Saturday, June 30, 2012

June 29- Knowing the history

By Andy
It was the spring of 1805 when Lewis and Clark passed through Montana. They discovered a Blackfeet Tribe that was proud, rich in heritage, and self-sufficient. The Blackfeet were nomads that followed the buffalo around the plains. The buffalo supplied everything they needed: housing, clothing, and food.

The Blackfeet and the white man co-existed for 60 years until after the Civil War. Then, in one of the most disgusting programs ever implemented in Washington D.C., The Blackfeet and all other Indian tribes in the west were intentionally killed, their land taken, their religion and culture de-emphasized in favor of that of the white man; and intentionally forced into subservience and dependence.

For the Blackfeet this was done through the intentional introduction of blankets infested with yellow fever, which decimated the population and the systematic killing of the buffalo.  With no means to feed, cloth or shelter themselves they became dependent on the government to keep them alive by 1885.

Today, what I have observed is a Blackfeet Tribe that remains proud and rich in heritage, but they remain dependent on the government and Tribe. With land that cannot be planted and is only marginal for ranching, it is difficult to envision a way for them to step up and become self-sufficient again. Let’s hope that wind turbines or oil or something else will come their way in this generation, so that the 80+ % unemployment rate can be addressed. I do get the sense that most Blackfeet want to work, but there are simply too few opportunities.

So, enough with history! But I do think that this historical summary is a great backdrop for understanding what this Global Volunteer team experienced this week. Yes, we can be critical of the trash that is everywhere, the difficult living conditions, the lax commitment to work and getting places on time that the Blackfeet Community exhibit. But this is superficial and would miss the bigger point. The Blackfeet remain a proud people and remain rich in heritage and culture. Without exception I have found them to be friendly, open and welcoming. I have learned about them as people and their culture as much as could be learned in a week- and it has been extremely educational and satisfying for me. I leave with a very warm feeling for the Blackfeet and appreciate everything they have shared with me during my brief visit.

Friday morning I woke with the sunrise as I have done every day this week. I watched 30 minutes of news on CNN and enjoyed an hour of peaceful reading time. We have our typical breakfast of cereal and fruit and received our work assignments for the day. Danny and Terri would continue their work on five signs for other Head Start facilities, Brian and I would once again help Wilbert with his gardens, and Marisa would help Smokey in the maintenance shop at BCC.

But, once again proving that flexibility and patience are required traits on the Blackfeet Reservation, everything changed. Apparently, the $550/a person checks handed out Thursday reduced the need for some to work on Friday. Checking in with Wilbert we discovered that his workers would not be reporting so Brian and I would not be needed. No problem, we’d just join Marisa and help Smokey at BCC. We drove to the maintenance shop to be greeted by Smokey and the news that neither of his crew had reported to work this morning either; so he also did not need help.
After taking a very interesting tour of BCC’s new energy efficient science building, we returned to the head Start building looking for work. We minimally helped Danny and Terri for a while Joe lined up alternatives. Brian and Marisa went to build a recycling bin out of old wood pallets (a true engineering feat-good thing Marisa was assigned) and I would accompany Bill to Cut Bank to buy paint for the signs that Danny and Terri were working on. After determining that Bill had left without me, I searched for some doors that needed sanding. The paint arrived and Danny and Terri set out to complete at least one of the five signs they were working on while the rest of us cleaned up the Head Start building for the next Global Volunteer Group. Not the most satisfying day of work for me personally, but I do want to compliment Terri and Danny for doing a fantastic job on the signs.
At 4 we hopped into the van to head out to a 5000-acre ranch for horseback riding. What an experience! The weather was sunny and perfect and the host family was fun and welcoming. A few in our team were a bit tentative about riding horses but we all soon realized that these horses were well trained, gentle and responsive to our commands. Chuck, our trail leader, was fantastic. We rode up to a rock formation, which was fascinating in itself, but also gave us an expansive view of Montana’s rolling hills, lakes, and streams. The mountains stood majestically in the background. It wasn’t possible to capture beauty on camera, but we all tried anyway. We returned to a delicious meal of burgers from beef raised on the ranch, fruit salad, chips, and cake. Afterwards we gathered around the campfire to tell stories and snuggle with the eight puppies that couldn’t have been cuter. The best $60 I ever spent.
We returned to the Head Start building around 11 and quickly headed to bed- like usual we were all very tired. This was different than other nights however; as there was a bit of sorrow in knowing we had to leave in the morning. The experience has been so fulfilling, interesting, and rewarding that I do not want it to end. But, like they say, all good things have to come to an end! So, we’ll all head back to our busy lives after spending a week with a bunch of strangers that formed into a fantastic team. I really enjoyed everyone; Danny and Terri from California, Marisa from New Hampshire and our team leader Joe. We all leave as newly found friends and with the common memories of a fulfilling and fun week on the Blackfeet Reservation.

Build on this experience to make the world a better place for everyone!

June 28- Healing in time, Healing with opportunity

It so happended that the morning I wake up with a sore throat and stuffy nose is the same day we go visit the “medicine woman” in town. Starting from the beginning, with that being said, I slowly got out of bed this morning, falling a few steps behind the rest of the group. Lucky for me, the pool guy slept in too, so I wasn’t the only one in town having a hard time getting out of bed nor the only one unbathed.
Even though I was the last one to eat and the last one out the door I made it in time for my interview with the founders of United Native Nations Organization. Since it was a nice day, we met at the picnic area near the museum. Very interesting non-profit they’re starting up and you can all read about it online or in the paper next week! J
After the interview I went to work in my “office” which is my car, parked outside the city library where I can steal their internet. I met a nice couple from Wisconsin and so we sat outside the library, with our windows rolled down, computers on laps, chatting and working away.
After finishing up my story on the Lodgepole Gallery and Tipi Village I went to find lunch.
At lunch time I noticed how busy Browning was. Every enrolled Blackfeet individual (including children) received their Per Capita Payout of $550. Cars were backed up near the Tribal Offices, bank and grocery stores. Lines were stretched throughout, waiting to cash their checks. I finally ate and then went to the Glacier Reporter to submit my work. 4-year-old Ethan (grandson of a woman I work with) was there. SO after some quick editing tips from Editor John McGill I was off in the backyard, ironically shooting at Ethan with a toy gun while he shot at me with a bow and arrow.
This little guy sucked out any energy I had left and so I hurried off to finish the rest of my day’s work. I went to the work sites of the volunteers to take pictures. Terri and Danny were making signs for other Head Starts, Andy and Brian were building and planting gardens for locals around the community. Marisa was off doing meals-on-wheels and no pictures were taken.  I then returned to Head Start to take a nap. I woke up just before supper time. The crew, Joe Jessepe and Darrell Kipp went to eat Indian Tacos at The Hut.
After dinner, we were taken on a quick tour of the Immersion school. We parted ways with Joe and Darrell after learning a lot about the school and community. The group and I went to Pauline Matt’s house to learn about her products and the use of native plants. We purchased our goods, played with her dogs, and took pictures of her beautiful backyard- the Rocky Mountains. Pauline sent me home with some of her homemade medicine and hand picked tea. She told me it will cure me of my cold and that I may say a few bad words after taking the medicine. So far, I can say that one of those statements is true.

Thought of the day:
Blackfoot saying-
What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow, which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.

June 27- Flexibility

By Danny

Start with a haiku
That is what everyone says
So that’s what I did

We started out this morning talking about the varying weather, surprising each other about how little or how much snow fell each year. After we figured out all of the working assignments for the day, Joe dropped all of us off in our respective working places. My stop was at the library, where we chatted for a bit, and then I took apart easels as my mother installed a bookshelf. Soon after, we met up with Joe again and he dropped us off at the Boys and Girls Club. After about an hour of reading and playing with sidewalk chalk, it was time to go to the swimming pool. Once again, my mother and I climbed back into the van, along with four girls from the club. I think I speak for everyone in the van in saying that those girls love to talk about anything, anytime and anywhere. It’s safe to say that almost all of the girls absolutely loved swimming with Marisa, while a lot of the boys liked hanging out with Joe. At the end of our work day, we had a team meeting where Joe gave us a whole mess of papers and forms to fill out and started figuring out when we were going to leave for the airport to catch our flights. Which, coincidentally happened to be the same flight. Not too long after, we left for Brother Ray’s Ranch. The sights of the landscape and beautiful river were to die for, no matter how adventurous the path was to get there. I’m also pretty sure that we were all sad to see the graveyard and especially the graves of the babies who were no older than six-years-old. I’m sure that we all felt like trailblazers when we went over and under the barbed wire and through all of the close encounters with prickly bushes. We walked back to Brother Ray’s house just in time for a barbeque dinner. We talked for a while and found out a lot about the Blackfeet culture and his expansive CD collection. All too soon, it was time to say goodbye to Brother Ray and make our way back to Head Start. My mother and I ended the night searching the sky for stars. Unfortunately, none were to be found. But that’s okay. For tomorrow is another chance and another day. After all, you gotta be flexible, right?

Message of the day: Being flexible 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

June 26th- Go with the flow

By Marisa
Everyone was a bit groggy this morning after a busy day yesterday that ended with a late night after the sweat lodge. After breakfast full of stories and laughter, we figured out assignments for the day. It’s safe to say everyone on the team hopes that their assignments result in getting to know the local people on an individual level while also contributing to their community in a meaningful way. By the end of the day, and after some shuffling around, I think we all had some very positive experiences. Terri and Danny helped out at Eagle Shield and Danny met many people delivering food for meals-on-wheels. Andy, Brian and I all ended up at the Boys and Girls Club working with kids. It was great to see how quickly the kids warmed up to us.
The weather today has also been quite interesting. Many of us woke up last night to a loud thunderstorm, complete with hail pounding on the roof. There was another thunderstorm around noon today that caused a soaking downpour and left us with 35 mph winds the rest of the day. I should also mention that it stays light out here until 10:30pm!
After stuffing ourselves at the Junction Café, we returned to Head Start and everyone has disappeared to their rooms, exhausted. We all welcome a little time to unwind as we have many great activities planned for the rest of the week in addition to our volunteer assignments. I think I can speak for the team and say that we view each day as an adventure, not knowing where we may end up, but knowing it will be memorable and fulfilling.
Message of the day:  Go with the flow!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

June 23- Sweating

By Brian
Our first day of work went smoothly, although Terri and Danny might not agree after doing a week’s worth of manual labor. I don’t know how they even had any sweat left for the sweat lodge that evening.
I was at first a little hesitant about the idea of working alone, but when Smokey welcomed me into the maintenance garage I felt at home and comfortable. Despite the tedious work of filing UPS orders by date and hours, it was something I knew had to be done and was glad to feel a sense of accomplishment with the completion. After walking up to the school, hoping to be able to relax before leaving for the sweat lodge, I was instead met with a rush of excitement and of course more work. Due to the elections being held in the school the next day, we had to move our food from one location to another. While the day itself was tiring, by far the highlight of the day was the sweat lodge.
The sweat was truly a once in a lifetime experience for most of us as we were able to meet not only some of the most unique people, differing rather significantly culturally but also some of the kindest people we’ll ever meet. With the exception of Kelsey and Joe it was all of our first time and we were able to endure the almost unbearable temperatures as if we were professionals. While at times I would say the heat was excruciating, it was nonetheless a wonderful experience and something I am very glad I participated in. Additionally, Tom assures us our prayers will undoubtedly be answered. Ultimately, our first day of work was jammed with activities that were both rewarding and humbling. As for Tuesday, we will most likely be daydreaming about getting more sleep than the day before.

June 22- Finding camaraderie

By Terri

Staring at a blank page with the hope of writing something “brilliant” or perhaps “memorable” or a least minimally embarrassing is daunting. The problem is not about content but rather about quantity… so much has happened since our arrival, and it is only Day 2.
Should I start with Joe’s calmness when realizing the ignition to the van wouldn’t turn while still in the Great Fall’s airport? Or should I report on how delicious Candy’s lasagna was for our first dinner? How about our first encounter with flexibility when Guide Joe was still agreeable to showing us the Reservation even though there was a miscommunication due to a wrong telephone number?
No. I’ve decided to start with the end. After a full day of touring parts of the Reservation and into Glacier National Park, (breathtaking in both grandeur and the devastating effects of avalanches, floods and fire) a healthy and tasty meal of chicken and vegetables, and a visit with Bob Tailfeathers who briefed us on what to expect at tomorrow’s meeting and shared his artwork, we had a team meeting to share individual goals for our experience this week, which formed our team goals, which helped drive our joint description of the characteristics of an effective team. During this exercise, we began to interact with each other more and found that teasing and laughter began too. Whether we learn slash experience the culture or learn and experience it, I am certain that camaraderie will be cultivated and flourish among us easily. Andy, Brian, Marisa, and Danny are exactly the type of “can do” people I would love to be on a team with, and patient, calm, Type B Joe is just the right type of leader for our journey, and indispensible and cheerful Kelsey is an intern extraordinaire. So… apologies if a recount of the day’s events or scenic views were expected. But… upon reflection, what jumped out for me most was that diverse strangers from Maine to California could come together in a state none of us had visited before and form the beginnings of a strong and effective team full of camaraderie. I look forward with eager anticipation to the rest of the journey and the experiences yet to come.

Message of the day: Finding Camaraderie.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

June 22- Webb Pepion

By Kelsey
Today I had the opportunity of interviewing the oldest veteran on the Reservation! Webb Pepion is 93 but doesn't look a day over 70! An amazing artist and such a nice man! I had a very pleasant afternoon visiting with him in his home. The article I am writing will be published just before Indian Days and I will post it to the blog as soon as that happens!

Friday, June 22, 2012

A Reflection from Last Week

Hi - I want to let everyone know what a great time Team 86 had last week. 

Also let me share this link with all:


June 21- First day of summer

By Carita

1st official day of summer. After breakfast and a review of work assignments we headed off to our various sites.
Jody and her kids along with Pat and Matt were all at the Blackfeet Academy doing gardening at many of the schools in Browning, working with preschooler-1st grad children.  In the afternoon Jody, Ava, Kelsey, Garry, and Alec were at the Boys and Girls Club cleaning up outside and washing the walls in preparation to paint. Ross and Nate were at the Library in the afternoon helping local kids with computer games. Mark and Tai spent the day in Babb working on the Head Start there. Pat and Matt helped the Carol White Program take the kids to the bowling alley and helped them bowl. Carita helped prepare the backyard of the Care Center for the barbecue they were having. We said our goodbyes after our final dinner with the Oregon family at Eagle Shields. We feasted on Maria’s wonderful Indian Tacos and Root Beer floats. Bob Tailfeathers joined us for dinner and shared some information on the community college and the history of the Blackfeet. He also showed us his wonderful artwork and jewelry. So ends the 4th day.
                                     Jody helping kindergarten class plant flowers.

Ava and Alec helping the Boys and Girls Club wash walls.
Carita setting up for the barbecue at the Care Center.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

June 20th- No longer afraid of horses

By Pat
It’s amazing how going without for a couple of days can make one of life’s simple pleasures so delightful – this morning I had a gloriously hot shower  ALONE!  What joy! I knew that it was going to be a very good day.
Linda had given out our work assignments the night before so I knew that Matt, Garry and I were scheduled to do gardening the following day at the CDC.  However, it turned out that only Matt, Carita, and I went to garden as Garry was recruited to stay back at Head Start and help demolish the kitchen.
We actually drove around a bit first trying to find our work assignment and supervisor. No one seemed to be answering their cell phones but true to form, Kelsey who was riding shot gun next to driver Linda scanned the horizon and yelled, “There she is! Follow that red car!”  So off we went after the red car and found  Sherri who knew where we were supposed to be – the green house with the garden next to it that has no street address because there are no street signs.  We knew that because that is where one of our crews earlier in the week had dug rocks and tilled the hard soil getting it ready for planting.
We took advantage of their hard grueling labor and spent an enjoyable next couple of hours helping a group of third grade students and their teachers plant a summer vegetable garden.  When we first arrived I scanned the group of excited 8-9 year olds, who were busy digging random holes here and there and swinging about hoes and rakes uncomfortably close to each others heads and wondered if anything would actually be accomplished. However, there was method to the chaos and with a great deal of excited laughter and happy chatter  a garden actually emerged – rows of tomato, cucumber and summer squash plants, corn seedlings and radishes.  It helped that we had a veteran garden planner leading the project. She had brought yards and yards of mesh garden netting to cover the ground and contain the weeds. Karita and I helped a group of girls spread out the netting, poke openings in it and dig the holes for the plants.  Looking over to the opposite side I saw Matt hoeing up piles of dirt into  mounds and planting the corn seedlings with a couple of boys.
All finished, we sat back on our heels and surveyed our beautiful garden before gathering everyone together for a group picture.   
We had a relatively relaxed afternoon.  Matt and I left for the pool at 2:30 along with the Oregon kids _ Tai, Ava, Nate, Ross and Alec where they were going to assist the Boys and Girls Club instructors in a planned swim activity for several dozen  children.  I was pleased to see Matt help a little girl perfect her swim strokes; he made several trips back and forth across the shallow end of the pool coaching her. I was proud of all our Global Volunteer kids; they really made an effort to help and connect with the kids in the chaotic highly unstructured situation. Later, the Head Start instructor, organized some races and then Linda passed out candy treats.
Matt and I left a few minutes before 5 to get dried off and dressed for our evening activity.  We had made arrangements through Kelsey to go horseback riding on the Deboo ranch.  Owner and rancher Chuck Deboo and I had been playing phone tag for two days trying to set this up so I was very pleased when a little before 5 PM Carrie Deboo, Chuck’s wife, pulled up in front of the center  to pick Garry, Matt, Kelsey, and myself up to go to the ranch.  We drove out highway 89 to the south entrance to the reservation, turned onto another road leading west for several miles before turning off on the three mile driveway leading to the Deboo home.  On the way we chatted with Carrie and got acquainted. I learned she is the mother of two adult daughters, one of whom is getting married next month and 14 year old Chase. Her husband, Chuck, is a full time rancher, and she works in Valier, a neighboring town where Chase also attends school She makes a 23 mile one way commute everyday summer and winter. She said that the hardest part of her drive is just getting out of her driveway and I could certainly see why as it was a deeply rutted  rough road.
When we arrived at the Deboo homestead Carrie took us around and showed us a guest house and wash house they had built themselves to accommodate their many guests. Chuck and Chase were in the corral with about half dozen horses and they came out when we arrived to meet and greet us. They had already saddled up our horses so they helped us mount and adjusted the straps and stirrups.  Matt was riding MV ( short for Mirror Vision as his father was named Vision), I was riding a gentle horse named Ronnie, Kelsey was on 45, and Garry rode Chief, a big guy. After a few pointers on how to stop the horse and get it to turn etc we were off across the field, the three ranch dogs following us.  The afternoon was lovely, the sun was shining down on us and the ever present Montana wind had abated somewhat. We rode across the sloping fields past scatterings of cattle, along a creek that flowed through the property. At one point it crossed our path and we had to ride down a slight embankment and through the water. 
We arrived at the base of a 5000 foot flat topped hill and Chuck said this was the place where we had to decide whether to turn around and head back to the ranch house or climb the hill to his special lookout and return on the back trail.  Kelsey and Matt were all for riding to the top of the hill and Garry and I were agreeable so up we went.  It seemed like we could see forever when we got to the top. Chuck had his special lookout area, he had even made a sign called Chuck’s Lookout, so we got off our horses and let them graze while we went over there to admire the view and rest. He pointed out some of the wildflowers growing --- a purple lupine and miniature sunflower and also a really big bird that looked like some sort of flying turkey.  I learned that the ranch is 5000 acres and was first acquired by his grandparents.
We had left the horses grazing on the plateau while we climbed down to the rocky overlook area. When we returned SURPRISE! we discovered that instead of five horses, there were only two.  MV, Ronnie, and Chief had wandered off.  That’s when our ride became a hike.  Chuck had said they wouldn’t go far, but horses are a lot like kids, once you think you have them figured out, they let you know in no uncertain way  that you do not. In the twenty minutes or so that we had been admiring the view from the lookout point they had gone all the way down the hill and would have gone back home if they hadn’t been stopped by a fence.
We climbed down the hill and over a slight ridge and saw Carrie and Chase leading them back up the hill. We had a good laugh; I know that Chuck was a little embarrassed about his wayward horses, but it was all  good fun and part of the adventure. We saddled up and rode back to the ranch house without incident to a delicious chuck wagon  supper that Carrie had prepared.  I did get a little freaked when Kelsey asked Carrie how they decided which cow they were going to “process” for food. Word of advice --- don’t get old or difficult at the Deboo.One more thing that I must mention . . .   before we ate, Matt, Kelsey and I walked over to the stable and checked out the latest arrival on the Deboo ranch --- eight puppies!  They were too cute.
We sat around the fire pit and ate and talked and talked. The evening was so enjoyable that before we knew it it was 10:30 and time to go home.  We all agreed it had been a great day, a good blend of helping others,  getting to know new people, and having fun.  The end.




June 20th- work assignments

By Nate, age 14
Today, we came to our third day of volunteering staring us straight in the face. We woke up at 7:45, threw on our clothes and met the rest of the team for breakfast. After a quick, but thorough run down of the day's work tasks by esteemed team leader, a very interesting journal reading by our neighborhood dog enthusiast, we headed onto work on our projects.
Our group of six was scheduled to work with Wilbert down at the greenhouse at the college. Wilbert was a nice guy but we didn't get to see him much as he evacuated the work place within 10 minutes. The six of us were left alone at the greenhouse to work. But being the good volunteers that we are, we continued to work for another hour before requesting rescue from the work place. We then decided it would be beneficial to work on the textbooks at the library for the rest of the morning. This project worked out swimmingly, until the time came for us to organize the last ten boxes, at which point we all collapsed into forms of ourselves who were incapable of communication and general teamwork. Never the less, we finished up all our work at the library. After lunch, we left to help the Boys and Girls Club while they swam in the near by pool. Shortly after the pool we went to eat at The Hut. There we met Carol who served us Indian Tacos. They were exquisite. Afterwards I purchased a jawbreaker, which I quickly and regretfully ate in half an hour.

June 19th- Working with my daughter

By Mark
Tai had expressed her concern about Monday's projects. There were no Indian people working along side her and that there was little interaction. Tai from the earliest age reminded me of the animal, the badger, for her tenacity and perseverance.
On Tuesday morning the daily volunteer projects were assigned and we got the word that our help was needed in the town of Babb. Tai asked me to get her lunch together while she gathered her work clothes. I hastily packed two dry peanut butter scoops into a sleeve of wheat bread, a handful of goldfish, 4 cookies, and no drink.
Our hosts for the day were Oral and Jason. The mission was "strip the floors" and clean the Head Start Center. We enjoyed a scenic drive to Babb while getting to know more about each other. Tai didn't say much on the way out but expressed concern with the quality and quantity of the lunch I had prepared.
Work began in earnest with Tai and I helping Jason. We scrapped and picked up debris and vacuumed in preparation for Jason to machine scrub the floor. The environment was pleasant to work in despite the task being very menial. Tai then washed down the walls of a large classroom to prepare it for paint.
Happy to just be with my daughter for the day and serving. Tai seemed more at ease with the project and some local residents. Within a few hours of this admittedly hard work I think Tai began to reminisce about Mondays gardening and weeding project with Kelly and Rachel and realized it wasn't such a bad gig after all.
While I maybe long on finding the zen of the moment to reflect on the simplicity of the work and time with our children, I am less adept at social cues from kids. Perhaps Tai was not as enthusiastic about having a work lunch, a staple of mine for 30 years or just the inadequate quality of the lunch. It dawned on me later in the day that perhaps Tai's questions about whether the clocks were all correct, what we might be having for dinner, and what we might work on tomorrow were less subtle cues that perhaps dad was the only one staying in the moment.
Jason and I got the message that it was time to change up tasks. We kind of missed the memo about asking for team input (in this case Tai).
Our next project for the afternoon consisted of taking down light fixtures (which were full of fly carcasses) and scrubbed them clean. Tai found this more repulsive than ever. She gave me a teen eye roll and said " oh, I get it, we need to be 'flexible', thanks Dad, way to go". Any how, Jason and I enjoyed making banter over "fly in one's soup" jokes for the hour while Tai dug into the work at hand, hoping not to barf.
I am very impressed by Tai's work ethic and unwillingness to quit. Tai immediately fell asleep once we started the 40 minute drive back to Browning. While I was writing my journal it occurred to me that Tai has likely asked Linda to be reassigned to another partner or return to weeding. Regardless, Tai got to work with real Indians. Although she may have missed the interaction part, unless you count asking Jason and Oral for a paint scrapper.
Here's to a new day of service. So I ask Tai like I have since she was four years old, "what do we know about badgers?"
"The badger sometimes gets his way."

June 19th- Dogs, dogs, dogs

By Ava, age 13
Today was wonderful! I found everything fun, despite the work. I met new people, dogs, and I worked a lot. The gardening was interesting, I got to go to the new high school and it was huge, the bonus was there was a dog there and I broke the rules and pet him! At first everyone that he was a statue , he's rather shy around humans though. After we (Nate, Ross, Jody, and the locals) had lunch and all we went to garden more.
Finally, we went to the library. The boys helped others with computer games. I was asked to help check book return boxes.
For the most of the time at the library I pet Lisa's little tea-cup pug named Kissapoo. So cute and adorable, I could pet her all day! She was just so small and innocent, she couldn't get any more adorable! At the end of the day I saw 62 dogs! They are all so cute.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

June 18th

By Jody
This morning most of my kids said, “today we get to do what we came here for.” Personally, I think I had already gotten well under way on my reason for coming, well before this morning. I came to Montana to meet new people, to put myself out of my comfort zone by going to a culturally different part of the US, and to serve others by doing whatever is asked of me. One of my other goals was to expose my children to a community very different from their own and to ask them to “give” rather than always receiving.  I had already met new people prior to our work assignments: Carita from Minneapolis, Linda from New York City, Kelsey from Bellingham/Missoula, Matt from Los Angeles, and Garry and Pat from Colorado and Virginia respectively. In our volunteer family I was trying to do whatever is asked of me, it is nice to not always be leading! J
 But we arrived at the Blackfeet Community College for our community meeting. In adding to our team some of the attendees were Dee from the college, Tony & Laura from the Boys and Girls Club, Kelly from the CDC, Betty from Social/Family Services, and Rachel from Blackfeet Manpower.
We spent an hour trying to work through the open projects and how many were needed. The logistic dilemma was that most projects only needed one volunteer and yet we had to ensure that our family volunteers always had one parent with the minors. Carita was the only free agent- so her time was quickly booked for the week.
The final plan for the day was for Jody, Nate and Ross to spend an hour at the library designing a flyer and agenda for holding a computer video game learning session for local kids. Carita would spend the afternoon at the library performing various tasks. Pat, Garry, and Matt headed to the Care Center. Mark, Alec, Tai and Ava were to work on the garden at the Community Development Center.
Nate, Ross and I finished planning the video game sessions with Ginny, we designed the flyers with a local resident, Cooper, and then walked to the IGA, Glacier Family Market, Exxon Station, and the Post Office to hand the flyers. They then returned to the library to create a resource sheet for the librarians to use in the future for assisting patrons on computer online age-appropriate games.
Garry, Pat and Matt plated exercise games with the residents at the Care Center and helped with crafts.
Ava, Tai, Alec and Mark spent their afternoon weeding and prepping the garden at the CDC. They came back extra dusty and dirty and claimed that there was a lot of rocks to deal with.
We all met briefly to go over our fire evacuation plan, utilizing the great map Tai has put together for Global Volunteers.
Mark, Pat, Gary and Kelsey headed out to the sweat lodge for the evening ceremony. Linda, Carita, Jody and all the kids went to Eagle Shield for dinner. Maria prepared us a great meal of beef stew, rolls, cottage cheese/strawberry salad, and carrot cake. Everyone raved about the delicious dinner and ate multiple servings. We then returned to the Head Start building for a quick swim, showers, and then back to the kitchen for card play.
I think some people felt they weren’t making a big enough difference helping in the community. Some were disappointed in the “missing” or “vanishing” work projects. Others wish they had more interaction with the local community.
Overall, we all learned on day one that being flexible is critical. I tried to slow down and just relax into the environment. I spoke to local kids at the library, had a great discussion with Ginny from the library about a Montana tutoring program, met the managers at the local grocery stores, spoke with the Postmaster, and spoke with several employees at the community center. Although I may not have served side by side with these community members yet, I have enjoyed meeting and conversing with everyone I have encountered here on the Reservation. Now if I can just find time to read the Blackfeet History book I purchased per Joe’s recommendation, then I believe my perspective will become even clearer.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

June 18th- Experiencing Browning and watching the dogs

By Alec, age 9
From the first day I got here, I think it was very nice. It had very comfortable beds, and it was very cozy. It wasn't too big or too small. Today was the first day for work. Well I accidentally fell asleep in the meeting but then again I am not used to 2 hour meetings. After that we had a tour of the college. We saw two cute dogs, sadly the bigger one ate a chipmunk. That wasn't exactly very pleasant. The other small dog was cute and fluffy. Weird enough, the bigger dog bit the little dog, but then one of the teachers took the dog and gave it to someone who would give it a better home.

Then we drove away for lunch. The bigger dog tried to follow us home but then it stopped, it couldn't go that fast. When we got done with lunch we played a round of Skip- Bo. Then a round of poker, but I don't exactly like poker, so I didn't play. After that we went back to work. We worked in the garden and it was really fun. We got to use plows, rakes, shovels, etc. I particularly got to move rocks and use the plow to weed weeds.

When we were done with what we were supposed to do, the managers came to pick us up. Then we went home. Then we had a meeting about Tai's fire escape plan. Tai, at the last minute, added the windows. After that we had dinner at Eagle Shield. The dinner was very very good. I enjoyed it. I had five rolls, no biggie. After we were done with that, we came back here, and we went to the pool. After we got done with the pool, we came back and then I started writing this, and now I am finished.

June 17th- First day and having fun

By Jody
When trying to think back on what I remembered most about this day, I find myself bombarded with memories. On the most personal level, I remember the warm fuzzy I felt in my heart watching my kids and their new friend Matt play Skip-Bo at the kitchen table after a quick breakfast and again as soon as we cleared the dinner dishes. Laughter and good times being had.

On a spiritual level I remember the inner calmness I felt at 6:30 this morning as I walked out of the Head Start building and turned the corner to view the sun's rays shining through the clouds and illuminating the Glacier National Park mountains.

It is only day two, but our small group has already bonded into a family. We discovered during our morning work sessions that we could all agree on four major goals for our week- to serve, to learn, to have fun, and to meet new people. After defining what makes a great team, we then went over the rules, policies, and daily procedures for our week in Montana and then marched off to check out the community center and pool!

After Matt showed us all that he is an ace at cannonballs off of the diving board we all enjoyed nice hot showers. (Kelsey had warned us that they might be cold- so we were thrilled!)

After lunch we climbed aboard the Global Volunteers' van with Linda driving and Joe as our tour director. My family thought we were going on about an hour drive through the reservation, so imagine our surprise as we headed into the Glacier National Park area! Our "short" tour actually turned into an adventurous five hour tour through the plains of the Blackfeet Reservation, along the road to Many Glacier, up the Going to The Sun Road, and back through the winding hills along the St. Mary River/Lake area. Joe filled out minds with facts about the landscape, the animals, the Blackfeet's history, the Park hotels, the recent wild fires and floods. The adults absorbed all the information while the kids fell in and out of sleep.

We had the pleasure of meeting Candy who has prepared our delicious dinners of lasagna and chicken and vegetables. We have not lacked for food thus far... In fact, I am guessing that although we have 6 "children" in our work group of 13, we are eating more like 13 adults.

Tomorrow we will move into the community and finally begin accomplishing our goals for the week. Having fun, that we have already done in spades! Now we can learn, serve and continue meeting new people!

June 17th- Huckleberry chocolate bar

By Ross, age 13
Today we went on a driving tour of the Blackfeet Reservation. We drove for about 5 hours and got to see some of Glacier National Park when it began to rain. We stopped at one of the lodges where I purchased a huckleberry chocolate bar. It was priced at about $4. That chocolate bar was exquisite. Then I ate some watermelon. I regretted it soon after. I had a new perspective of what the Reservation was like during the drive but I was waging a losing battle with the sandman and my surroundings weren't my top priority.

June 16th- From a different perspective

By Tai, age 16
The sky is big and a vibrant shade of light blue. Unlike Oregon, you can see miles and miles of countryside. As the trip dragged on, the sky seemed to get clearer and more expansive. All that was to be seen were cattle, horses and the occasional car. On the two and a half hour drive from Great Falls to Browning, we passed maybe 3 cars (not including when we were in Browning). When we did encounter a car, they sped past us going at least 90 MPH, since the speed limit here in Montana is 75 MPH. But we never actually reached 75 MPH because we were driving a giant, white cinder block up the slow rolling hills.

As we arrived at the center, I admit I was nervous. I've never been on a volunteer trip that I can remember, so I had nothing to compare this experience to.  We arrived there a tad late so I was worried that we had missed crucial information, but it turns out we were the first ones there besides the team leader.

When everyone arrived we were given a brief tour of the building and we settled into our rooms. Nate, Ross, Ava and I were all in the same room , so about 2 hours of sleep was guaranteed each night. After everyone got unpacked, we went to dinner. We ate lasagna and played the name game to get acquainted with one another. I admit our family had a slight advantage since our volunteer group has only 13 people and our family makes up 7 of them. I felt like we were more of a team after dinner. We had "broken the ice" and we all knew each others names, where they lived and a few facts about them. We then ended the day with a fascinating educational movie about the Blackfeet people and the Reservation.
And by the end of the day, after seeing to the new landscape, getting settled in to my room and getting adjusted to having an even more chaotic household, I finally felt at home.

June 16th- Wait, what's the address?

By Garry
So, where is this place then? (for our Minnesota friends)
"First left past the log house then about two blocks and turn right at the four way stop and it's on your left"- is not accepted in a Garmin GPS. The address 615 S. Piegan, Browning, MT, the address for the Browning Head Start Building does not exist on Mapquest, Google Maps or Garmin for those of you who follow the GPS information.
Vol 1 Page 1
It's Saturday, June 16, 2012; the adventure begins. It's dark, It's time to arise. It's time to find space in the car for the luggage. It's arrival at the airport. It's through security and its onto the plane. Arrival at airport. Then it's the I-15 entrance- you are not at the edge of the earth but you can see the edge of the earth from there. As you travel at 75 MPH (+) you are mesmerized by the changing curvature of the earth and the Big Sky, mountains, Browning. Turning left after the log house, stopping, then turning right at the 4 way stop, buildings on the left. Maybe that's the place. Park next to the 2 or 3 white cars. Is there an entrance? You go to the left, I go to the right around the building. The door marked "Entrance". Knock. Knock. Management appears. Assigned a room with bed and a 1/2 bath. Shazaam! Jackpot- a room, a bath: living the dream! And a shower next door at the indoor pool- acceptable.
6 PM supper time. The team is formed.

The adventure continues.

The actual GPS entries:
Coordinates N 48 degrees 32. 997' W 113 degrees 00.848'

Sunday, June 17, 2012

June 15th- Last Day

By Alexander
Filling water balloons at the Care Center for residents
Friday started off with a bang as the team went to participate in a 3K run 
for the CDC. Kelsey, Lucia and Carita got up bright and early at 8 to help 
register the runners. The rest of the team slept in a little and arrived at 
the race at about 10. John, Alice, Lucia, Carita and Kelsey helped direct 
runners around the track while Liz kept the time and handed out waters as 
the runners passed by. Suzanne, Alexander, Will and Andrew ran the race all 
doing very well. Will very impressively came in 2nd place in the 12 and 
under category.

Carita then headed to the Boys and Girls club to read to some local children 
while the rest of the team spent time in town. Everybody made their way back 
to the head start center by around 1 and started the cleanup process. The 
next couple hours were somewhat of a blur as people relaxed and cleaned. At 
5:15 the group headed over to Eagle Shield for some delicious Indian tacos 
and a group photo in front of the teepee.

When we got back home Phyllis surprised us with delicious homemade apple pies and ice cream. After eating way too much, Phyllis gave a 
beautiful speech about all of the group. After dishes were done, Kelsey 
drove Liz, Lucia, John, Alice, Carita, Suzanne and Alexander to the home of 
a local medicine woman who explained to us how she made ointments, lotions, 
soaps and other healing creams out of local plants. After that Kelsey took 
half of the team home while John, Alexander, and Lucia watched the sunset 
over the mountains from the medicine woman's balcony, accompanied by her 
four dogs, one of which was the cutest puppy any of us had ever seen. When 
we got home, we went to bed and said our goodbyes.

This was not as sad as anticipated because we all knew that we were going to 
stay in touch and this was just goodbye for now.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

June 14th- A Day Ending With S'mores

By Suzanne
Thursday went very smoothly. In the morning, Phyllis announced that our Facebook page, where we can share photos, is up.
Kelsey finished her newspaper story on energy assistance for low-income housing. She also met with Sherri from the Blackfeet Academy about their horticultural program this summer. Some of their projects: the outside classroom at the Academy, marketing to sell their plants, their summer school teaching about plants and vegetables, the community garden. 
Carita returned to the Boys and Girls Club to read with children. Carita was also requested by Ginny to return to the Library. She checked copyrights on books in the morning and shelved books in the afternoon.

Liz and her kids went to the CDC in the morning to weed with Kelly. She also met with Kelly to talk about financial literacy for elementary school children.  
In the afternoon, she and the boys went to the Care Center. Since today is Flag Day, they helped residents make flags out of popsicle sticks. They also enjoyed a Flag Day cake after pledging allegiance. One resident, Napi, is a Viet Nam vet who was exposed to Agent Orange and became blind and diabetic as a result. He told the boys about why he won the Purple Heart and a Bronze Medal, and that when he injured his foot, the Navy wanted to cut it off. He told them: "I'm an Indian and you are not cutting off my foot." 
Alexander and Lucia stayed with Head Start. Alexander cleaned rugs in Seville, then he and Lucia painted boards at the Head Start in Browning,
while, John and Alice went to the dome to plant gardens with Wilburt. They planted a garden after roto-tilling, they planted carrots, squash, beets, beans, oregano, and cilantro.

Suzanne went to a senior housing facility. First she rolled cutlery in napkins with Shirley, 75, who was raised by her grandparents. She raised her two kids on her own, working two jobs. "I never took nothing," she said, meaning handouts or welfare. She encouraged her children to make something of themselves. Both went to college. Her daughter Leah teaches Blackfeet language and history at the college, and is working on her PHD online. Her son lives in Bozeman and works as a carpenter and an electrician. Shirley has 6 grandchildren, ages 4 to 21. The oldest is a senior in college.Suzanne then went with Sean to deliver 80 Meals on Wheels. The older folks were very pleasant and smiled. Many have grandchildren and children either living with them or helping them. Most live in mobile homes. Dogs everywhere of course. Sean knows them all by name and is very kind to them. One street we delivered on was called Death Row because so many people die there. Sean has his complicated, convoluted route down pat.

In the evening, we went to visit Brother Ray from the Catholic school in town, the De La Salle Blackfeet School. We had hot dogs, sausages and s'mores, and talked a little about the school and the mission which used to run a boarding school - the word now is fairly taboo on the Rez . Then we took a walk down to the river near where Lewis and Clark killed the only Indians during their expeditions. Brother Ray's dog Jack (his other dog is named Jill) took a swim in the river, managing to swim expertly against the current. 

We arrived back at Head Start relatively early.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

June 13th- The Deboo's Ranch

By Liz
John and Lucia started their day at the Blackfeet Community College (BCC). John met with a dean to discuss how the Blackfeet culture might be integrated into his sociology courses in Pennsylvania. Lucia got survey questionnaires completed by two classes for her college course work. She then did roto-tilling at a home as part of a program with the BCC. Suzanne worked at Medicine Spring BCC library and marked books with red stars to identify Native American writers. She then presented at the library about Judaism and bible studies. She offered a Hebrew healing prayer at the end of her talk. John and Alice organized books and cleaned at Head Start at the Blackfeet Early Childhood Center. Kelsey moved rocks at the Community Development Center and recruited some local kids. Carita started at the Care Center. At lunch time, she read to the kids at the Boys and Girls Club. They were attentive and excited and wanted her to come back. Carita returned to the Care Center for the afternoon.
Will, Andrew, and Liz headed out with Alexander to go back the horticultural project. We helped the third graders plant sunflower plants into cups for them to take home. We weeded at two different sites. We finished weeding the inside of the medicine wheel at the Blackfeet Academy. The boys raked and hoed the inside of the wheel so it was prepared for use. We concluded the day with picture taking and saying good bye to our local friends.
A number of us headed out to the DeBoo ranch near Valair for the evening. John, Alice, Andrew and Will saddled up and took a ride out to some beautiful rock formations with the ranch owner, Chuck, and his son, Chase. The rest of us walked about the ranch, photographing and enjoying the physical beauty of the place. Cary, Chuck’s wife, talked with us about the challenges of ranch life in northern Montana. We marveled at how they accomplish so much: The DeBoo family run a large cow and horse farm, operate a ranch adventure business; Cary works full-time, while Chuck has a growing crafts business. We were all treated to a delicious meal of hamburgers and cake. The burgers were from their farm-raised cows. They were such lovely hosts.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

June 12th- "Weeding Rocks"

By Carita
It's bright and beautiful here in Browning, MT. After breakfast and our morning meetings we headed to our daily assignments.  Suzanne spent the morning "weeding rocks" and in the afternoon she was at the Care Center with Alice filling water balloons and interacting with the residents.

After a rather confusing start, Alice ended up at the Care Center, visiting with one special resident and learning local history, polishing nails with another and helping with bingo. In the afternoon, she and Suzanne played a water balloon game and did crafts with more residents.

Liz, Andrew and Will returned to the Blackfeet Academy assisting with the gardening and cleaning up the medicine wheel. They also helped with planting the first Earthboxes in Montana. They come complete with a box, dirt and watering system. One box has tomatoes, another with beans, and the third with assorted vegetables. Will found a special arrowhead that he was allowed to keep and learned if you take something from the earth you must give something back, he gave back a special, beautiful stone.

Alexander reported that he did typical library things during his day there. Shelving, cataloging and putting puzzles together.

Kelsey played “run around”, taking photographs and reporting for the latest breaking news at the Glacier Reporter (local news paper).

John found he wasn’t needed at maintenance and ended up at Eagle Shields washing windows and cleaning a vestibule area. He enjoyed visiting with Leroy, the custodian, and learned much about his life. In the afternoon John went to CDC where more weeding rocks took place.

Lucia ended up at East Glacier Head Start which is now closed- doing hard physical labor, taking down fences and old playground equipment.

I had the opportunity of getting an in depth look at the homes and lives of Browning senior citizens by helping deliver over 80 meals-on-wheels.  In the afternoon, I went to CDC to assist John with rock pulling.

After dinner of fish, baked beans, macaroni salad, and root beer floats prepared by Maria at Eagle Shields- we concluded our day with a group meeting. Phyllis recapped her various issues of the day. She reported that Suzanne will get to do a presentation on Judaism tomorrow, John will get to meet with two sociology deans from the college and Lucia will get to survey students for a college project she’s doing. 

So ended the second day.

Monday, June 11, 2012

First Day of Work on the Reservation

By John
The team met at the Blackfeet Community College with representatives of organizations from the local community. Representatives from the college, Care Center, Boys and Girls Club, and the Browning Community Development Center expressed their needs from us. After discussing assignments, the team split up to begin their first day of work.  I was assigned to serve at Head Start with Alexander and we traveled to Seville, where I mowed lawns and Alexander worked on the floors inside the building.

In the evening, five members of the group traveled to Tom Crawford’s sweat lodge in Heart Butte for an evening of prayer. Together with about 20 Indians we participated in the offering of prayer for various individuals proposed by the participates, including us. By bringing along tobacco and presenting it to the leader we submitted our prayer requests. The entire evening lasted from 6:30 until 11 o’clock, with periods of sweating and offering of prayers and songs with short breaks outside the lodge to cool off and to share fellowship with other guests. The basic concept is that by sweating “we our suffering for whom we are praying.”
When you submit a request, the individual sits in front of one of the leaders who offers the prayer and purpose of certain rituals on your back and head. After our last session we went into our host’s home for a healthy meal by our new found friends.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

June 10th - Blackfeet Reservation

From Alice
We gathered after Sunday breakfast for our orientation. Our team leader, Phyllis provided an overview of the program and went over Global Volunteers’ philosophy of service and objectives.
Our team consists of 11 individuals representing AZ, CA, PA, MA, MN, WA and the UK. We all introduced ourselves and developed the group’s goals and attributes.
In the afternoon we took a casual drive through the Blackfeet Reservation, viewing herds of cattle, horses, and buffalo. Our drive took us through beautiful rolling prairie, and the snow covered mountains were seen to the west of us.
For dinner we enjoyed a delicious home cooked chicken dinner, complete with squash, carrots, potatoes and celery. After dinner we enjoyed a discussion with Bob Tailfeathers, a local Blackfeet Indian who helped us better understand the Blackfeet culture. He also shared his beautiful quill jewelry and sketches.
After viewing a thought-provoking and entertaining video on the Blackfeet culture, we went to bed anticipating what the next day will bring.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Blackfeet Reservation, June 8th

We had a hard time waking up. I think the week’s work and excitement caught up to us. We had a nice breakfast, which consisted of cinnamon rolls, coffee, and juice. We watched Lakota Brule while eating; this type of music and dance is similar to the performances at the Native American Indian Days in July. This Friday was particularly special for us volunteers because we had the opportunity to help at the Flood Memorial.48 years ago the tragic flood of ’64 took many lives. In honor of those that were lost, each year Browning and the surrounding areas affected by the flood gather to share their memories of that day and those that were lost. The whole global crew helped serve food to everyone that came to the memorial, and we cleaned up afterwards.

After the ceremony, we went to the pawnshop and trading post to buy souvenirs for our family members and friends. Some of us branched off towards the museum in town, while others who had already seen the museum went to the “Espresso Teepee” for a couple of cool beverages. After talking with the owner and petting her friendly pup, we were on our way- delicious drinks in hand.

On the way back to Headstart, Linda felt like conquering a hill to see the good view at the top. As we started up the hill the wind kicked up and this is when the cold drinks seemed like a bad idea. After a few “burrrrr”s and a few more “ohhhh jeezz”s we made it to the top of this tiny hill, saw the view (which was nice), and hurried back to our temporary home to get out of the cold wind. I don’t think any of the volunteers will forget about the wind on the Blackfeet Reservation.

Michele then drove us to the Lodge Gallery and Teepee Village owned by Darrell Norman and his wife, Angelika. This place is located in a beautiful area outside of Browning and is listed in Leisure magazine as one of the top ten places to stay in the world. Both Darrell and Angelika are artists and have their worked displayed among other local artists’ work at their gallery. This is also where we counted our fifth cat on the reservation! (In a town dominated by dogs, cats are hard to come by.)

We came back to Headstart to eat Indian tacos made by Candy Lamott, a wonderful woman and our amazing cook. An Indian taco has basically the same taco ingredients as any other type of taco except for the ripped up fried bread that it is served on. This meal was very filling and as a taco lover, I highly recommend trying it.

Overall, I can say that the days here go by quickly, maybe even too fast. This might be because the days have been full of new tasks to complete, new things to learn, beautiful scenery, delicious food and most of all good company.

The week is over, I’m sad to see everyone leave. All of you contributed to a wonderful beginning to my 7-week stay on the Blackfeet Reservation. Thanks for your hard work and good humor! J

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Blackfeet Reservation, June 7, 2012

By Lucia McDermott
Got up bright and early today at 6.30 so I could go swimming, then I got dressed and ate breakfast with the rest of the team.  After breakfast we all got assigned to our projects, today I was working at the Head Start Centre helping with maintenance.  Before I got started I was given a tour of the full Head Start Centre by Wayne.  The Head Start caters for children aged 2 months to 5 years of age. Wayne informed me that when a child starts at the centre they get assigned to a specific teacher and class room, he went on to say that as the child moves through the centre with age the teacher moves up with them. I believe this is a fantastic thing especially in Browning were the Childs home life may be troubled and unsteady, they are given a stable figure in the in the centre therefore this will hopefully make them be enthusiastic about going to school at a young age which will carry on as they grow and encourage them to stay in education.  

I was then assigned to help Bill who is in charge of maintenance of the Head Starts out of the Browning community. After an eventful start ,we headed at to a centre which was in Babb , a town about 40 miles out of browning. The drive was quite long but Bill had some good stories on, we were talking about the wild animals in Glacier National park and he told me about a bear attack about three years ago. There were two attacks at two different campsites in one night and one woman was dragged out of her tent in the middle of the night. This was not a reassuring thought considering the upcoming camping trip I have planned in Glacier, but what will be will be! At the Centre I was given the job of sanding walls, it was quite messy but I enjoyed it. After all the jobs were completed we headed back to a different centre just outside browning driving aside the wonderful mountains and rolling plains.
The work day finished at four, so we had some free time to explore Browning. At six we headed down to the Hut and were given yet another very friendly welcoming by Carol and her family. The food was fantastic, a feast of baked trout, mixed bean salad and fries. For desert we had a root beer float, this was alien to me as I have never tried root beer or ice cream and pop mixed together (this is not common in the U.K). Well it was an experience and it’s up there with one of the most bizarre things I’ve eaten.  After we were done eating we walked round browning to tried to burn some of the food off then headed back to the centre.  Bob Tail Feathers had kindly lent us a DVD of the Lakota people Brule dancing, this was brilliant to watch the different types of dancing and music that it encompassed. Once we had finished the DVD a very tired team headed to bed at about ten o’clock to get our rest in preparation of the flood memorial tomorrow.

June 6 - Blackfeet Reservation

Browning, Montana
by Marie Heffernan

Today I woke up to a rainy morning.  I had woken up a bit late, but Michele was really nice about waking me up and asking if I needed more sleep.  I didn't, I got up, changed and had breakfast with the rest of the group.  Since I had previously been doing outdoor work, I had no idea what would be in store for me today.  At first, I was assigned to share my computer skills with Mike LaFramboise to help with his Blackfeet Language App.  But when I went down to BCC, I couldn't find him. So I went to help Smokey Henrikson and and Valerie at the maintenance office.  I helped reorganize and clean up the catalogues and the shelves they were on in the office.

I ate lunch with Smokey and got to know about him throughout our break.  It was really nice to speak to him.  He talked about growing up, and switching schools in high school.  He'd flip-flop between Browning and Cutbank, which is about 30 miles away, just off the reservation.  Whenever he got tired of one school, he would switch to the other. 

He talked about the sports in Browning and how basketball and cross country are really popular.  Smokey had been a star long distance runner in school at Cutbank, but when he came to Browning, the coach gave them a running assignment and said he was locking the gym at 6:00 pm, regardless of whether they were back or not.  The first couple of days Smokey had to wait until the next school day to get his clothes from the gym.  To help Smokey improve, one of his friends told him to chase horses with him over acres of land.  Smokey thought he was crazy at first but he did try it and ended up improving, though he could never actually grab a horse tail like his friend could.  Smokey said that's how the Indians got their food before bows and arrows and buffalo jumps were thought of.  The Indians would literally outrun their meal. 
Buffalo Jump
This evening, we barbecued with Brother Ray, one of the Cristian Brothers from the De La Salle school in Browning.  There is a large Catholic influence on the reservation due to the missionaries that came here in the late 1800s.  They came to spread Catholicism  and of course to take away the traditions of the Indians.  It was just another way the government tried to wipe out the Indians.  The missionary got Indian children in their school by saying they couldn't get their food ration unless they went there.  They also took children by force from their parents.  They weren't allowed to speak Indian at the school and physically punished for doing so.  Though the missionaries closed in 1930s, there is still quite a large population of Catholics on the reservation. 

After dinner we got to take a look at the church on the Christian Brothers' ranch.  It was small, and beautiful, with stained glass windows, wooden pews, and paintings of the stations of the cross.  We also saw the rubble from the original church and a lovely view of Two Medicine River.  Overall it was a really nice day and I was glad to talk with new people and to keep learning so many new things about life on the reservation. 

Marie Heffernan

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Blog From The Rez

By Linda Walker
Today is primary election day here on the Blackfeet Reservation, which initiates a change in the make up of the tribal council in November.  One hundred candidates are competing for four positions on the council.  The voting poll workers who staffed the voting here in the Head Start Building where we are staying began to arrive well before 7 AM.  I know it was early because I was dragging myself to the shower after having had a wonderful experience at the Sweat Lodge last night.

As we were eating breakfast, we watched the Queen of England's Diamond Jubilee on televisioin.  Tremendous pagentry.

 My first gig of the day was to transplant veggies into other containers at the greenhouse.  However, I couldn't perform that task because the door was locked and no one was "home" in the "dome" except for the gophers in the field who were playing tag in and out of their gopher holes.  Never fear, I finally got to work in the Medicene Spring library on the BCC campus, where we washed chairs. My co-volunteer, Miriam, came along later to work with us.  Once we completed that job, we left and went to do other work.  I finally did get to transplant the veggies, and later I toured the Museum of the Plains Indians, where I saw some truly lovely examples of clothing made with porcupine needles, feathers, animal hides and beads.

After a great dinner of pork, cabbage, baked beans, tuna salad and bread, we were treated to a talk by Joe Bremner, a local Blackfeet businessman and BCC instructor. Joe spoke eloquently about Blackfeet people, medicene bundles and many artifacts sacred to the Blackfeet, and issues facing their Nation.  Then, to my surprise, he played two different flutes for us.  One song he played was "Amazing Grace."  Oh so lovely!

Later, some of us went to the casine to ply bingo, but we got there too late, and the man at the front door of the game room tried to explain the rules and costs to us.  So complicated!  Whatever happened to good old fashioned plain B-I-N-G-O?  We decided to just play the slots while we waited for Michele to pick us up in the van.  We weren't winners.  All that was left of Miriam's two dollars was a 9-cent cash-out ticket which she eagerly cashed in.  We went home to bed.

June 4th, 2012 Browning, Montana, The Blackfeet Reservation (Miriam)

The Blackfeet Community College
After breakfast and a group meeting, we headed over to Blackfeet Community College (BCC) to meet with members of the community who wanted to request our assistance. These people included Smokey Henrickson (the buildings manager), Wilbert Fish (in charge of the geodome/greenhouse and Blackfeet herbology), Rachel and Kelley from Americorps, Sherri Breneman-Kipp (in charge of the Blackfeet Academy), and others. I ended up volunteering to help Michael Framboise with putting together a Blackfeet language learning program, while others ended up doing gardening or maintenance work around the town and at BCC.

We were treated to a tour of BCC by Bob Tailfeathers, the Dean of Students, who also showed us some of his beautiful artwork and quillwork jewelry. We got to see the state-of-the-art, 'green' science and math building which ran on solar energy and is one of five such buildings in the state. After lunch, I returned to BCC to assist Mike. He had me compile a collection of images to accompany the Blackfeet language learning program. This included files of photos of foods, objects, animals, numbers, and other commonly used words.
A traditional Blackfeet Sweat Lodge

At about 5:00, we were getting ready to go to Heart Butte to Tom Crawford's house for the traditional Indian sweat ceremony, putting on our long skirts and getting our towels and water. The drive there was a bit of an adventure as we mistakenly drove past Heart Butte (it was quite small and we were in conversation) and got somewhat lost. We eventually got there after a few more wrong turns. To give a little background, Tom Crawford began doing sweat ceremonies weekly 20 years ago when his granddaughter was born severely handicapped and given a short life expectancy. They have done it since then, in rain or shine, each Monday, and she has survived longer and longer past that expectancy. The sweat ceremony is a time of prayer and fellowship. Participants sit in a small enclosed lodge with a pit in the middle in which hot stones are placed and steam is created. The idea is that one endures and suffers through the heat and sweat in exchange for the healing of one's loved ones. We first went through the tobacco ceremony and requested prayer for various people in our lives. Then they brought in the hot rocks (19 to begin with), closed up the door so we sat in complete darkness, and we began to sing. Each song was 1 verse repeated 4 times and we began with a 4 song round and then moved onto the healing rounds which consisted of 2 songs. Between each round, the door was opened and we all scrambled out into the cool evening. The contrast in temperatures was invigorating and intense, while the ceremony itself was a very hopeful and meaningful experience. Tom and his family and friends were infinitely welcoming and kind, which was touching as we were both strangers and non-natives. After the ceremony, Tom and his family invited us in for dinner and we played around with his grandchildren and had cake. We left quite late, but the ride home was beautiful--complete with lightning flashing across the sky and a full moon!