Monday, July 16, 2012

Reflections on a Life-enhancing Week

Message from John Gibble, June volunteer:
The folks at the College where I primarily teach, Lebanon Valley College, were interested in our experience in Montana - and last week, one of my former students talked with me about our experience.  Here is the link –

Sunday, July 15, 2012

July 13th- A long bumpy road leads to fun times

Morning Message:  Erik 
If you keep an open mind, the world will open itself to you.

Journal:  Katelyn 
After waking up and drinking my morning coffee- I mean coffees, we had a brief meeting and most were off to Blackfeet duties. Gale, Robin and Barbara went to the library right after the meeting. My aunt, Ally, Eric and I went to both the souvenir shops in town and came home with a postcard and 3 sweet grasses. Afterwards, Eileen headed to her task to help come up with a campaign for financial motivation. Ginny took the rest of us to the supermarket to pick up 21 cases of water. We knew the day would go well when 2 workers put all the cases of water in the back of the van. We then headed to help Candy pass out food at the Tribal Council inauguration. We all watched as the council spoke- some spoke about how they would change the Blackfeet world and others just spoke a lot. It was a very interesting experience for many of us to watch, mostly because it was very different from how our government operates. It was very interesting for me to hear what the council had to say and how they felt about both our government as well as "our people." It was also strange to see all the heckling about the corruption in the council. When the meeting adjourned, we all very quickly set up 2 separate lines for food and each of us took an item and served it in an assembly line. 

It went by very quickly and we were left with much food- although the most valuable item (corn) ran out. We then chomped down on loads of food until Ginny and the others came to pick us up. Barbara, Bonnie, Karen, Gale and Robin went to the Museum and some shops while the rest of us headed back home to camp. A few short hours later, our crew was picked up by Cary Deboo, but Barbara and Bonnie decided to hit the town. 

After a gruesome drive down the miles of driveway (I do not think any of us took Loraine's warning to heart), we arrived and were fitted to the horses by Cary's husband Chuck. I was last to hop on my horse, Jake and found out he was originally named "Jack" then nicknamed "Jackass" then he came around and was renamed Jake. He was an interesting horse- Ginny suggested Chuck had placed the horses by personality and thinking about it, Jake and I were definitely matched well. Ally and Robins horse loved each other’s behinds, mine and Ginny's horse (perfectly named Chief) were attached by the nose to behind, Kate and her horse were very complimentary of each other, Karen was able to find answers to many of her cultural questions, Eileen didn't fall off, Mary made a perfect mount onto her horse and Erik looked like a knight in shining armor whisking away from the group. When we got to the beautiful rocks up on a mountain, Erik and I went rock climbing and were able to get some awesome pictures. All in all, the horseback riding and the landscape at the ranch were spectacular. 

Cary had a wonderful meal with fresh cut hamburgers from their own collection of cattle and delicious dessert. I had my hour limit of playing with children while the rest talked with the family aside a campfire. After a 15 minute, 13 person roller-coaster and an even longer, but smoother drive home we all went to bed.

July 12th- A little frustration

Morning Message:  Eileen 

In the face of adversity there is nothing wrong with hope.
O. Carl Simonton

Travel is fatal to prejudice, narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.  Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.
Mark Twain

Journal:  Gail 
The day was another hot and busy day.
Six volunteers (Lorraine, Kathy, Katelyn, Ally, Karen and Kate) worked at the Extreme Warrior Event and passed out water.  There were only 6 participants and some did not even want water.  Ally commented that the volunteers drank more water than the participants. 
 Other volunteers ended up at Youth Days (for the second time). Erik set up for the volleyball net at Youth Days and helped supervise that.  Others helped with refereeing.  Kate and Karen supervised some children from the Nurturing Child Center who were physically/mentally challenged. Jody and Mark hung around to the end and helped take down and clean up.
Kate with Wilfred (the cutest/smartest little boy who just had surgery)
Otherwise, Robin and Mary worked at the Eagle Pride Senior Center and Robin did the Meals on Wheels.  
In the morning, Gail and Barbara worked on the inventory at the community college library.
In the afternoon, Bonnie and Barbara were packing up free books used for recruiting people to sign their kids up for the Blackfeet Head Start program.
This evening, we had a barbecue at the Mission.  There was another group of kids from St. Louise Parish in Bellevue, WA.  The speaker was Marty Martin.  His Indian name is Beware of Sleeping Wolf.  He gave a presentation of his perspective of injustices done to the Indians.  He also talked about some Blackfeet history, customs, and gifts we have gotten from the Indians.  Taking the right route home, we made it back in under a half hour.  Hooray!
We rolled with it and everything worked out in the end!

July 11- Signed up to serve in whatever way needed

Journal:  Jody
Well, the 3rd day of my second week serving in Browning, Montana, is coming to a close.  This second week of service has been very different than the first in many ways.  First of all, my five children are not with me this week and this feels “down right” odd.  Every place I go in town, I am flooded with memories of things we did and experienced together as a family.  The other difference that is noticeable is that I am not sharing a room with my husband this week.  That feels even odder.  My husband and I still enjoy spending every minute together as a couple, and early morning and late evening are special times for us.  In the morning (at 4 o’clock) we catch up over coffee and at bedtime we debrief over the day’s events.  So, I am feeling a bit out of sync and disjointed by not having those times together in private.  And, the final difference is that I am serving with a different team of people.  This week, there are so many people that sometimes feel a lot overwhelmed.  The eagle group has presented numerous challenges – how to travel places with a van that only seats 12 (we have 17 people on our team), how to house every one’s food in the small refrigerator, how to keep track of everyone’s daily commitments, and how to ensure that everyone likes the work they are doing each day.  The last one is new for me.  During our last week of service, liking the work you were doing was not discussed as an option for finding other work assignments.  My family of seven went on whatever assignment our team leader, Linda, assigned us to.  Yes, I am certain my children found some jobs boring, mundane, tiring, hard, or whatever, but we had all agreed that we would not complain.  Tai, my sixteen year old stepdaughter broke that rule one morning.  While listening to our team leader, Linda, discuss the assignments Tai said, “Please don’t make me go alone with my dad today.”  At the time, I thought this was because the conversation was boring, but after working alongside my husband today, I know the reason she stated this.  This morning Mark invited me to work alongside him at the Head Start building.  Simee, Wayne and Oral had told him that two people were needed.  Mark was picked by the because he spent almost all of the first week of service working with them at the Head Start Building (In Babb, Heart Butte, and Browning).  Those groups figured out that Mark is hard working, non-complaining with a “can do” attitude, so they snapped him up.
So, today, after working with my husband all day at the Browning Head Start building, I discovered that the reason Tai didn’t want to be alone with her dad is because he works hard and doesn’t ever slow down.  Today we moved stainless steel sinks, counters, desks, shelving, walls and closets out of the kitchen and laundry room.  We then scraped “gunk” out of the crevices, nooks, and crannies on the floor.  I was reminded of Cinderella scrubbing floors with a toothbrush (or something like that).  I thought I was doing pretty well until Oral came behind me with a sharper scraper and showed me that there was still more to remove.  UGH.  So back I went to the task.  I am now the proud owner of blisters on my hands, sore biceps and forearms (from using elbow grease to get that gunk up), a throbbing back, raw fingers, and a stiff neck.  My husband on the other hand appears to be ready to run a marathon and has no aches and pains.  So, Tai, if you read this, please know that I “get” why you didn’t want to sign up for another day of hard labor with your day.  I, on the other hand, am a glutton for punishment and will be right back at those floors in the morning tomorrow.  Did I mention that Mark tor up some of the stained linoleum and proceeded to lay new tiles!  My job was to ensure the “puzzle pieces” would fit.  Of course, the tiles had to be cut down to size with a handy box cutter.
Although I would gladly go for the library inventory job or some other mundane, non-strenuous and boring assignment tomorrow, a small part of me looks forward to more “manual” labor along my husband.  At least I will be able to see the fruits of my labor once the floors are all waxed and shiny and ready for the youth of Browning to play on in the fall.  So, it is all worth it.  I signed up to serve in whatever way I am needed, and so I am.
(Pictures of floor will be uploaded soon)

July 10th- "You want how many flowers made?"

Morning Message: Robin 
“The days pass by slowly, but the years pass by fast.”
The hours of a day may pass by slowly, always wishing to be somewhere else, worry about what still remains to be done.  Suddenly, one morning you awake and wonder where the years have gone.  Please remember to use the hours of the day to its fullest and to be present and mindful of each moment in the day.  The days will not seem so slow.  Do not consume your days of worries of tomorrows…somehow things always have a way of working out.
Journal:  Bonnie 
Started the day with our daily meeting led by Ginny at 8:00 a.m. in the kitchen.  From there we walked to the Blackfeet Community College to meet with those different groups who were going to need our assistance this week.  From there, we pretty much scattered to our different work assignments.  Most of us gathered again for lunch at noon eating the wonderful leftovers from past meals.  Our work assignments were as follows:
Mary – helped to deliver Meals on Wheels to approximately 80 homes.  This was extremely enjoyable for Mary and then she helped to clean up at the Eagle Shield.
Eric and Katelyn – worked with Manpower Organization.  They helped a 72-year-old disabled vet to clean up his yard and cut back weeds.  He was very grateful for their help in sweltering hot weather.
Mark, Jody, Karen and Kate – were assigned to help with the gardening project.  Jody and Mark who had been with Global Volunteers here at Montana previously were extremely disappointed to see the amount of plants that had died due to lack of care.  Plus, I must mention that they were in a greenhouse, which was “hotter than hot”.
Ally – assisted the college registrar, Deena, for the day helping to pack up her office due to construction that was about to take place.  She was so well liked that she was asked to help out the whole week.
Eileen – spent the day with the Community Development Corp. and loved it so much she is going back tomorrow.  She helped brainstorm ideas for a college financial literacy program.
Gail – spent the day at the college library updating computer inventory to the stacks of books.
Robin – started the day doing research on Bud Connelly, a famous rodeo champion who will be honored soon.  He is now elderly and blind.
Barbara, Lorraine, Kathy, Robin and myself – stayed at the Head Start building helping to construct the Head Start float for the Indian Days Parade.  We spent all day making tissue flowers to be part of the skirt of the float.  We made approximately 8254 flowers!?!  Others joined as they completed their other projects.  Unfortunately, most of us will miss the parade which will be held Saturday morning.  We are certain this float will take “first place.”
Working on paper flowers
The float almost completed
Again, we scattered in different directions for the evening activities.  The sweat lodge was enjoyed by a few, even including our faithful leader – Ginny.  This activity included a late night dinner.  The rest of us enjoyed dinner at the Eagle Shield.  From there, a group of us went on a trip of our lifetime up the Going to the Sun Road.  This was Deana from the college who volunteered to escort us on the drive.  Most of us are now convinced that Glacier National Park is even better than Yellowstone!  It was unbelievable – even walked in the snow and wished we had our jackets.

July 9th- Peaks and pits

Morning Message:  Lorraine 
Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.   Plato
Journal:  Ally 

Team in front of Duck Lake (not pictured: Mark and Jody)
Woke up, ate, orientation, talked about our goals, learned everyone’s names, talked about the week ahead, then we showered, yes! Ate lunch, drove through the reservation, saw a beautiful waterfall, did some shopping and then came back for dinner (chicken and veggies).  After dinner, Bob came over and we heard about his life and some of his art, bought t-shirts and jewelry.  After he left, we relaxed and went to bed because we were all worn out.

Starting a New Week on the Reservation

Morning Message:  Kathy
Three things in human life are important – the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; the third is to be kind.    Henry James
Journal:  Kate 
Today my mom and I went to the Great Falls Airport to meet our teammates.  We walked into the airport that is loaded with animal heads, how pleasant.  We waited there until all of us were there.  We then headed out to Browning.  In the Head Start Center, we all got assigned our rooms and went back to go get our luggage in the van.  We discovered that the key to get the doors unlocked was inside the van and the key to start the van was outside the van.  Oops!  However, a man was kind enough to break into the car and get our luggage (apparently, he had done it a lot…hmmm…).  After settling in and meeting the roommates, we sat down and had a lovely dinner comprised of lasagna and spaghetti prepared by Candy. With our bellies full, everyone hit the hay!  Can’t wait to see what this week has in store for everyone!  Looking forward to it!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

July 6th-Busy day

By Phoebe

I woke up on the fourth ring of my alarm clock. Fairly early and reluctantly departed from the cozy warmth of my bed. I took my routine shower and off to breakfast. I was kindly welcomed by smiling faces. I had a piece of fry bread and some cantaloupe. Today is going to be a busy day, judging by the result of the confusion during the team meeting.  Everybody seems to be going his or her separate ways. Ann will definitely be spending a majority of her time in the van speeding from one place to another. After the team meeting Ellie, Susan, Carter and I all played a game. After one or two fun games we retreated to go paint. By the time we finished painting I was covered head to toe in white paint. When I finally scrubbed most of it away we left for Eagle Shield. 
Working reception at Eagle Shield
I find myself here being showered by the constant ring of the telephone. Once my duty there was done. I gave James an orientation of the front desk and went to eat lunch. I then stained the fence we built at CDC. At around 4PM we headed back to go enjoy ourselves in the pool. Tyler and Ben did an assortment of flips and other things. When we all got back Chad had us collecting little rocks for our final ceremony, which consisted of an “honesty circle”, where we answered questions about the trip, an evaluation survey and food. We ate pizza and ice cream! After that we played sardines. Kelsey finally rounded up everybody for a group photo.  Today is the last day of a great week. I’m happy we made the most of it.
Honesty Circle

July 5th- Building and creating


After a long night of constant explosions in the sky I awoke groggy and tired but still had time to take a shower and sit in the sauna. Everyone then ate breakfast and we had our meeting in the kitchen. We discussed who would help out at certain places and left to go to our designated assignments. Ben, Jeff, Chad, James and I headed out to the CDC; others went to the Care Center, continued on the flower project, or finished painting the signs in the Head Start. At the CDC we worked on finishing the fence and started painting one side with stain at which point I knocked over the can of stain and spilled it everywhere. James left to shop with Maria for the Indian Taco dinner while Chad went to gather food for the final celebration that will be held on our last night together. Lunch went by quick and everyone went back to our projects, back to the CDC I went. While we were working a boy and his puppy adventured by and he started talking to us and helping paint the fence but soon left after boredom kicked in.  In the middle of s working, a fire started across the street in someone’s backyard from people lighting fireworks. The fire department came and quickly put it out but it was still scary to see a fire so close to someone’s house. From there Emily, Ben and I walked to the pawn shop, leaving Susan, Carter and Ellie to wait for Ann at the CDC. The pawn ship was actually open for once and we perused knifes, saddles and other interesting stuff. We made it back to the Head Start and watched some TV and waited until dinner at Eagle Shield. Maria cooked a traditional dinner of Indian Tacos and berry soup, which was very delicious. Over dinner we talked about the days, events and James and I discussed our trip to Vegas. 

July 4th- Gratitude

By Jeff
A very pleasant and casual start for all of us this morning; a shower and sauna for me. I don’t need an alarm as long as Chad is around with his. Gratitude for life, for the breath we take. Gratitude for my journey. We stayed here in the Head Start building finishing up our work projects and with Ann’s good guidance and straight direction we are ready for Thursday. We also have a good plan for Friday.

Thoughts of life here on the Blackfeet home land slip in and out of my consciousness during the day. I carry all the positive energy given to me at the sweat lodge. Priceless. Cherished. Grateful.

Baylor and Emily arrived today, so good to see them. Such fine energy to join our group and now all of us are off to Brother Ray’s for the BBQ. Good food and good times- plenty of both. Now it is late and the fireworks are going off. The earplugs are the way to sleep tonight. Sweet dreams.

Thought: When there is a fork in the road, stop and look both ways. Phoebe O’Neill
                 When you’re angry with someone squeeze a pillow and when you’re happy with someone                        squeeze them- Phoebe O’Neill

July 3rd- Fun times


It was rainy and cold (50 degrees) as we started our day with cereal, coffee, and Ben’s journal entry and James’ thought. A rainbow and glimpses of sunshine accompanied us to Chewing Blackbones Campground, as well as Phoebe’s excitement about Oreo cows.  The campground, almost empty when we arrived probably would have disappointed Chewing Blackbones himself (an elder who died in 1963 at the age of 104).

We hung out at the playground and in the van until others arrived. Then a spirited soccer game involved most of us and Browning kids and adults. James was even seen kicking the ball in from the sidelines and Carter and Ben did some good goalie work.

Ellie met up with 3 girls from the Boys and Girls Club and they picked wildflowers.

After our picnic lunch planned by Ann, Carter and Ellie, we met 8th grade teacher and Reservation guide Jim. He passed on Blackfeet history and the practical skills learned through traditional games such as Spear and Hoop and Scare the Buffalo, some of our group from the shorter to the taller did well yelling and running across the field on only one breath. They also played Double Ball and Shinny, during this game Ann scored a goal. The games used natural materials and most were carved and then painted, red paint means “holy” and black means “war”. Feathers added decoration and meaning.

We waited while the wind picked up and sprinkles began again for the teepee building, featuring 21 carefully measured, cut, and prepared poles from the lodge-pole pine tree.  It took a lot of muscles- just ask Tyler and Chad – to get the poles up  correctly after the first 4 were tied together precisely. The canvas enclosed the teepee and so we were done. We headed back to Browning with an assortment of Blackfeet traditions.

The day, which began with a group of tired volunteers and cranky weather following us to an underused park, picked up and was a lot of fun. Can’t say I worked very hard but I really enjoyed talking with community people and being in the Montana beauty all day.

July 2nd-Accidents happen

By Ben           

Today was the first day of work on the Reservation. Most everybody got up early to take a shower and go swimming. After breakfast and clean up we went down to Blackfeet Community College to get our daily assignments from members of the community and staff of the college. The jobs that we could choose from where, working in the library, picking up trash, reading to little kids, and building fences. After our morning shift of work we moved on to eating lunch at the headquarters. Then we moved on to the afternoon shift of work. This included Susan and the kids to read at the Boys and Girls Club. Shawn and Phoebe worked in the library and Jeff, Tyler, James and I worked on building a fence for the Community Development Corp. An odd day at work included Ellie finding a kitchen knife somewhere and me ending up with 4 staples in my head- two different happenings, not one causing the other. What an interesting day. After the work day was over Phoebe, Jeff, James and Kelsey went to a sweat ceremony and everybody else stayed home and had an awesome dinner, an awesome soup made by one and only Tyler. During dinner we had some very interesting conversations about breaking bones and other stuff. Today was a very interesting, exciting and productive day while having fun at the same time. I personally thought we learned about the culture during one experience today and I thought it was very informative and productive. I’m very much looking forward to the end of the fireworks. 

Monday, July 2, 2012

July 1st- The first day

By Shawn
Today was a full day indeed. Breakfast was shared around 7:30 and bonding was achieved between the members of our group. Afterward, and in a more formal and structured forum, the group collaborated and came up with a common understanding of how a group can function well. We discussed which components are present in well functioning groups, what our objectives are as a group over the course of this project both shared and individual, and the parameters of our group as it relates to the community we will be serving. Although the orientation took many hours, there were hours set aside for a tour of the Reservation. Our guide, Joe, was informative and knowledgeable. For me, the highlight of the trip was stopping in one of the hotels in Glacier, the biggest in the park; the view was spectacular and the hotel itself, historic. Upon conclusion of the tour we returned to our base of operations to share in another delicious meal prepared by Candy. It was chicken with veggies and rolls. Some went to watch a movie after dinner, I read. I am really looking forward to getting to work tomorrow and meeting some of the locals and feel excited and well equipped to be working with the folks that have decided to participate.