Thursday, August 16, 2012

Great Endings- West Virginia

the last day of no-holds-barred volunteerism, we were all determined to get to a point that would leave the local SALS team well positioned to keep the momentum going. There was universal agreement among those who had experienced the single home improvement opportunity to go back to the school, although Kevin and older Chris stayed to spend the morning reading with the summer school kids.

At the school, my seamstress soul mate and I tackled the last of the curtains. the Tile Chicks donned their yellow ponchos and fired up the dull-bladed tile cutter, Tricia wielded her paint brush, and others engaged in a task near and dear to my heart – the ‘O’ word (organization!). The remaining quantities of food in the storage room was transferred to the room designated as the community distribution pantry where people could come to obtain food at little or no cost.

We gathered for a pre-lunch team meeting at which Barbara handed out certificates acknowledging the personal contributions of each team member, along with a group photo taken on our Sunday hike with the New River Gorge bridge in the background. (No, Ellie, those fluffy white clouds were not photo-shopped.)

At lunch, we were joined by the SALS and AmeriCorps/VISTA folks for a fabulous traditional West Virginia meal of fried chicken provided by Artie. It was bittersweet as we bid Michael and Gabby an early good-bye and safe travels so that Gabby could complete coursework she had not been able to undertake due to limited internet access.

Next rustic plywood and cinder block shelving was constructed in the community pantry and the remaining quantities of food were arranged much like a grocery store. Word got around that the last tile was cut and being laid, and everyone found time to drop by and marvel at the accomplishment.

When Vickie arrived, she was ecstatic about the progress made. We presented her with a framed page explaining the various images of West Virginia depicted on the curtains, signed by each one of us. Her vision of a community gathering spot, with décor highlighting the heritage of West Virginia, was nearer to reality.

We drove back to SALS via the Dairy Queen, then everyone had some down time before preparing for dinner. Artie arrived with the van and we had a little ceremony thanking him for all he had done for us –and for being a great guy in general.

For dinner we went to Tamarack, a sort of enclosed mall offering the best of ‘Made in West Virginia’, including a food buffet run by the Greenbrier. We did our bit to add to the local economy. Mary Rose stealthily followed Barbara around to identify the item that elicited the most oohs and aahs – a pottery bowl. At dinner’s end, we were able to give it to her as a small token of our appreciation for her leadership, support, and friendship.

In addition to achieving the week’s tasks and projects, I think we had arrived at an understanding and reconciliation of what each side brought to the effort. We certainly felt closely connected to each other, and were already setting plans for next year in Montana.

I find a quote from Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology particularly apt to end with: ‘Life all around me here in the village: tragedy, comedy … oh what patterns!’
- Kathy

Working Together- West Virginia

I wake up with a record eight hours of sleep. I eat a sufficient breakfast and the team heads for the Oak Hill School. At the school both  Chris and I work to clear the room filled with food. We took  hundreds of cans to the main room to organize. During this process, I began to interact with Adam. We talked about his hobbies such as the music he enjoys listening to. The next project that we had to do was scrub every metal rack and clean the rust. We then brought the racks back to the pantry and stacked boxes of canned food which we had half the team working together putting the pantry back together. After hours of work we finally completed the project with a group photo. We departed the work site and went to Dairy Queen for some  ice cream. Artie then drove back to the dorm using his good driving skills maneuvering through a thunderstorm. We ended the day with some groovy zumba. It was quite the workout. As we conclude this Thursday here in West Virginia we hope to enjoy this last day tomorrow and go home having learned something through this life changing experience.

- Kevin

Making a Difference - West Virginia

Another day began with an alarm screeching in my ear.  After six hours of sleep, waking up was not something I was excited to do.  Still I was able to gain the strength and the agility to hop from my two story bunk onto the floor.  I then walked into the living room knowing my room mate, Michael would be making me sausage patties and after peeking in the kitchen I sat immediately on our vibrating couch.  To make sure that I didn’t fall asleep on the couch I took a speedy shower no shampoo included. 

Today some people in our group decided to go to a new site instead of the school that we have been helping renovate.  I have been enjoying working there but sometimes putting down tiles can be a little straining on the back and somehow everything on the floor sticks to my knees.  Even with our decision to help paint a house they weren’t ready to have us start working so we headed over to the school to start work.  We continued to put tiles on the floor, thankfully it didn’t take long before we could leave and head over to the house.  We soon arrived at the house to see cats sleeping on the drive way, not a bad greeting.  We were then showed what was the house, it was very small and to find out that the family had six kids living there was even more surprising.  I was first sent to sand the wall a small task but I found a way to get dust all over me, somehow it seems as though every job I do comes with getting dirty.  After finishing this task I was sent to the living room where we were told to paint the ceiling.  I have painted walls before but never the ceiling, it was a task I had never experienced.  We had many laughs such as having paint fall on our heads and the occasional outburst of jokes from our fellow workers. After working another hard day, I had the cooking of pizza and wings to look forward to with one of my team members, Kathy.  I enjoyed cooking with her and as we worked we constantly gave each other positive reinforcement, one of team guidelines I might add to finish the job before Billy Pay began singing that evening.

To sum up this day and this week I have realized we have all made differences in this community in various ways even if we wonder how painting houses or making curtains and even putting down tiles will have any serous affect on the people here.  I know these things may be small but we must be aware it may not be what we are doing but how we are doing it that will help each individual.  Though no matter what the rest of the week will bring it has affected me in more ways then I can write on this sheet of paper. In conclusion I hope to continue to work hard with this group and finish what we came here to do, finish tiling that room.      

Painting and Curtian Making- West Virginia

After breakfast and the morning meeting, most of the group went to the Oak Hill worksite, though my Mom stayed to help out with energy express, which is a program that brings local grade-schoolers to SALS for reading and writing lessons, to ensure that they don’t fall behind in school. At the Oak Hill site, the majority of the group continued to lay tiles in the two rooms from yesterday, while Tricia, Kevin, and I worked to repaint a room in the kitchen that will become a Pantry (I believe, that will help local food needs).

Things went much smoother today for the most part, as we all had assigned tasks, and there were really no delays, except for waiting for the one and only stepladder that could be used to paint the upper parts of the wall, and for a quick Lowe’s run to get spacers for the tiles, a new mop, and also a food and  run undertaken by my Mom and Michael. By the end of the day, we had finished painting the room, and the teams that were working on putting tile  in two rooms were—while proscribing to two different theories on tile placement-- ready to move on to “next level tile maneuver”, I’ll let the journalist for tomorrow describe this, as this “next level” will be taking place tomorrow.  Also, our curtain team (Kathy and Claudia) finished the first set of curtains that will cover the windows in the coffee shop and internet café that is being planned for the site, and have three more left to complete. All in all, it was a successful and satisfying day at Oak Hill.

Upon returning to the SALS dorm, some of us, along with Alex and Jiaujoun, the OVEC interns, were given a ride by Artie to the “old number nine” a swimming hole in the brook that had a rail bridge running over it that the braver of us jumped (a fall of around 10-15 ft) from into the pool. Those of us who had gone swimming came to back to a great dinner made by Michael and Gabby of chicken burritos. We also came back to find that we had no hot water in the dorm due to some electrical issues, which was solved by Artie after about an hour or two.

As I finish this entry at the near halfway point of our trip, I find that while I may be a little tired, dealing with a little bit of culture shock, I am looking forwards to the next few days and continuing to work with this group.
- Chris


Starting Projects - West Virginia

After waking up to our respective alarm clocks at seven this morning, we had our group meeting where Kathleen shared her thought of the day and Ellie read her journal. Artie later drove us to Oak Hill School where we met the owners of the building who filled us in on the history of the school and what they were trying to accomplish with the help of the volunteers. Then we were given a tour of the school by Adam, our amateur but friendly tour guide. After our brief tour of the building, we were divided into teams to accomplish different tasks. Our group started by sorting and then carrying forty pound boxes of tile from the basement to the room we would be tiling. When all of the boxes were in their place, we took a break for lunch which lasted much longer than expected.

After eating, we proceeded back to the room we were supposed to work on. We experienced several “complications” with the room measurements, but sorted them out after an hour or so. We got about two rows done, and then came home. Everybody is looking forward to working more today and to accomplishing the task they started.
- Lauren

River Gorge Hike - West Virginia

I woke up to people talking in the kitchen, which motivated me to get out of bed. Then we had orientation with the team where we set goals and learned what we were going to do for the rest of the week. Lunch came next. It was like a huge rush of people grabbing and taking all sorts of food from leftover spaghetti to opening cans of tuna needing Michael and his handy grandfather’s pocket knife.

Later came our walk to the Gorge. It was a breathtakingly beautiful sight to see. Nevertheless, some people were sweating like pigs and there was a dire need for A.C. We then went on a hunt for some ice cream. After numerous stops and some pretty weird excuses for being closed such as the cash register not working, we finally prevailed in finding an open ice cream shop. Afterwards, we returned to the dorm and some of us challenged one another to an intense game of scrabble until dinner time. Following dinner, John Davis came in to talk to us which was pretty lengthy, but we achieved one of our tasks in learning about the community. Tomorrow we start work.
- Ellie

West Virginia team 76!

Awaking early after a somewhat fitful night, I was fed a lovely breakfast by the departing emergency team from Tennessee; they have been here for a week feeding those affected by the terrible storm.  Then I set to work getting things in order:  moving desks and mattresses, sorting through bedding, making name signs for each dorm room. In between I got to know the two college interns who are here for the summer working with an environmental organization as interns.

The real fun began when Artie and I headed to the airport for our first pickup;  Kate, and the Sykes family.  Back to Beards Fork, with a quick Kroger stop.  Artie headed out to the airport again, while we got everyone settled, and soon arrived several more families and team members.  Amazing to me that they got here without getting lost, and no complaining about their long travels.  Everyone got settled, making friends with their new roommates.

Dinner started with a hunt for a big enough pot for the 4 pounds of spaghetti and outrageous amount of sauce.  I had planned to do dinner this first night, but next I knew, many were in the kitchen helping  with chopping and cooking and figuring out how to open cans with a poorly working can opener!  No surprise to some, there was tons of food, lots of laughing, and the first attempts to remember everyone's names. We are 14 total , with four 14 year olds, a 19 year old, 21 year old, and a 23 year old....and then some of us adults.  So far a great crowd, with good chemistry.

As evidenced by the end of dinner, and the rapid clean of food) got stored, dishes washed, and I got my spaghetti sauce badge when one of the 14 year olds aimed my direction when pouring sauce into Tupperware.  I will wear my badge proudly as a sign of a good start to what will be a great week!

Exhausted now, and hoping for a better night's sleep.

- Barbara                                                                                 

Friday, August 10, 2012

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Yesterday began with our now typical and flawless motion about the kitchen preparing breakfast. This group, who has barely known each other a week, needs no specific roles. Tasks are consistenly and graciously managed by whoever thinks of it first. Maybe this is how communes started.

Rachel reported and Charlie demonstrated his work horse ethic in our morning meeting, which precipitated a discussion about expectations, intentions, and cultural attitudes that permeated the rest of the day. Are we wanted here? Are we needed here? And if so, whose needs are we serving? What does accomplishment look like? And is that a necessary goal anyway?

In the morning, the girls and I worked at the CDC with Kelly picking up trash and painting graffiti. After lunch, we returned and wrote three stories about savings and loans while we watched children randomly run into the building searching for water and disappear. Here is a story that Tatum worked on for third grade:


(Namu is the Blackfeet word for butterfly and Keyio means bear)

Namu worked the whole summer long,

Keyio laid upon the lawn.

Namu said, “You must get up!”

Collect food while the sun’s still up!

Keyio said, “I do not need.

Summer’s rope still has much lead.”

Namu sighed and flew away,

There was work to do, he could not stay.

Keyio continued wasting his time,

Sleeping all day, taking a climb,

And what do you know? It began to get cold,

And Keyio remembered what he was told.

“Please!” begged Keyio. “Give me some honey!

I should have collected some while it was sunny!”

Namu smiled, and gave him a snack.

“But Keyio,” he said, “You must pay back.”

Keyio laughed, and skipped off joying.

He thought Namu was just toying.

Every day Namu loaned without a care.

But very soon, he had none to spare.

He ran to Keyio and said, “Please pay me back!

Now I have no honey, and I need a snack!”

Keyio gasped. “I thought you were kidding

I ate your honey without even sitting!”

Then Namu flew to the NBA

To hear what Awagassi had to say.

“Namu,” he said. “You shouldn’t have loaned.”

“But what should I do?” Namu moaned.

Namu and Keyio survived the winter through,

But next summer both knew what to do.

The highlight was helping a girl de-flea her puppy. Children are children and the interaction amongst the girls and the dog was comfortable. We wished we had been able to have more interactions like this. 

Finally, our whole group convened at 4:00 for another adventure, but not before viewing the fabulously finished shed – thank to the hard work of many men. Michele was right. Chuck’s ranch is tucked away. I think I can indeed say that we were collectively blown away by the vast scenery, Chuck’s gentle prowess and expert guidance with the horses, and Cary’s incredible cooking and hosting. The riding grabbed the beauty of the landscape in a way I’ve rarely experienced and will not forget. After a full dinner, no gathering is complete without a charade of talents from the ever burgeoning Munroe family – Colin’s poi, Paul’s kindo, and Rachel’s splits kept us in hysterics around the fire.

In closing, we want to reflect on the paradoxical takeaways from this trip. We came for the matched service, but instead are leaving with an early understanding of Blackfeet heritage, with an appreciation for this piece of gorgeous Montana, a slew of new friends, and the knowledge that success and meaning ultimately are “flexible.”

Monday, August 6, 2012

Day 2 or 3, depending on how you’re counting. It is the first morning we all wake up in Browning. The showers are open early, and if you are lucky enough to be in the vicinity around 7:15 you may hear the musical stylings of the Monroe sisters as they perform their morning shower concert. Breakfast is made, along with many pots of coffee, before morning meeting begins promptly at 8:10ish. Danielle gives the morning message, a traditional Blackfeet prayer, before Laura reads Saturday’s journal entry followed by Charlie reading Sundays. Wayne Bullcalf drops into the morning meeting to ask Michelle for 3 volunteers for Head Start, the first of several pop-up requests for volunteers. Michelle releases us to grab our things, refill water bottles-under the watchful eye of Rob our Water Czar- and walk to the Blackfeet Community College where we are to meet our host organization and project leaders.

We pile into our meeting room at the BCC library. The large board room is being renovated so we are in a smaller room off the newly set-up Children’s Area, a tight squeeze with 25+ of us, but since we are working on being a good team we are practicing characteristics 5, 13, & 23 (being flexible, cheerful, and understanding). After brief introductions are made Tony from the Boys and Girls Club goes over his needs/requests for the week. He leaves early to talk with the police about some recent break-ins and vandalism at the club, the latter of which he is hoping we can help to repair.
We go around the room having each volunteer name what skills, experience, talent, knowledge, etc. they have and are willing to share/utilize this week. We are a large group and our skills are varied with everything from grant writing to sports to food service and on, this was a good because the needs of the organization seemed to be just as varied. At this point the different organizations introduce themselves and what they were looking for. Throughout the meeting people have been sticking their heads in to introduce themselves and request volunteers for help around the college. We also had a 21st volunteer show up. Daryl Whitebird who, Michelle told us, has been helping with Global Volunteers since it first came to Browning. Assignments for the day are divvied up and we take a break before our tour of the college.

GV’s regular tour guide is unavailable so Linda Sue and Dana agree to show us around. Although they have told us they are not tour guides they have a lot of information to share and are obviously enthusiastic about the school. We end the tour in the Blackfeet Studies Lab, also called the Medicine Room, a round room which is a modern representation of the teepee. Dee Hoyt meets us here, she is the Chair of Education and Health at the school and has graciously offered to bring us to the seat ceremony that evening.  She talks to the group about the sweat, answers questions, and describes some of her own experiences.

We break for lunch before setting off to our various work sites for the afternoon. Projects for the day include starting work on the GV storage shed, preparing meals at Eagle Shield, lawn maintenance at Head Start, archiving at the BCC library, assembling gym equipment for BCC, and more. We all start to trickle back to our GV home base around 3:30. Those of us going to the sweat change into appropriate clothing, grab some dinner and refill our water bottles before heading to the parking lot to wait for Dee. The sweat is a hard thing to describe and since it is different for each person I will just say that for me it was a very spiritual experience and quite unforgettable. Tom and his family and the individuals who were there embraced us into their group and shared something truly incredible with us and I am so grateful for that.

In closing, I will just say that I know for a fact that at least 6 goals were met in that one day, on one project because Robert and I saw a real Indian(1) while working under the hot Montana sun (2), doing something purposeful (3) to help people(4) while looking at the mountains of Montana(5), together as family(6).

-Emily Taborda-Monroe

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Today started out slow, but by the time it ended, it’s amazing how much we crammed into it.

After traveling all day yesterday, many of us were quite ready for showers this morning.   Since we are staying in the Head Start building (essentially a school facility) we need to go to the community swimming pool next door to use their locker room showers.  Although the pool is not open on Sundays, we were told someone volunteered to come open the showers around 7:00.  The first of us were outside the building probably 7:01, only to find the doors were still locked.  Over the next 90 minutes or so there were frequent  trips by anxious volunteers to check the doors, to no avail until Michelle made a phone call on our behalf.  Soon, a very apologetic Myrna (“don’t call me Shirley”) showed up to open the pool for us.  The showers were welcome, and a few of us even got in a swim.

Our orientation meeting started at 9:30 in the meeting room, one of the classrooms, and it was attended by all but three of us; Rachel, who, as of the night before had been up for 36 hours and was desperately in need of sleep, and Larissa and Tatum, whose plane landed at the airport sometime during our orientation meeting.

Our capable leader, Michelle, started with a little background on our program.  We are the final team this summer, which is the 13th year GV has been volunteering at the Blackfeet Reservation.  Team sizes have varied over the years, but our team of 20 is one of the largest, the average being closer to six.  Our orientation meeting covered a lot of ground, including GV Objectives, Philosophy of Service, Policy and Guidelines – all good material, which generated a lot of questions and interactive discussion, but the team-building activities were the most interactive and energetic part of the meeting. 

As an initial team-building activity, each volunteer was asked to describe his or herself with a single adjective starting with the same letter as the volunteer’s name.   Allow me to introduce Michelle’s GV Team for August, 2012:

Considerate Charlie

Sharing Susan

Resourceful Robert

Persevering Porter

Relentless Ryann

Brilliant Bridget

Light-hearted Laura

Perky Pam

Nice Nancy

Mighty Margaret

Crazy Colin

Dirty Diana

Daring Danielle

Kind Kevin

Magnificent Max

Prepared Paul

Enthusiastic Emily

all led by our feerless leader, Marvelous Michelle.

The names were not quite as imaginative as some of the Blackfeet names we have heard, but should nevertheless give you an idea of who we are.  Or at least, what we think of ourselves.  After our naming exercise, we moved on to an exercise to identify the 15 Characteristics of an Effective Team.  Virtually everyone has worked on teams before, so it there were a lot of characteristics offered by the team:

innovative                                                           creative

cooperative                                                        functional

communicative                                                 unified

purposeful                                                          goal-oriented

flexible                                                                 kind

sharing                                                                 respectful

generous                                                             tolerant

empathetic                                                         open-minded

responsive                                                          understaning

thoughtful                                                          energetic

humorous                                                           accountable

cheerful                                                               fun-loving

honest                                                                  diverse


We ran out of time before we could add, “verbose” and  “mathematically inaccurate” .   Given the task of choosing the top three from our list of 21, we chose cooperative, communicative, and flexible.

The last step in the team-building exercise was to identify our goals.  Each of us submitted three personal goals we had for the week.  It was interesting to see the common themes:

·         to share/serve/be with family,

·         to learn (mostly about the Blackfeet),

·         to see Montana/Indians/mountains/,

·         to be of service

as well as the individual goals:

·         open my awareness

·         get out of my rut

·         return blessings

I think in the end, we all resonated with all of the goals – showing our first major step as a team.
For our final meeting topic, Michelle went over our opportunities for evening entertainment after our work was done.  Almost all of these afforded us the opportunity to learn more about our hosts, the Blackfeet, including attending a sweat lodge, horseback riding on a ranch, attending a rodeo or a pow wow, and visiting the museum and Tipi village art gallery.  So many great opportunities, and so little time!
Just before lunch, the final members of our team, Larissa and Tatum arrived from the airport.  It’s not all that easy to find the Head Start facility, so many of us fanned out to stand outside along the street as guides.  With their arrival, our team of 20 was complete!
After the meeting and a lunch of leftover lasagna and sandwiches, we piled into three vehicles and took off for an acclimation tour of the reservation, stopping to pick up Joe Jesseppe as tour guide for one of the vehicles.  This tour allowed us to get a sense of the size of the reservation, and where any one of us might be working over the course of the week.
It was a beautiful day, sunny, warm, and dry.  We took off north on the Duck Lake Road, driving across the prairie through terminal moraine, past cattle and horse herds towards the northeast corner of the reservation, then cut west and paralleled the US/Canadian border.  Michelle gave us a chance to stop and photograph Duck Lake, a campground used by the tribe.
Duck Lake, by Charlie
At this point, the land had changed from the rolling prairie to the foothills of the Rockies.  A little bit west from Duck Lake, we turned south, and traveled down the western end of the reservation to St. Mary.
Glacier National Park, by Charlie
Continuing south, we wound our way up through the mountains to a vantage point over Two Medicines lakes.
Two Medicine Lake, by Charlie
From there we headed back to Browning, where, what can only be called a feast, awaited us for dinner.  Chicken, acorn squash, potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, salad, fruit, fed the hungry travelers.  After supper, Bob Tailfeathers came to visit.  Bob is an instructor at the Blackfoot Community College.  He is a charming, gentle giant of a man who has been a great supporter of the GV teams, and he filled us in on the higher education programs for the Blackfeet, and life on the reservation, patiently answering questions for what must have been an hour, after which he showed us his beautiful artwork. It was a fitting end to an informative and full day.

Wednesday, August 7, 2012

After a quick shower in the pool locker room, found some eggs as an alternative to the traditional peanut butter and cheese. Added curry and shared. Another lively meeting.
Off to work – Colin needed help at the Head Start building on the BCC campus moving furniture so they could  - Rob, Colin, Daryl, and Charlie. Afterwards, I returned to the BCC library to finish moving the computer desks into place. Michele dropped by and said Ivan was desperate for help, so I headed over to the classroom building after the library work was done.

Ivan had 24 computer desks - each with at least one monitor, keyboard, mouse, UPS, and cables – jammed up against the wall and in the hallway. They needed arranging, cleaning – a fine patina of dust was on everything from the sanding and painting that was done over the summer. At noon, Ivan called lunch. I went over to Head Start, where Colin, Max, Emily, and Laura were still pulling weeds. We pulled together to get the job done at 12:30. Back to our Head Start home for lunch. Then Emily and I went back to the BCC classroom to clean desks. Wrapped up, headed back to our Head Start home. Found Paul, Rob, Daryl, Colin, and max working on the shed. Helped out until 4:50 when it was time to quit.

We drove out to Brother Ray’s in a caravan of four vehicles. After introductions were made, some of us headed to the stream to swim. Porter, Rob, and Charlie headed to the buffalo jump we had passed along the way. Exhibiting “how not to” judgment, we climbed to the top – one wearing flip-flops, one wearing Birkenstocks. A glorious view from the top. On the way back we passed through the boneyards – where untold thousands of buffalo were slaughtered. Outside of every gopher hole, there was a pile of soil with bone fragments.

Back to the mission just in time to get the last of the burgers, etc. Afterwards, we were treated to a history lesson by Marty, a retired teacher, who shared his many authentic Indian relics with us, like warrior headdresses.

-          Charlie Monroe

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Tuesday, workday 2, started for many with the usual outdoor stroll to the pool showers. If you time it just right, you get the added benefit of a glimpse of the sunrise. Much of the breakfast chatter focused on Monday night's sweat. When those who particiapted shared their experiences, most described it as a profound sense of connection, spirituality, and healing.
Morning meeting continued to be a special time - building community within our team, answering questions, and getting us started as one before scattering to our respective assignments. We heard the quote of the day and yesterday's journal. Then our social directors led a sprited discussion about our free time options for the week. This is a group that wants to see and do it all. We need more time for all of the wonderful choices - rodeo tryouts, sunset at Logan Pass, horseback riding, pow wow, Real People Herbal, Indian Cultural Museum, barbeque, etc. Michele, that was quite a demonstration you provided for how to get on a horse! After listening to the volunteer opportunities at each location and choosing our spots, we headed off to our assignments.

I like to think of what we are doing as "planting seeds." Some of our seeds are being planted in tangible, routine tasks, some in sharing and relationship-building, others in needed projects, creative writing, and enrichment for children. We seem to feel productive and energetic when we see the seeds harvested immediately. It is more frustrating when the harvest is not visually evident to us, our persepectives and assumptions are challenged, or our plans don't work out. Seeds are harvested in their own time and in their own way. When we plant our seeds with love, we give them to the universe and we trust that our creator/spirit will find a way to use and harvest them. In the end, it is simply about the unconditional gift we give.

As we gathered at the end of the afternoon, most people reported a satisfying day. Our journey then took us to Eagle Shield for dinner, where we met Connie, the director. We heard the story of the seeds she planted to create Eagle Shield. She welcomed us with words and poetry, and we enjoyed a delicious meal prepared by Maria. Beef stew, vegetarian rice, and root beer floats were well-received by all. Following dinner, team members went their separate ways, as there was no rodeo. A restful evening was most welcome after all of the busy moments we have had together.

- Pam Lamlein

Saturday, August 4, 2012

For many of us, the August 4-11 Global Volunteers adventure began at Great Falls Airport. Our team members arrived at various times from various locations, all wearing similar smiles. White t-shirts emblazoned with the GV logo helped us become immediately recognizable. The airport lobby was aglow with a sense of anticipation. Monroes and Schutts extended warm family welcomes to begin connecting our team. Michele arrived with her signature smile and bouncy step. Her first task was corralling us into the business room to iron out details for getting to the reservation.

Two teenage girls, two teenage boys, and their grandmother who had just finished their own GV trip were at the airport waiting for their plane’s departure. Michele encouraged them to speak to the newbies in the business room. The family happily shared stories about their own adventure, enticing us with tales about a sweat ceremony, horseback riding, and service projects. They also mentioned dogs, lots of stray dogs. As he was slipping out the door, Michael, a soft-spoken boy, said, “It’s going to be amazing. At the end you will definitely miss the place as much as I do right now.” Clearly, his GV experience had made an impact.

We and our gear piled into two vans to the Head Start Center in Browning. Pam had rented her own car for this adventure, and she would be driving by herself, so Laura volunteered to ride with her. Those who were in the Manpower van took a little detour to Walmart before heading north. After just a few minutes on Highway 15, the landscape opened up to reveal open plains and endless blue skies. Cattle and horses dotted the hills. Photo ops were abounded, but Michele was definitely on a mission. She obligingly stopped so we could snap two photos along the way. Everyone scrambled out to capture images of the site of Meriwether Lewis’ encounter with the Blackfeet, and the welcome sign to the reservation.

We pulled into the dusty parking lot of the Head Start Center, our home for the week. Michele gave us the grand tour, including our makeshift bedrooms, the meeting room, and our kitchen.  The giggles and whispers of the little people who learn and play here during the school year are almost audible. A few of us made a run to the grocery store across the street for dinner provisions. Lots of fruits and vegetables found their way into our carts.

Food is an amazing ice breaker. A sense of community started to build as we chopped and tossed salad and slathered butter and garlic on bread. There was a huge lasagna waiting for us, all cooked. After dinner, we made brief introductions around the table. By then it had become clear that the majority of us hail from the east coast. Ultimately, nine Monroes, five Schutts, and six other hardy souls will make up our team. We were eager to see our later arrivals, Rachel, Larisa, and Tatum. After dinner, Joe, who works at the high school preparing students for the college application process, generously shared a wealth of information with us to acquaint us with the Blackfeet culture. He is an incredible resource for those of us who are curious about the history, traditions, and current events of the tribe.

Joe told us that in the past, people were elected to the tribal council annually. There was a lot of leadership turnover, which inevitably led to confusion and inefficiencies. Elections are now held on a rotating basis. There is one group of four and one group of five that are elected every other year. In a recent election, all four tribal council members were replaced by new members. This has caused a level of unrest within the community, and has had an impact on the GV relationship with Head Start, as it is now under new leadership.

Joe talked a bit about the “pedigree” that Indians carry (yes, they like to be called Indians, and they refer to non-Indians as “white,” regardless of their race). In order to receive tribal benefits, one has to be at least ¼ Blackfeet. Joe also talked about the staggering unemployment rate in this community, somewhere between 70-80%. There are simply very few jobs to be had. He spoke about “Indian time” and numerous “holidays” that people take as being realities of tribal life.

 Michele drove a group of volunteers around Browning to begin understanding the lay of the land. We passed by  the high school that was built within the past 3 years, a couple of elementary schools, the library, Community College, elder center, hospital, museum, and art gallery. We stopped briefly at the hospital to take photos of the sculpture in the parking lot, and a little longer at the assisted living center. Inside, there is a tipi that set up in the common area. This is where the ever-resourceful Michele stored bunks and other gear last year for lack of another suitable storage area. While we were visiting, a resident named Eddie rolled out of his room in his wheelchair. He told us he didn’t really like living there. It is too quiet and he gets lonely. He shook our hands, and pointed out his several missing fingers. Of course this led to a story. He told us he lost his fingers as a result of being bitten by a recluse spider. Connie reminded us how prevalent diabetes is on the reservation. Though Michele was eager to have us return to the van, it was hard to tear ourselves away from Eddie.  He continued to seek our company, telling us of his goal to keep busy by preserving some Blackfeet traditions. He talked about a sculpture that he would like to photograph and document, and burial grounds that people did not know about.

By the time we got back to the Head Start Center, everyone was pretty wiped out from the day. We vowed to watch the orientation videos another time. We sorted ourselves out and shuffled off to our makeshift bedrooms.

- Laura Hunt