guidelines. Police officers are also required to complete an annual exam to stay active in the field.

School Partnerships

Global Partners offers first aid training, CPR training, Stop the Bleed training, health fairs and healthy athlete workshops to students and faculty at reservation schools. These opportunities, offered in conjunction with the La Crosse Health Science Academy, improve the health of the region through education, prevention and emergency preparedness.

Why this matters: Health fairs and workshops help educate students and faculty on preventative measures they can take to stay healthy and fit. Knowledge in basic first aid skills and emergency preparedness is vital in delaying the worsening of a medical crisis, as emergency help is often 45+ minutes away.

Wanblee Clinic – Indian Health Service

Global Partners aims to provide high-quality primary and specialty care for those living in the rural northeast area of Pine Ridge, as well as training opportunities for Indian Health Service (IHS) staff.

Why this matters: The Indian Health Services (IHS) provides less than $3,107 annually in healthcare per Native American (compared to $8,097/year for the average American).

Youth camps

Three camps are offered to youth on the reservation, including the Youth Leadership Camp, Health for the Generations Camp and Healing Camp. The youth camps provide training and skill-building techniques on being a leader, allow students to explore health careers, and give students tools and support to overcome trauma or hardships. These camps are put on through partnerships with the La Crosse Health Science Academy, Viterbo's Mental Health Counseling program and Pine Ridge community organizations.

Why this matters: The Lakota youth may not have the local resources that foster building leadership skills, self-care practices and interest in healthcare. These camps support Native American youth to be agents of change in their own communities.


If you are interested in volunteering on a trip to the Pine Ridge Reservation, please fill out our volunteer form.

A typical year of Global Partners activities will include volunteer teams in spring, summer and fall that focus on a variety of initiatives. This schedule may change depending on partner requests and volunteer availability.


  • School first aid training
  • Community CPR, Stop the Bleed training
  • Healthy athlete workshops
  • Youth physicals


  • Police officer physicals
  • Youth camps to foster health careers, leadership development and behavioral health skills
  • Clinic work


  • Youth physicals
  • School health fairs
  • Community CPR, Stop the Bleed training
  • Behavioral health training
  • Healthy athlete workshops

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does a trip to Pine Ridge cost?
Each trip costs $375 for the week, which covers lodging, vehicle rental, gas expenses, breakfast and lunch, and supplies for the team. Gundersen employees may apply for a Global Partners grant to cover up to $250 of the trip.

Do volunteers need to have a medical background?
No, volunteers do not need to have a medical background. Volunteers from a variety of backgrounds are needed. Please complete the volunteer form and describe your interest, and a member of the Global Partners team will follow up with you to discuss opportunities.

Does Gundersen provide time off for my trip?
Gundersen employees may choose to take PTO or unpaid time off; arrangements should be made with your manager. Gundersen medical staff may also use CME time but not CME money.

Do we need to bring along our own food?
No, you do not need to bring your own food. Global Partners will provide food, and volunteer teams will eat at restaurants, as well. Food allergies should be brought to the attention of the volunteer team leader.

Where do we stay?
We stay in hotels in the Pine Ridge region, most often at the Lakota Prairie Ranch in Kyle, S.D.

To inquire about specific trip dates and initiatives, contact the Global Partners office at globalpartners@gundersenhealth.org or call (608) 775-9883.

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