Thursday, June 30, 2011
After breakfast and packing our lunches, Ally went to Eagle Shield to help prepare meals for elders and later returned to continue work at the BCC library. Leah, Ally2, Tee and Hannah went to East Glacier to work with kids at the Boys and Girls Club health fair, but when no kids showed up, they returned to the care center where they were able to finish painting by lunch time. Then, they went to the Boys and Girls Club in Browning where they helped kids learn how to make stir fry, draw and cut out flowers, and play outside -- which included countless piggyback and shoulder rides.
The rest of the group was busy at the Blackfeet Academy experiential garden and the community garden and greenhouse shoveling dirt, and creating the foundation of the planing bed. Molly and Jessica planted carrots and onions, and did some cleaning. Since the walk between the two gardens on the BCC campus was so short, the two groups connected for lunch at the greenhouse and continued to work together, cleaning out the hundeds of small containers that once held carrot seedlings.
Michele picked us up around 4PM so we could clean up before we left for a picnic dinner at Brother Ray's house. Before heading out, we visited the Museum of the Plains Indians and the art gallery across the street. They were both very intriguing and showed immense detailed aspects of the life for the Plains Indians. Many of the artifacts were similar to some of the ones we got to hold the other night in our presentation with Marty Martin, which was very special.
Once we arrived at Brother Ray and Brother Pauls' houses, we set off for the buffalo jump, which was a very historical and sacred site for the Blackfeet. We learned that before horses were brought to America by the Spaniards, the Blackfeet had fewer ways of capturing and killing buffalo. At this site, they would drive buffalo over the cliff, where all were wounded or killed.
At the barbeque, we feasted on hamburgers, hot dogs, pork chops and baked beans among many other items. As were were eating, we settled down in the living room to watch the fascinating documentary on the Blackfeet. It was really neat to see and hear about places we already knew. After the movie, we returned to DLSBS for the night.
Arriving at the library today, I found they had received a large donation of 15 boxes of books -- some in better shape than others. Ginny started reviewing them, deciding which ones to keep, checking the catalouge to make sure there were no duplicates.
At 1PM, we held the events we had been planning all week....a Books for Babies session for ages 0-2, card making for ages 3-12, and a discussion group on Native Americans in fantasy for teens and adults, which I led. Although the turn out was low, it seemed to go well...the kids made some great cards, and I really enjoyed talking to Shirley (who didn't like vampire stories) and Janis (who loved them).
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Ned, Maia and Sam went to the Academy to finish the garden with Charles, and planted flowers. Meanwhile, the rest of the team helped prepare and serve meals at the Blackfeet Tribe staff appreciation picnic. When we had finished cutting tomatoes and onions, cooking burgers, hot dogs and chicken, and setting up the rest of the lunch, we danced to the groovy tunes the DJ practiced as we unloaded chairs and opened more packages.
After serving and eating lunch, we lay in the sun and watched as the large assortment of prizes were given away. We helped clean up and were given fold-up chairs in appreciation of our service. We finished our assignment around 3:30.
This evening, we hiked scenic point...beautiful and above the tree line a majority of the time, providing continuous views of the surrounding mountains. The hike was steep and the winds were so high that at many points, we ahd to duck down close to the slightly sheltered path. It took us a little over three hours in total, and we were very happy and refreshed as we drove back for a late dinner of beef stew and root bear floats.
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Today our team split up into four work groups. Ally worked at the Blackfeet Community College library, where she continued cataloguing and helping the librarian with whatever she needed. Hannah, Tee, Sam and Leah went to the Care Center to continue scraping and painting the outside walls and assembling picnic tables for the residents. As they painted a fresh layer of paint onto the office walls, they painted themselves in the process! They also got to interact with more local workers than they did the day before.
The third group started as two separate groups, and joined after lunch. Ned and Maia worked with Charles at the Blackfeet Academy shoveling and raking dirt for the new garden along with getting to know Charles better. After lunch, they joined Jessica and Molly at the community garden and greenhouse where they planted carrots, zucchini, beets, peas, swiss chard and summer squash with a local crew. They also watered and fertilized the vegetables. Shirley Wippert, one of the local workers, showed us how to keep animals way from the freshly planted veggies by lining the side of the garden with clear water bottles. We also planted onions at the end of every row, which drove the small animals away because of their strong smell -- too overwhelming for them. We worked with Shirley, Crystal, another woman and her two young sons.
As we worked in the sun for the for the better part of six hours, we got to learn more about their culture, and they were eager to hear about our time on the reservation and our collge plans for next year. There were long periods where no one would speak, but the silence was equally as comforting as the friendly conversations.
The wind blew for most of the day, and we listened to the gentle hum of the wind turbine that powered the office behind us. The hot sun reminded us how Sam Aimsback from the rodeo grounds told us yesterday that the rainbow around the setting sun meant either a very cold day or very hot day ahead. His words proved to be true as the sun continued to beat on us for the remainder of the afternoon...making this the warmest day since we got here.
Monday, June 27, 2011
Last night, Marty Martin - a Blackfeet elder - came to speak to us about his culture. It was exremely interesting as well as informative. Marty told us stories and shared many of his experiences with us and explained "the way of the Indian," helping us to understand why some things on the reservation are the way they are.
One important thing he shared was the importance of giving back to Mother Earth. He told us we should show our appreciation of her and everything she provides us. To do so, we must never completely finish a meal, and bury the remains in the ground. This is a way to show one's appreciation for Nature. Another thing we talked about was Marty's experience teaching at Browning High School, and his interactions with the resrvation youth. Although there are many pressing issues, such as teen pregnancy and drug and alcohol abuse, he told us about all the good things that happen here, too. There are many good atheletes and artists, as well as intellectuals.
He shared with us a heartwarming story of a boy he knew who became a writer. While telling the story, he became emotional -- which only helped me to understand the true passion and love he has for the youth on the reservation.
My knowledge of Indian culture tripled tonight when Marty showed us tons of amazing Blackfeet artifacts. Each thing had an amazing story to go with it. We tried on beautiful headdresses and held old robes that had been given to him. As we passed these things around and listened to him, I couldn't help but realize how different our cultures are. However, this culture is different in a way that makes me eager to hear more. The ways of the Blackfeet people is fascinating and because it is so different from my own culture, it draws me in. I can't wait to learn more by meeting more interesting people!
Today was the first day of work, and everyone was excited to begin. After breakfast, we went to the community college for a meeting with community leaders who will be directing our work. After getting our assignments, we toured the college, and I was very impressed by the amount of resources the school had! My favorite part was the ceremonial room. It was so unique to the school and I loved how it drew the local culture into their college education.
After the tour, we set out on our variety of jobs for the day. Some people went to the rodeo grounds to fix a fence, pick up rocks, and weed and mow the grounds. Others went to the Boys and Girls Club to help with activities, and did arts and crafts with young children.
A couple groups gardened at different places, from moving piles of dirt to setting up beds to be planted. The last group spent their day scraping old paint from the administrative building of the Blackfeet Care Center.
The work was very rewarding for us, but the most rewarding parts of the day were all of the conversations we had with local people. We learned about the hardships, the joys and the daily lives of the people here. I look forward to more days of hard work and plenty of wonderful conversations.
-Molly Snell and Leah McCabe
The Sundance on Saturday night stretched our intellects as we literally stepped onto unchartered territory of our own. The Yellow Kidney family was incredibly hospitable and a few members took us under their wing, ushering us into the sacred space and fave us key pointers on appropriate behavior. But still our minds were stretching to try to understand their customs and philosophy as well as the meaning of their action during the Sundance. But, on a more intuitive level, our hearts felt more at home -- more comfortable with the idea of looking up at the center pole wrapped in people's prayer banners which people had been carrying all year. All this to pray to the Creator Spirit, to sing and dance our prayers all the way to God.
Sunday, June 26, 2011
Going to Sunday services in a strange place seemed incredibly daunting at first today. We entered the Methodist Church, and the protective shell I had was shattered immediately as a woman came up to us with a big smile and welcomed us. We sat down and I took in the surroundings. There were between five and 10 people scattered in the brown wooden pews. The pastor came over to us to introduce himself and we learned that his wife was the pianist. His cool way to deliver a sermon -- less as a story and more as a class -- kept me engaged. My favorite part was the prayer circle, which because of the small size of the congregation, allowed it to be very intimate. Overall, it was a great experience.
This afternoon, we took a tour of the reservation. Seeing snow in June is very strange. Seeing it up in the mountains is one thing, but picking it up was entirely different! This was just one of the attractions of Two Medicine Lake, situated at the bottom of a set of mountains. The view was overwhelming!
Back in New England, we're not used to seeing anything that compares to the size and beauty of the surrounding mountains. Many of us paused just to take everything in. We also had our first prairie dog siting here. There was a man throwing bits of food to one, and the animal slowly got closer and closer to us. It looked very similar to the squirrels back home, with minor differences in the tail, color and size. The Upper and Lower Two Medicine Lakes were a treat to visit, and it made the power of nature in this area even stronger.
We also hiked to Running Eagle Falls (Trick Falls). As we began the short walk, the sound of rushing water got closer and closer. When we finally reached the end of the trail, the view was incredible! We wanted to cross the rapidly flowing river, but because the bridged had washed out, we needed to find another route. Upstream, we found a log perfectly situated across the river to be used as a bridge. Anderson started to walk across, and finally his judgement kicked in as the log began to slightly buckle underneath him, forcing his return to land.
Saturday, June 25, 2011
Driving into the outskirts of Browning, we noted what appeared to be an encampment of tipis and tents in the middle of a field. Michele, our team leader, explained that it was a Sundance -- an annual four to five-day ceremony held by the Yellow Kidney family. Because of Michele's relationship with the family and because of Global Volunteers' reputation in the community, it was possible for us to attend. Preparing for the visit proved to be somewhat of a challenge for the females, as they were required to wear ankle-length skirts. Although none of them had brought skirts, three were left from the previous team, and the women improvised with curtains, a long pillow case and sheets.
We arrived at the Sundance site at 7:30PM after travelling all day from Massachusetts, and were given a few basic instruction about entering the lodge: rotate each foot through the smoke of a sage smudge vessel at the entrance; men sit on the left and women on the right; men would walk around the sacred pole at the center when we left while women would touch it.
We all entered as directed and sat on the ground and got our first look at the lodge. Looking straigth ahead, we could see the sacred pole, wrapped in colorful prayer cloths, stretching up to the top, where many branches, all covered in colored string and cloths, reached to the outer wall that was comprised of brush tightly packed and attached to logs that were the foundation of the building.
Many of the men seated behind us asked us where we were from and what we were doing on the reservation. They explained the workings of the ceremony, the importance of the fire, the center pole, and the cloths wrapped around it. then, a man leaned over, tapping me on the shoulder and offered me a cigarette. At first, I was taken aback; did he want me to smoke it as many of the men around us were? But then he gave me three more for the other men on the team and explained that we should offer them to the men tending the fire, so that they could present them to the Creator and place them at the base of the center pole, where they joined other tobacco -- the sacrament the Nation offered up to give thanks for the world around them.
We stayed in the lodge for about an hour and a half, rising occasionally to dance to the music as instructed, and also leaving for a while to chop wood for the fire. Before we left, we were able to speak with the family leader (Nolin Yellow Kidney) who generously answered our questions about the ceremony. It was an amazing and wonderful introduction to the Blackfeet Nation.
-Ned Donaldson and Sam Perkins
Friday, June 24, 2011
The normal toast and cereal led our day. Then, we did something great and a bit unusual for the morning. We met with the Chief Mountain Hot Shots....an elete crew of mountain fire fighters from Browning. We watched a documentary about them and they answered questions at their fire cache. They were very nice to show us their tools and the food they eat. I had a good time with them. Then, we all left for our respective service projects. Mine was at the Boys and Girls Club, where I mowed the lawn and played with the children. It was a GREAT day!
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Michele announced this morning that there were three new work projects today. The low income energy assistance program needed people to help paint their new offices, a field day with the Boys and Girls Club, and washing windows for a resident at Eagle Shield. So, instead of gardening like yesterday, I pursued my love of art and offered to paint interior walls.
I packed my lunch, made some tea, and rode with Michele to the new work site where I met Lollie and started first wiping down the walls with Clorox. While someone went to fetch some paint, I helped move office equipment out of the room we were going to paint to a different room.
After about an hour of work, I finished washing one wall (the largest one.) This was good time. I then had lunch. After lunch, I started another wall, and not too long after, Michele returned with Emily, who had finished her morning assignment and would help us in the process.
We did a great job on that room. About 45 minutes later, Michele returned with Lauren because I had a phone call. I found out that the person I was talking to was adopted into the Blackfeet Tribe, and I had no idea at all before that!
After painting, Lauren and I walked back to DLSBS for dinner and to get ready for the rodeo....which was great!
Our day began with a breakfast gathering to confirm everyone's activities for the day. My work day began at Eagle Shield Center, an assisted living and senior lunch facility. Indians, and those married to Indians are eligible for reduced-fee lunch through this program. "Queens of the kitchen" Sissy and Marie demonstrated how to fill styrofoam boxes with food to deliver. Today's menu was spagetti with meat sauce, peas, canned diced peaches and garlic bread. These box lunches are delivered along with a small container of milk to elderly and disabled residents who are unable to get to Eagle Shield for lunch... just like "Meals on Wheels."
Today I broke with my usual job of serving lunch to people who begin to arrive around 11:30 or so to accompany Sean on his meal deliveries. By the time I was in the van and buckled up...I was out again to another home. Repeat about 70 times! Sean's lived on the Rez most of his life, and loves his job. I can see why. Most everyone I came in contact with were warm and friendly. I missed 103-year-old "Granny Williams," however, because she was asleep when I arrived.
Most of the shut-ins are cared for by relatives, some by aides. I was particularly impressed with Jim Mad Dog. He actually has another last name, but learned this only during his 60's. His artwork and beadword were proudly shown in his home.
Some of the residents we visited live in tiny spaces surrounded by squalor. Others had tidy and roomy interiors and neat yards. I loved the unusual names I learned..."Bear Paw", "Shoots First", "Bull Child", "Calf Looking", "Comes At Night", "Cross Guns", "Rides By The Door", and "Wolf Child" are actual Blackfeet family names which go back generations and may have been given by white settlers to describe them.
When we finished the deliveries, Sean dropped me off at De La Salle Blackfeet School to help Brother Ray with the book labeling project. These were books recently acquired for the children's library in room 101. I've really enjoyed this project as well.
My thought for the day: "Take the time to enjoy the wonders and beauty of the people you meet and the places you visit."
We woke up and had our typical morning meeting where we finalized our job assignments. Some people worked with the Boys and Girls Club at Heart Butte, while others painted. I chose to garden with the Fish family again because I feel a connection with them. When we arrived, it was already pretty hot, and after an hour of raking and rototilling, Brian and I decided to jump into the freezing cold water. We ate lunch and headed back to De La Salle School -- our "headquarters."
To prepare for the Sun Dance on Thursday night, we walked over to the thrift store to find skirts. We had a good time, and there were some pretty interesting outfits -- the boys bought some great "fashion pieces." While we were there, we helped put away some mattresses and then went to help set up the Sun Dance.
Eventhough we didn't do too much, it was interesting to see how everything works. Around 5PM, we headed over to Brother Ray's house for some swimming in Two Medicene River and a BBQ. The water was extremely COLD and moving pretty quickly. Eventhough the swimming didn't work out like we had planned, the excellen food made up for it!
Dinner was fun (eventhough I complained about being ichy every minute). Once back "home," Brian, Marshall and I tried out our thrift-store outfits. We did a little school work and watched Monsters, Inc. All in all, it was a really good day, and I really do feel at ease in this environment.
Monday, June 20, 2011
At 9 o'clock this morning we went to the Blackfeet Community College to receive our work assignments. The college has a beautiful campus. The administrative building looks like a very large, very modern version of a log cabin. At the meeting we were introduced to several members of the local community who are supervising work projects -- including Bob Tailfeathers, Wilbert Fish, Ginny Weeks, Sam Aimsback and Dee.
Our work projects include working at the rodeo grounds, helping install some community and family gardens, math tutoring, clearing ground and working with elders. I was assigned to work in the Medicene Spring library with Ginny, where I started putting together a bibliography of the childrens' books.
In the evening, some of us stayed at De La Salle School for a dinner of cajun fish, grilled cheese sandwiches, and tomato soup while the rest of the group headed to the Sweat at Tom Crawford's house in Heart Butte.
Sunday, June 19, 2011
This morning, after breakfast, Michelle presented Global Volunteers’ philosophy. We also had a chance to get on the same page with goals and intentions.
In the afternoon we loaded into our two vans – one a bit more luxurious than the other – and headed out for a broader tour of the reservation. Our trip took us to Duck Lake, where we piled out of the vehicles for a view of Chief Mountain – a spiritual center for the Blackfeet. We learned that the mountain is the site of sundance and vision quests for those keeping to traditional practices. As our drive continued, we passed the site of a large, recent burn and entered Glacier National Park by way of Saint Mary’s.
The park was breath taking and we made a number of stops heading up to the Jackson Glacier overlook. First, there was the iconic Wild Goose Island followed by a picturesque waterfall right along the road. On the way back, group members hiked to St. Mary Falls and Virginia Falls.
On the way back, we drove through the Starr School community before returning to Browning and our home at the De La Salle School. Walking in the doors, we were greeted by the aroma of fresh roasted chicken – thanks, Candy!
Today was a wonderful introduction to the deep beauty of our surroundings and a refreshing bit of rest before the real work of our trip begins.
Thursday, June 16, 2011
Cynthia and I started the day in Babb and worked with the Boys and Girls Club’s summer program. They had one of the local elders explaining Indian culture and how a headdress is built. We were given the opportunity to work with the children doing warm-up exercises and playing kick ball.
One of the children asked me why I had blue eyes. I said: “No I have brown eyes,” and he just laughed. (I do have blue eyes.) Seeing this interaction, one of the girls said I talked funny. I said: “I don’t Taalk funny… I’m from Boston.” She then informed me that the Heat “are the best” and they beat the Celtics. Then I made the mistake of calling one of the boys a girl and they just laughed at me. It is always rewarding working with kids -- they are so honest and enjoyable to be around.
At noon, we were asked to come back to Browning and help clean up an illegal dump site. Although it was difficult to leave the children, the dump site needed a lot of work and we took out six dump truck loads. Early evening, we attended the Museum of the Plains Indians and watched a film on the history of the nations. (Brother Ray claimed there was a real scalp on one of the exhibits. We could not find it and asked the cashier and all we got was a funny look. I think we had one pulled over on us all in good fun.)
After dinner, Christopher, my son, and I were invited to Brother Paul’s home to watch the final game of the Stanley cup play-offs. Being from the Boston area, this was a real treat for us. The Bruins won 4 -0 and it ended another great day in Browning.
If you are thinking of volunteering and joining Global Volunteers or any other volunteer group just do it. You will receive more than you give… I guarantee it.
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
“We’re on Indian time”, he said with a hint of an eye roll. "He" being my co-type A personality team member, Steve. We laughed and sat down for lunch. Brother Paul joined the table. “Time is a fluid thing here on the reservation…although nothing like in Africa.” He went on to tell a great little story about the time he was there attending a 10am wedding. He arrived at the bride’s house shortly before 10 and was greeted by the bride’s sister with a “What are you doing here…the wedding is at 10!” He checked his watch…sure enough, 10. He proceeded to wait….and wait…and wait some more. He waited until 3pm and thus learned that there is apparently a 5 hour time differential in Africa. Steve and I were like ‘HUH????’ and ‘ What a waste of time,’ buzzing in our over-busy little brains.
I went back to the Boys and Girls Club where I began round two of hand mowing the 40 acre jungle that is the playground. Back and forth over and over gave me a lot of time for reflection. Yesterday I had recited “Patience is a virtue, patience Is a virtue, patience is a Virtue” willing myself to believe it as we drove from place to place in search of a workplace. My “I’ll meet you there at 11” or “be back by 2” wasn’t coinciding with theirs. I came here to “Do Something” after all. In all fairness, Michelle had warned me that the U.S.’s busy little bee, goal oriented, time obsessed behavior is not, surprise! adopted the world over. Who knew? And so as I pushed the non-self-propelled mower, over rocks, uphill both ways I began to ponder the “rightness” of my entrenched belief about being on time and accomplishing goals on schedule. There are a lot of good things to be said for them, of course. But, and here is where it gets a little blasphemous… I realized that if everything had been ‘on time’ and ‘as scheduled’ I would not have heard Brother Paul’s story, or listened as Sam told of The Flying Elvises and the grand opening ceremonies for the casino or seen the riders practicing the horse relay, or have met Neil who won Indian Nationals in the horse relay, or hear Joe say, “the only people who predict the weather in Montana are fools or North Dakotans”, or heard how Bob Tailfeathers makes jewelry out of porcupine quills, or learn the difference between buckskin and rawhide, or find out that “Appendix” is a horse that is ½ thoroughbred and ½ quarter horse.
And certainly if I had stayed on task and completed my goal of mowing the entire Back 40 at the Boys and Girls Club instead of surrendering to the mower (although not before wearing one of its wheels plumb off) I would have never have sat with Laura and learned that she has three children and one grandchild, went to colleges in Kansas and New Mexico, met her husband from Oklahoma at college, came back to the rez because her grandmother was dying, stayed on the rez because she found good jobs, has a house that will be paid off next year, loves to travel, and may move to Spokane in two years.
And you know what else? The world didn’t end because I didn’t finish my task…on time, as scheduled! Maybe a little “Indian time” really isn’t such a bad thing.
Thought for the Day: "Patience is a virtue."
Monday, June 13, 2011
The words in Brother Paul’s office window: “Enter here to learn, leave here to serve,” I believe says it all. I have to say, my knowledge of the Blackfeet Indians was very little, but what insight I have been given by words and vision from our team leader Michele and her assistant, Joe. Because of them, I’m prepared to meet and serve my Indian brothers and sisters.
My first work day found me and my teamates first unloading boxes full of donated clothing and bedding items for the local veterans’ office to be used for the “Stand Down” ceremony and Give Away at Government Square on Wednesday and Thursday. Working side-by-side and seeing their smiles to me speaks volumes.
From unloading the semi truck, we went to the Blackfeet Community College greenhouse where Shirley, a 7-year-cancer survivor, works. She’s a very sweet local lady, and we look forward to coming back to help her plant trees. I then was assigned to work at the Blackfeet Care Center, and had the privilege of meeting and playing checkers with one of the residents, Lester Smith. He really got a kick out of “skunking” me, but oh the fun I had – and I so enjoyed his warm smile. (Yes, he beat me three times, but I beat him two!)
Following the checkers match, I joined an exercise class for the residents. When we finished, we enjoyed an ice cream sandwich….it was yum, yum good!
Shaunelle, the activities director, two other local volunteers, and I then went outside to clean out a storage shed. Working alongside the local women, with the touching and laughing, I realized yes, we’re all alike in so many ways, but yet different, which is AOK. Shaunelle had many things from the shed to donate to the Boys and Girls club, so we packed it up into the Global Volunteers van.
Time went by fast…and it’s been a BLAST! I truly am having fun! I went back “home” to the school, had supper with the team, did dishes and then went out sightseeing and photo taking with my daughter for a while. What beautiful sights. And, of course she got to see some horses, and if you knew my daughter, you’d know she was in “Seventh Heaven.”
After we showered and were settling in for the night, a young man opened our door and waved…I waved back. He closed the door, and my inquiring mind got to working, so I got up to see him standing by the front door. He said he was looking for a preacher here at the church school to pray for him. Both Brothers Paul and Ray were long gone for the day, so after a short prayer with him, Michele took him to the community shelter for the night. We never know how we can serve! May we all go into the world with love for our Brothers and Sisters. Love IS the answer!
Saturday, June 11, 2011
Our final work day on the Blackfeet Reservation began with a beautiful sunny sky…so appreciated after days of rain! We’re all relieved that the danger of another flood has subsided…for now. The mountains are still covered in snow, so the late runoff remains a threat.
Jeff and Rob returned to the pool to finish scraping the walls. Annette began work at the community greenhouse behind the middle school with Melody while Laura returned to the Care Center. Mary returned to Eagle Shield to assist Sissy and Marie.
Meanwhile, Michele took Jerry to Blackfeet Construction Supply to purchase wood and other materials for a picnic table prototype as requested by Kevin Connolly of the Care Center. Because the ground is still wet, Kevin said there’s no place at the Care Center to cut the lumber, so Jerry arranged with Brother Paul to use the parish’s saw and garage to get the initial table cut out. The next team will need to assemble it at the Care Center so additional tables can be constructed. It took the morning to procure the materials, so after lunch, Jeff and Rob joined Jerry to cut all the lumber and number the parts. Thanks again, Brother Paul for assisting our efforts!
Annette and Laura weeded the gardens outside the Blackfeet Academy in the afternoon. With a blue sky and warm breeze (and wet soil making the weeding even easier), it was a pleasurable way to end the service project.
Michele called Sam Aimsback to see if he could arrange a traditional sweat for the evening, and he unexpectedly arrived around 1PM to visit the team at DLS school. An unusually uninhibited Blackfeet man, he’s fond of storytelling -- and has a wild laugh that makes you want to hug him or run away from him. He answered a number of questions about Browning and growing up on the Rez.
Brothers Paul and Ray joined us for dinner. With the week winding down, the conversation was light and animated. After dinner, we visited the Tipi Village outside of town. Darrell and Angelika Norman run a beautiful native art gallery -- and a few purchases of books and clothing art were made. We continued on to St. Mary’s and into Glacier National Park…where we viewed upper St. Mary Lake, Sunrift Gorge, Wild Goose Island and Sun Point. On the way back, we spotted a herd of elk at Two Dog Flats. We returned to our “home” to clean up the kitchen and ready the building for our departure in the morning. The mood was reflective and somber. This week has gone so fast. We'll miss those we've just begun to know. And, we'll miss the beauty of the Plains up against the shining backdrop of the snow-covered Rockies. This has been a very good week, indeed!
Thursday, June 9, 2011
Today in the morning, we went over to the Blackfeet Community College (Global Volunteers' host organization) to talk to Bob Tailfeathers, a dean of students at college. He has been a dean for about 25 years. He started by talking about when the college started. BCC, when it first was built, there were about 120 students, but now there are about 500. Students can graduate from BCC in four years, but there is a program where students can do two years at BCC and transfer to other colleges and get their degrees from there. Then, Bob told us about his art work and showed some samples of his work. His drawings were amazing. It was hard to believe that anyone could make that kind of drawing with just a pen. He said that his older brother was the one who led him to the drawing and after that Bob just started to draw by himself. The drawings featured eagle, buffalo, wolf, and mountain lion. In each drawing there was a Blackfeet word for each animal. After we were drawn to his explanation of his art work, all of us bought something whether it was a drawing or earrings or both, and then we each went to our work sites.
Rob and I went back to the pool to scrape the walls some more. We did not start where we left off on Tuesday. The men's shower room was finished after we left and we started on the walls of the main pool. We worked for about two hours and got about three quarters done. So, all that is left is one wall of the main pool and some parts of the walls of the small pool. Then, we came back to school to have lunch and then went over to the bunkhouse with Jerry to clean the trailer. Brother
Paul gave us the list of what needed to be done and we got started as soon as we got there. We swept and mopped the floor, and cleaned the restrooms and showers. It took us about an hour or so and we drove back to school.
Before dinner, Annette took Mary, Laura and me to the stores to buy some books on Blackfeet Indians and some other gifts. Then, we had leftover beefsteak with biscuits made by Candy and salad made by Mary and then, Annette took us on a short trip. Rob told us that in the morning when we worked at the pool, Shelly told him that she saw elks on her way to Heart Butte, so we decided to go to Heart Butte after we took off. Unlike the past two days when it rained, the sun came out in the afternoon and on our way to Heart Butte we saw the mountains partly hidden by the clouds, horses,ducks, dogs, and cows. Then, on our way back to Browning, we saw more horses, but this time they were on the highway. So, even though we did not get to see elk as we set out to do, we at least saw horses standing on the road, which I have not seen before. So, that was the fourth day of the program,and the week seems to go by so fast but so slowly at the same time that it is hard to believe that tomorrow is the last day that we get to work with Blackfeet Indians.
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Today was the day that Jerry "alleviates some Caucasian guilt" he set as a goal at the beginning of the week. We volunteered at the Flood Memorial for the flood that had spread over this reservation back in 1964. When we got there, we were glad to see that Mary had made it there safely, since she arose at 6AM to help Candy prepare the food. We started by finishing up some of the food that was started in the morning, and then preceded to package a little bit of each kind of food into the containers. During the middle of our work, the people started their Memorial, which consisted of chanting and drumming (this is the part where Jerry "expatiated his Caucasian guilt"), but Jerry was right when saying that for that brief moment he could imagine the Blackfeet doing that same chanting and drumming 200 years ago because I was visualizing it too. I would say that we packaged this food for about 1 hour and 45 minutes straight, which equaled out to around 400-500 food packages. After we had finished, we went around distributing the food and handing out drinks.
After the Memorial ceremony had finished, we went back to De La Salle because we were all exhausted from the intense work. After sitting around for awhile, me, Laura, and Brother Paul went to the "mansion" to measure the area of some rooms. Later on, before dinner was done cooking, me, Laura, and Michele went to the video store and picked out "127 Hours" and "The King's Speech" to watch tonight, both are fantastic movies. It was a great experience today at the Memorial, helping and serving others, while getting a little taste of their true Indian culture. And it didn't hurt to kick back and relax the rest of the evening after the hard and hectic day's work. (By the way, Michele, there is still bleach on my hoodie.)
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
We started the day with a team meeting to discuss our assignments. The unpredictable weather reinforced the need for flexibility. The assignments for the day included: helping at the pool scrapping the paint off the walls, helping at the green house at the community college, helping at the learning center, helping the activities director at the care center, and helping serve meals at Eagle Shield.
I was assigned to Eagle Shield along with Mary. When we arrived, Sissy and Marie were busy packaging the meals for delivery. Any Indian over 60 who is homebound is eligible for meal delivery. We packaged 83 meals and the delivery guys were on their way. Sissy and Marie said that the number of delivered meals goes up to almost 100 in the winter. After a short break, we were back to serving meals in the cafeteria. Residents of Eagle Shield, and any Indian (or married to an Indian) over 60 can stop by for a mid-day meal, or get the meal to go. Sissy and Marie said that they serve anywhere from 80 to 100 meals in the cafeteria. We then helped with clean-up.
I enjoyed watching Sissy and Marie work together; they have been working together for over 16 years. Interacting with people coming through the cafeteria line, listening to Sissy and Marie talk about their families, and speaking with some of the residents individually, along with our afternoon visits to The Plains Indian Museum and the Blackfeet Heritage Center & Art Gallery went a long way toward my goal of learning more about the Indian culture.
“Be the Change you Wish to See in the World.” Ghandi
Monday, June 6, 2011
This is our second morning at the Christian Brothers Training Center,
our temporary home due to an event at the school in Browning. Brothers Paul and Ray have been our hosts. The Brothers have have done things for us past common courtesy. The Center is located in the Two Medicine valley; it is on the same grounds of the Holy Family Mission Church.
(Being an occasional punster --encouraged by my wife's groans -- I quickly learned that one must be quite "careful" with one of the Brothers, who may be called the original "pun-gent". He has an amazing store of puns, many of which I've never heard!)
I happen to be an early riser, but one of us, Mary, gets up even earlier. She returned after a walk while I was having breakfast, a bit after 6:00 a.m. The morning was partly cloudy, cool, and extremely pleasant, a combination of inner mood, the Montana landscape, and anticipation of the day ahead. We are moving into a new home for the remainder of the week, at the De La Salle Blackfeet School. We drove into Browning, left our luggage at the DLSBS, and then were given a tour by Michele (our leader) of the main sights in and near Browning. The tour ended at the Community College, where we were given a tour by Smokey Henrickson, the man in charge of maintaining the facilities.
Afterwards, we met in an upstairs conference room, where we were introduced to several key Blackfeet leaders, who will coordinate our work projects. We met Nikki Hannen from the Blackfeet Academy, Shirley Weatherwax from the Heavy Runner pool, and Shaunelle from the Blackfeet Care Center. They outlined several projects for the week. The team members then introduced themselves, briefly sketched their backgrounds (particularly in reference to the projects)and expressed their interest in one or more projects.
Among the projects are (1) helping scrape paint at the swimming pool, (2) helping out at the Care Center, (3) helping with computer-related projects, (4) cutting grass or otherwise helping maintain the grounds at the Community College, (5) helping out in the Learning Center in mathematics or computer-related questions, and others as they come up.
We adjourned for lunch at the DLSBS. I was hoping for a nap, but quickly realized that a critical project for the afternoon was planned -- namely, putting together our beds for the remainder of the week. The beds were newly purchased and were in their packing boxes. Jeff and I found ourselves starting on the unpacking and assembly of the beds.
There were instructions and by following them we made only a few mistakes. Laura joined us and assembled the ladders to the top bunks. Soon others came along and with a real cooperative e ort, we completed the assembly in 3.5
hours or so.
After that, supper, and a variety of individual activities. We're all looking forward to our rst day of work with the Blackfeet|adults, older adults,and kids. We hope to learn something of their culture, to help them out in some useful ways, and to come to know at least a few of them as individuals.
Sunday, June 5, 2011
Today, although it was the second day of the trip for most, it was the first day that our whole team was present. As soon as I arrived I realized how much reality differed from my expectations; I had anticipated a large group of high-strung people who were already best friends with one another. In actuality, our group was small, low-key, and no one had met before this trip, with the exception of my mom and me. Introductions, explanations, and background stories all around, we got to know each other the best we could in the short allotted time of our morning meeting. After our discussion about our individual choices to go on this service trip and our brainstorming session about the characteristics of an effective team, we began the journey to Glacier National Park because of the unanimous group wish to view Montana scenery. Although most of the Park was closed due to snow (yes, snow in June), we were able to see Running Eagle Falls and Two Medicine Lake which both absolutely stunned me with natural beauty and serenity. Maybe it is because I spend most of my time in a large city, but the mountain air seemed fresher, crisper, even better quality than the ordinary, everyday air that I breathe in. I’m not sure why this struck me so much, but it stayed with me the rest of the day.