Friday, August 2, 2013

Recognizing special relationships

The day started as would any other. The billowing clouds packed the sky and the sound of rain dancing around us stifled our mixed emotions. The now normal routine laid itself out. Ryan got us going with his favorite quote, “Out of the night that covers me, Black as the pit from pole to pole, I thank whatever gods may be, for my unconquerable soul. In the fell clutch of circumstance I have not winced or cried aloud under the bludgeonings of chance my head is bloody, but unbowed. Beyond this place of wrath and tears looms but the horror of the shade and yet menace of the years finds, and shall find me unafraid. It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishment the scroll, I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.” To the library, Care Center, Eagle Shield, museum, and Sobriety Festival were where our team would reach out a hand.

I looked at the faces around me; they had been engrained in my brain as if for ages, although I had only first glanced upon them merely six days prior. Tom had talked a lot about fate, or g-ds plan for us, and somehow, somewhere I felt that some of the people surrounding me were meant to cross my path. That their faces were so familiar that fate, or whatever you want to call it, had been tying our strings together long before we even stepped foot in the same room.

With that in mind, I set out for the day. We all shot out of home base and went our separate ways. When it was time for lunch, we all recongregated on campus and as I was scrambling so get anything meaningful to write into this blog. The majority of our team had spent the day cutting veggies and preparing for the sobriety festival. One member told me he had spent all day peeling potatoes. I thought to myself; great, peeling potatoes makes for a great lesson, but then I was thinking about how Tom had told us that everything has life and meaning. The potato had a rough peel that needed to be stripped back to find what all that work was for. The earth was a mirror image of us. Underneath all of our standing parts, the trees, mountains, imperfections big or small, there was a fire beneath it all. The cores inside everyone were quickly stripped away in such a short time that the thought of having to leave all of these people was upsetting. Everything had finally come together and our little family of misfits was finally not just in my head, everyone recognized the special relationships, you know how it is.

Entry submitted by: Natalie Rachman - Highland Park, IL

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Opening up our minds and spirits

We awoke on Thursday to exhaustion and slightly sore bodies due to the previous night’s festivities at the ranch, horseback riding, and hiking. We went through our daily meeting as well as morning message, burning through more cups of coffee than any other day due to the late night.

We found out our assignments for the day, which included service at the museum, the Blackfeet community college library, the community center, and Eagle Shield. Our day was planned and filled with more bright experiences and helpful hands. Some volunteers were even able to educate the locals on techniques regarding test-taking strategies, as well as promoting better nutrition to children and really communicating with those around them. These opportunities allowed us to learn more about the culture by visiting the museum and actually having the ability to look around and experience it, as well as to work amongst others and learn more about their daily lives. Some Global Volunteers even made breakthroughs while talking to the natives, allowing them to have a deeper, more profound relationship with them.

Flying Frisbees, home cooked chili, freshly made fried bread straight from the pan, and native music captivated our senses as we ventured to the sobriety event that was being held in Browning. We soon learned that the entire state of Montana and even some Canadians were invited to this event which would last a total of four days. Global Volunteers were even judges at the local chili contest, eating their way to deciding a victor. Some even learned a game involving bones and sticks, which led to an exciting victory and Moroccan distractions. We also got lessons on tepee making from a local, Woodrow, along with how to detract the tepee poles as well as place the cloth and tie it up around the complete structure. 

To wind down the night, a surprise visit from Tom, who we had previously met at the Sundance, opened our eyes as well as our minds towards so many new ideas. He talked of the healing power and the ability for nature, specifically rocks, to communicate with humans. He discussed his own personal experiences with the natural medicine from the Earth that could cure what synthetic medicine could not, simply because of belief. He also explained the significance of tobacco in the culture and how it is used in prayer. This connected to Pauline, who produces herbal products, and who had explained the use of tobacco in choosing her plants. We soon found out that Tom had actually taught Pauline about nature speaking to her, and that one is not to look for something, but to wait for the plant to show itself.

Personally, I believe that the goals we had as a team listed at the beginning of the trip were met in just this one, single day. We spent our time helping while working at the different locations to provide our service. We had a super fun adventure while going to the sobriety event and testing out local cuisine. Lastly, we heard of the culture, specifically their interaction with nature and how that affects the spirit of an individual. This made us learn more about ourselves as individuals. Overall, it all comes down to what Tom says about belief. By engaging in belief, you can open your mind and spirit to this new and amazing culture, and by not doing so I believe you miss a lot.

Entry submitted by: Lauryn DiStaso - Berkeley Heights, New Jersey

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Chiseling away at fantastic projects

With social consciousness on the rise, I believe most people really do want to make some sort of change. I know I would. I know the team here would. The thing that I haven't fully calculated yet is, in a postmodern world, how much difference quantifies as enough?    

Well today I thought of just this as some of the team was helping build an addition to the community playground. One project we did was chiseling bark off a tree stump. As I was doing this, I laughed to myself as I noticed the metaphor at play. Allow me to explain. If you're not familiar, chiseling is a bit of a slow process. Yet even so, if you keep chipping away, tiny pieces of bark will finally release themselves from the skin of the trunk. Piece by piece. When finished, these naked logs will double as tables and chairs, which will eventually be a friendly perk to the park.  

What I'm getting at here, and no doubt taking forever to do so, is that the Global Volunteers' efforts abstractly mirror chisel motions that have taken place in the community. Especially today. Today there was a team delivering meals through the Meals on Wheels program. Others were hard at work at the greenhouse bush hogging and doing other ground work such as picking up trash. Meanwhile, teammates were at the Native American Museum getting even more familiar with the dynamic culture. To make preparations for an art exhibit, some Global Volunteers mounted decorative masks on walls. While they were at the museum, some friends were in the library continuing to help with the huge donation while others where at the Senior Center playing checkers. Both groups of Global Volunteers said they lost, but they claimed that it was only because their opponents cheated. (I'm not too sure who to believe here.) Many of the Global Volunteers were also taken on a tour of the hospital facilities. There they learned some interesting facts, like for example, that the pharmacy fills one thousand scripts each day. Finally, the team spent the evening at a lovely ranch riding horses, eating burgers, and sharing all sorts of laughs around a camp fire, which are memories I'm sure are not to be forgotten anytime soon.  

With all this in mind, I think it's safe to say that the Global Volunteers have had yet another great day. We've chiseled our way through some fantastic projects. I think what we're doing so far really speaks to the Blackfeet view of life. Tom, a Blackfoot Indian, said it best when he was explaining to me that we're all part of the universe. I have to admit this sort of logic made me feel quite small. However, even though small, not insignificant because we are all part of something bigger.  

So while a chisel stroke may seem insignificant, we should always remember two things: one, a gesture for change will always prove to be enough, and two, being open and respecting one's culture allows us to chip away at a better us and even a better world.  

Entry submitted by: Kristal Conklin - Middletown, NY

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Relationship building on Blackfeet Reservation

By Tuesday, our team had fallen into a comfortable morning routine of navigating the showers, having breakfast together, and assembling our brown-bag lunches of peanut butter and/or jelly sandwiches. After receiving our assignments in the morning, we headed off in several different directions.

Many in our group stayed at the Blackfeet Community College to work in the greenhouse and in the library. The Global Volunteers helping in the greenhouse learned about BCC’s use of alternative energy sources including windmills, solar panels, and diesel. The Global Volunteers in the library helped catalogue a book collection that included over 1,000 books on Native American Indian history and culture – including one on Clint Eastwood. 

Other members in our group served lunch to over 150 seniors through Eagle Shield and Meals on Wheels. Later in the afternoon, many members went to the Boys and Girls Club and enjoyed spending time with over 25 local kids between the ages of seven and thirteen and helped them make beaded necklaces and other things – often to give as gifts to their mothers or grandmothers.

Our day was spent at the Blackfeet Community Development Center. We went to help illustrate a series of 21 children’s books geared at financial literary. Several of our team members showed a flair for illustration and a knack for working with children, so they were great at this project. 

We also spent much of the day working on the children’s playground at the center. We learned this playground had been recently vandalized, and we were there to repair some of the damage and to install some new picnic tables. While we were working, several additional local volunteers arrived – all between the ages of four and nine. They taught them to stain the stools and picnic table. Hopefully, they left with a sense of accomplishment and that they helped improve their playground.

We ended the day with a trip to Pauline’s, who creates herbal lotions and teas using Blackfeet traditions taught to her by great aunt.

I am overwhelmed by the people I’ve met in Browning – both those on the Global Volunteer team and the local Blackfeet. Our team leader has emphasized that our trip is more about relationship building than about the projects we’re working on. Today I learned how true that is. I can’t believe it’s only Tuesday. 

Monday, July 29, 2013

The openness and willingness to share of the Blackfeet

In preparation for our first “work day”, one of our team members, Julie, started us off with an emotional message of the day. She shared with us the words of Chief Seattle: “How can you buy or sell the sky, the warmth of the land? The idea is strange to us. Every part of this earth is sacred. All things share the same breath - the beast, the tree, the man, the air shares its spirit with all life. The earth is our mother. Earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the earth. All things are bound together. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every clearing and humming insect is holy. We are part of the earth and it is part of us; the sap which courses through the trees, the perfumed flowers are our sisters, the deer, the horse, the great eagle, these are our brothers. The rocky crests, the juices in the meadows, the body heat of the pony, and man - all belong to the same family. The rivers are our brothers, they quench our thirst. They carry our canoes and feed our children. This shinning water that moves in the streams and rivers is not just water. The water’s murmur is the voice of my father’s father. The wind that gave our grandfather his first breath also receives his last sigh - all things are connected - man does not weave this web of life. He is merely a strand of it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.” 

To begin the day, a few members of our group went to help out with the Meals on Wheels program where two of the members served food to the nursing home residents while the other had the chance to drive around the Browning community and give food to the locals. He was accompanied by a very knowledgeable driver who shared interesting stories and facts about the history of the Blackfeet Indians. They were able to serve a total of 60 Blackfeet Indians around the community.  

The rest of the group made a trip to the place where the annual sun dance ceremony had taken place, a very spiritual event for the Blackfeet community. We met a local named Tom there who took the time to take us into the sun dance lodge and explain to us the traditions and customs that took place there over the previous four days and three nights.  Tom explained how the sun dancers and those who were piercing couldn’t have any food or water for the duration of the ceremony. He described the significance of the twelve trees that hold up the lodge, the center tree which connects to the creator, the flesh offerings, the eagle feathers, the sage, smudge, and many colorful cloth pieces tied around the lodge. Tom explained what each color stood for: white was for the creator, red for the thunder and rain, green for mother earth, dark blue for the mountains and water, light blue for the sky, yellow for the sun, orange for the moon, and purple for the buffalo.  While we were there, we helped take down some of the tents and dismantle one of the sun dance lodges to help the locals with the job of cleaning up after the four-day ceremony. It was a truly unique and awing experience that most of us will carry with us for a very long time. 

We were then introduced to the custom of sweats, which take place in a small igloo-like structure with a pit in the center where red hot rocks heat up the lodge to 150-degree temperatures. This custom, along with the sun dance, are ways in which the Blackfeet Indians directly send their prayers to the creator. We were able to help take the cool rocks from the sweat that took place the night before. We took them out of the pit and placed them on the fire in preparation for the sweat that would take place that coming night in which a few of our team members had the unique opportunity to participate in and experience firsthand. 

One of the most surprising and rewarding things about the Blackfeet is how open and willing they are to continuously share their culture and way of life as well as invite us to participate in many of their customs and ceremonies, making us feel welcome and allowing us to learn and experience a way of life very different from our own. 

Entry submitted by: Barbara Broderick - Canandaigua, New York

Sunday, July 28, 2013

A wonderfully exhausting day

Our first full day of being in Montana started off with breakfast and coffee as the group woke up and made it to the community room. The whole group sat around chatting and getting to know each other, coming and going as we got ready to start the day. In my opinion, it’s the best way to start our days as I really enjoy the morning conversation and getting to know everyone.

Our first project as a group was an exercise to determine what our individual goals were and what brought us to the Blackfeet Reservation. We had 20 people, each with three goals to share and we managed to all fit into four different categories: to experience the culture, to serve, to learn, and to have a super fun adventure along the way. We also discussed Linda’s experience in participating in a sweat. This is a very spiritual experience and quite an honor to be allowed in to. Bob Tailfeathers has asked that if other Global Volunteers were interested and if so we may have the opportunity to join in the experience as well.

We had a small break after our meeting and we got food and bags ready to go explore some of Glacier National Park. We made lots of stops and unfortunately they blur together as the day went by so quickly, luckily there are lots of pictures to document our travels. The main stops were Many Glacier and St. Mary Lake. Many Glacier had a rustic Swiss-style lodge right on Lake Sherburne with mountains in the background. We then made a short drive to St. Mary Lake, which is one of the most perfect and picturesque sites you could ever see. The water sparkled a blue green and a mountain rose up directly behind the lake. The park was absolutely amazing. The lakes, the mountains, and the colors just make me look in awe of how beautiful it is here.

We went straight from the park to dinner at the senior center where we had spaghetti and garlic bread with salad and watermelon for dessert. The tables were much more mixed than last night as the group was getting more comfortable with each other and coming together. Bob Tailfeathers joined us for dinner as well. After dinner we piled into the vans again to go back to the campus and meet with Bob. He talked more about the sweat and helping to clean up after the Sundance Festival, but the highlight was his artwork. He brought some of his quillwork jewelry and print from his drawings to share and sell if we were interested. His prints are amazing; I can’t say it any better than how others described it to me, that he truly captures the spirit of the animals.

It was another exhausting day, but completely worth it - full of memories not soon to be forgotten.

P.S. We saw a bear.

Entry submitted by: Mark Besley - Cortland, New York

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Arriving 20 strong at Blackfeet Reservation

We arrived! After long hours of flying and traveling from near and far, the group all met at the Great Falls airport in the early afternoon Saturday. We are 20 strong for this week at the Blackfeet Reservation. After some quick introductions and packing of the vans, we were off for our drive to the reservation. Joe, our community volunteer, provided lots of historical information dating back to Lewis and Clark and the exploration of the “Big Sky Country.” As we got closer to Browning, the Rocky Mountains emerged from the horizon and gave us our first glimpse of the beautiful scenery that would be our backdrop for the week. 

We had a brief tour of the community college grounds and we all found our lodging. Everyone unpacked and took a few minutes to decompress before loading back in the vans and heading to the senior center for dinner. Maria prepared a great dinner and we all enjoyed an opportunity to get to know each other a little bit better including why each of us has chosen to come to the Blackfeet Reservation. 

As a perfect conclusion to our inaugural day, Bob Tailfeathers met with the group. Bob informally talked about the sweat that will take place Monday night and what people could expect if they chose to participate. Bob gave his personal perspective on why this sweat was especially meaningful to him and his family. The highly spiritual experience takes place at 175 degrees and all of us were honored to have the invitation to participate.  Bob also talked about art and many of us were particularly interested to hear about how he is one of only four quill artists on the reservation. We look forward to seeing his art and jewelry on Monday when he joins us for dinner. 

What a perfect and exhausting day! I can’t wait to see what the week holds in store for us.   

Entry submitted by: Jennifer - Rochester, New York

Friday, June 28, 2013

A Bittersweet Day

We began our bittersweet day with our last team meeting, assessing goals and making plans for the day’s assignments.  The Florida contingent, Bonnie and Sunny gave each family a shell, noting the lines represent all points from which we came, meeting in one place, Browning, and the hope that one day all people will meet. Billy read from Matthew 25:    

Then the King will say, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you invited me in. I needed clothes and you clothed me. I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me…..

…I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

Reminded that our week was a reflection of the Creator, the group decided we will all pray for, or lift up the community when we awaken each Monday morning. Goodbyes were said to the Webster family. Nadine and Bonnie went to the Sr. Center and visited with elders. Sunny, Kelley, Ann Hackman and Molly went to the safe house for teary goodbyes with the children. In the afternoon, Nadine, Annalisa, and Bonnie went to the nursing home and played a very confusing game with some of the residents, who seemed to enjoy it. Rawah and her girls, Nadine and Leena, said goodbye to us and Joe drove them to Great Falls to catch an early flight home.
The surviving five, Ann Marett, Annalisa, Sunny, Kelley, and Bonnie drove the 12 miles to East Glacier for dinner at the Luna Diner, eating buffalo burgers and salmon sandwiches.  Sunny sampled the much touted huckleberry pie. On return to BCC campus, Annalisa’s mother and friend Andrew arrived and took her with them.
Our last night’s rest in Browning was punctuated, as usual, with fireworks from the community, a reminder of the approaching July 4th national celebration, a sobering reminder that even though we are very different from our Blackfeet brothers and sisters, we have much in common. - Bonnie

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Fun and Games on the Rez

Thursday, our warmest day yet, began with our routine team meeting and with Ann’s “hide and go seek” game to find a journal writer.  Several of the team fled the room or climbed under the table until Lily Webster (Billy) was forcibly pressed into service, her father knowing she would avoid putting pen to paper if possible.  Nadine offered inspiration from a Blackfeet Chief (If we don’t preserve our way of life, who will teach the children of our way?) and the group was off to their appointed  tasks.

Lily, Nadine and Bonnie went to the Eagle Shield Senior Center in the morning where they learned to make Indian fry bread.  They had learned to eat Indian fry bread the prior evening.  They served lunch to the seniors and socialized through lunch when they dispersed to other activities.
In the afternoon, Lilly, Bonnie, Nadine and Molly facilitated the last Girl Scout camp of the week, beginning with a fire drill and ending with the distribution of take-home jars with topics for family discussion

Lindsay spent the morning taking photographs of the residents at the Senior Center.  In the afternoon she hosted the first annual Camp Lindsay at the Boys and Girls Club.  Highlights were:  the Golf bag relay, the Cheeto shampoo and Bubble gum bingo.  Lindsay was assisted at camp by Liza, Vinnie and Will.
Sunny, now a permanent fixture at the children's safe house, was joined by Ann H, Molly and Kelley.  They were able to complete their nutritional menu revision which will be a great benefit to the community there.

Annalisa, Leena, Rawah, Vinnie, Will and Billy returned to the CDC to complete the playground restoration.  Annalisa was given the Indian name “She who paints a bunch” and Vinnie the name “Vinnie Paint on Clothes”.  The project was happily completed.  Darrell and Will completed fence installation.  As usual, Ann M was everywhere all the time.

We spent a memorable last evening at the Ranch owned and operated by Chuck and Carrie DeBoo, their son Chase (Indian name:  He who is 8 ½ but drives car) and their super cute puppy Chica.  Kelley, Ann, Lily, Vinnie, Liza, Molly and AnnaLisa rode horseback and earned their spurs for the week.  Dinner, campfire, evening sky and trampoline were most happy memories from a fabulous evening.  -Billy

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

More Cultural Experiences on the Blackfeet Reservation

Today Ann H, Molly, Kelley and Sunny continued to work with the children at the Nurturing Center.  They got a new little boy last night so now there are five girls and two boys all aged six and under.  Sunny spent time with Pat who does the cooking at the Safe House making possible menus and teaching about nutrition.  We all had a great session with the staff led by Ann H about their job stress, coping skills to use with the children and providing them with emotional support.  Tomorrow we will continue with the nutritional planning again.  Ann H also did a morning in-service on debriefing  at the Addictions program.

Molly, Lily, Nadine, and Bonnie as leader continued with the Girl Scout Camp.  Each girl got her own stuffed Zink the Spotted Zebra.  Today they wrote a story about their zebra.  The girls are learning strategies. 
Another group including Annalisa, Lily, Rawah, Nadine and Leena  among others did a lot of painting at the Museum of the Plains Indians. Manpower provided matched labor.
At the CDC a team headed by Billy with Will and Rawah worked with Darrell Wippert and built and painted a spectacular caterpillar which was made of old tires.  The team dug their holes without benefit of a back hoe.
At the Boys and Girls Club Lindsay headed a group including Vinnie, Liza and Will which ran a Carnival Day and invented other games and activities.
We had an "authentic" Indian dinner tonight of Indian tacos with fry bread and blueberry soup.  Our guest speaker was Sandra Watts who was raised in Oregon and graduated  from the University of Oregon Law School.  She had incredible stories to tell about the Freedom Riders in Mississippi during the early Civil Rights Movement.  She is now married to a Blackfeet Indian and is the tribe’s legal council. - Sunny

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Beautiful People in Beautiful Country

We started the day with our team meeting (Message from the sweat via Billy: “No religion’s prayer is stronger than another”).  Molly, Lily, Nadine and Bonnie had a successful first day with the girl scouts.  Sunny, Ann H. and Kelley had a long but rewarding day at the safe house where the evidence of their days’ work could be seen on Kelley’s shirt long after they left.  Will and Billy spent the morning working with Darrell at the CDC playground.  I (Annalisa) worked with Leena, Liza and Vinnie on other work areas of the playground.  Vinnie also met the future member of their family group, Mrs. Cuddles.  Lily, Nadine and Rawah helped at Eagle Shield and Rawah also did a meal delivery (Rawah said this was a good experience but warns future volunteers to beware of dogs). 

Lindsay spent time at the Senior Center as well as at the Boys and Girls Club where she is very well-liked..  These are only a few of the day’s activities as it was a very hectic and productive day with Global Volunteers going to different projects at different times. 
Lindsay has outdone herself as free-time coordinator and we had an awesome night of activities.  At 4 PM we went to the Plains Indians Museum and listened to a brief history of the museum from Mr. David Dragonfly,  director of the  museum.  After the history lesson, we watched an informational video before we wandered through the various displays . Our next activity was going to the art gallery/heritage center where we browsed not only displays, but also the jewelry.  Many of us bought some beautifully handcrafted art and jewelry.  We were also extremely lucky to have the heritage center open after hours for our group (thanks to Lindsay who asked just for us!).   Next we headed to see Real People Herbals, owned by Pauline Matt.  Pauline told us how her business was started and the process she goes through when picking plants.  Everyone wanted to buy the Northwind chap stick (or maybe just me).  We all bought souvenirs for loved ones.  During our ride to Pauline’s we had seen a rodeo that a few of the younger volunteers decided to go back to watch.  As we were enjoying the events we saw our new friend Ryder!  After a long and exciting day I’m sure we will all sleep well! - Annalisa

Monday, June 24, 2013

An Eventful Day

First thing this morning, we heard from those in the community that want our help this week.  Ginny Weeks from the library told us about some of the culture here.  We also met Elva Dorsey from the CDC who does many things for Browning.  Primarily she deals with economic development, but she also helps the kids here to stay involved in positive and healthy activities.  Sean Potts was here from Manpower to let us know about when he could need our help this week.  Finally we heard from Dee Hoyt who is director of fitness and runs health and wellness here on the campus and also directs projects for social problems like meth addiction and other  “touchy” subjects, as she said.
After this everyone decided what their  projects were for the day and got started.  Bonnie, Nadine, Lily and I (Molly) went to the elementary school and trained to be girl scout counselors for most of the week.  We are excited to meet all of the girls tomorrow.

Leena, Annalisa, Rawah and Kelley spent their day at the senior center visiting the elders.  They entertained them with games and heard interesting stories.
Lindsay, Vinnie and Liza went to the Boys and Girls Club to see if help was needed and ended up playing with about 30 kids for the day.

Billy and Will went to the pool to help but there were already enough volunteers, so they picked up trash around BCC because that is what Smokey asked them to do.
Ann H. and Sunny spent the majority of their day at the Nurturing Center, where there are children everywhere from toddlers to 6-7 year olds.  The children were at risk and now they are in the safe house so they can be cared for as best they can.

Ann H. was also at the culturally-based addictions treatment program to see how she can be helpful in the days to come.
Ann M. and Joe kindly got everyone to and from where they needed to be today.

Once everyone was back from their jobs, many of us went to a traditional Blackfeet  sweat where we were immersed  in the culture, and experienced a spiritual tradition that we would probably not have ever known.  It was an amazing experience and we were welcomed with open arms.

The first day of the projecgram is over, but luckily there are many more to come! - Molly

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Getting Settled on the Reservation

Today was our first full day in Montana.  We got a lot done and most of the planning out of the way.  We met for about six hours after breakfast and talked about who was in charge of certain jobs, the goals we want to achieve and the guidelines for our trip.  We named Kelley as kitchen coordinator, Sunny as our safety coordinator, Lindsay as activity planner and Ann Hackman to type the journal.  Our Goals were to “experience and learn about a different culture”, “to serve as a family” and , like Vinnie said, “to have fun.”

After packing lunch we hit the road.  We went for a tour of the reservation and stopped at a nice lodge to have lunch. There was an amazing view but unfortunately it was so cold we had to take it in from the inside.  After a nice lunch we went home right at the same time Bob Tailfeathers, the director of student activities here at the college, arrived.  We got a nice talk from him which was about the history of the school.  After his talk he showed us his art and lots of us bought some.  Overall it was a nice and easy first day and now we are all ready for tomorrow’s adventures.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Team 97 Begins Work on the Reservation

Asst. Team Leader Joe Jessepe describes landscape features.

Heading North from Great Falls Airport, we see the Rockies in the distance.  Looking forward to big things and we are seeing new things.  Miles of wheat and barley.  Expecting new friendships, new experiences.  Big sky overhead – open space.  Staying open minded to new ideas and different attitudes.

Met Assistant Team Leader “Professor” Joe Jeseppe – a wealth of knowledge about plate tectonics, farming practices, tribal attitudes and Global Volunteers history.  Leader Ann Marett, a whirlwind of competency – long-time volunteer around the world.
Beautiful, cheerful enthusiastic people join us at BCC.  Annalisa DeLaGarza, 3rd year pharmacy student from W.VA.,  Kelley Sullivan RN runs respite center.  Rawah Hassan from Sudan via Canada and Dallas and daughters Nadine and Leena.  Beautiful family Billy and Lindsay Webster – great kids Will, Lily, Liza and Vinnie – all outgoing.  Molly Cantrell college student and Mom Ann Hackman, psychiatrist,  Sunny Conn, RN and Bonnie Ogle natural history teacher and children’s writer.  Also met Darrell Wippert  of the Blackfeet tribe, talented artist, very interesting.  Lots of new faces with interesting stories.  Looking forward to an interesting week.
From far and wide we will abide friends.  - Bonnie

Friday, June 21, 2013

As the Week Winds Down

On Thursday, we awakened to huge gusts of wind, threatening grey skies, and periodic rain, but we didn’t let that get in the way of what we knew would be our long but exciting day. We fortified ourselves with a great breakfast before heading out  in various directions.
Charlotte, our rocket expert, again worked with the budding young scientists as they completed their summer camp, topped off with a celebratory dinner. Bunny, Gale, and Kathy met with staff from a drug and alcohol treatment center and shared the challenges they face as health professionals in dealing with individuals struggling with drug and alcohol abuse. Martha, our multitasking Global Volunteer vet, helped out in the morning at the injury and fire prevention fair, and then departed for the CDC to continue her illustrations for the children’s book. Finally, Anne and Darrell transported the last eager group to the Blackfeet Community Hospital. There we prepared large pans of macaroni, pickle, and egg salad, set up exhibit and buffet tables, and hung balloons and signs. Despite the on and off rain, we served hotdogs, hamburgers, salad, chips, and fruit to well over 350 hospital staff members and community residents. We made new friends with members of the country western band, the zumba instructor, and the hospital maintenance workers volunteering their time to bar-b-que. Diane and Ali carried out their second food prep of the day at the Eagle Shield Center.

The Community Hospital crew rounded out the afternoon with a fun stop at the Plains Indian Museum, where we expanded our knowledge of the Sun Dance celebration, talked with a local artist, and viewed a short film with highlights of the Blackfeet’s history.

As the sun peaked through, we returned home to BCC, greeted with the aroma of our wonderful evening meal. We had no idea one week ago, what awaited us.  As we approach our final days we can’t help but think that our experiences with the Blackfeet people and each other have been as vast as the big blue, grey, or star-filled Montana skies.
- Margaret and Kathy

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Sun Dance and Sweat Lodges

Our morning meeting was brief today. We read the journal and the message of the day before being shipped off to our work sites. Three of us went to the Traditional Games Institute. I spent the time tying rocks onto sticks to create allatls. At least I tried to do that. I’m afraid the rocks are more held on by tacky glue. Posters were made, hoops were repaired, and then it was time to leave.

The rest of the group helped set up the sun dance lodge. Some people were tasked with chopping wood. There exists video evidence of Maria’s ax wielding efforts. It is safe to say she gave it her all. Before the logs had been moved, turned into sticks with a few (well, maybe more than a few) swings of the ax, the crew received a history lesson from one of the locals also working on the lodge. 

Joe put the experience in perspective by reminding us that not many people, even American Indians, get the opportunity to take part in the things we have. It wasn’t even his turn for the message of the day.

Horseback riding was rained out and rescheduled. So too was one woman’s potential fundraising cookout, and she became our cook for the night. The rain came down hard for most of the evening, the perfect backdrop to a few hours of card games. Fortunately the Casino in indoors. I spent my second night having the cultural experience of socializing and slowly losing my money.

June 18 on the Blackfeet Reservation

We started another sun-filled day with our team meeting led by Ann. Our journal entry was read by Diane M. with our message of the day from Kathy M.  Gale continued with her Blackfoot Indian History presentation after quizzing us on her previous presentation. And surprisingly, we all passed.

Bunny was glowing this morning, but we’re not sure if it was from doing 4 rounds in the sweat lodge the previous evening or the standing ovation the whole team gave her. She followed in the footsteps of our younger team members, Martha and Kyle, who endured another week of the sweat experience. Bunny said she couldn’t have done it without their support and encouragement. Diane, Kyle, Margaret, and Maria were taken by Craig to scrape bark from trees in the process of making tipi poles. And they finished five! As a bonus, they returned with blackened fingernails and the appreciation of the skill needed to create a smooth tipi pole. And a highlight, they saw a beaver!

Ali, Diane, and Gale hiked 3 ½ miles through a part of Glacier National Park with the Middle School students. A great hike, spectacular surrounding and a surprise meeting with a brown bear, not once but twice. Luckily for them, they were totally safe behind Diane, our resident bear expert, getting an “A” in her Alaskan bear awareness course.

Charlotte continued Day 2 of service at the Science-Math summer camp with more success today – the hot air balloons went even higher.

Bunny and Kathy C. returned to the International Traditional Games Institute with Martha and Kathy M.  Bunny finished sewing bags and stuffing them with tobacco as prizes for guest lecturers at next week’s organization games. Kathy C., Kathy M., and Martha worked on game sticks for the upcoming event and cleaning and painting signs. Their work was greatly appreciated by Deanna and Craig.

We returned to the college for a delicious dinner prepared by Charlotte, Kyle, Martha, and Ali, which we enjoyed together while sharing our experiences of the day. Later in the evening, Martha instructed many in the art of belly dancing. We all learned the technique is in the obliques!!
Another great day, made possible by our team leader, Ann, whose tireless support made all this possible.

Monday, June 17, 2013

First Day of Work....So Much to Do!

Woke up to more beautiful sunshine and started the day with various breakfast options, coffee and tea.We had a quick team meeting where we added “dogs” to the safety/security list – they seem to have the run of the town.

Just prior to the Community Meeting, Ginny Weeks from the library told us the story of the Bear River Massacre, which is depicted on the buffalo hide hanging on the walls of our meeting room.

That got me thinking to how many stories I had heard in the two days since we arrived – it is a culture of story telling, and everyone has time to stop and share their stories – to the point where 75 people turned up to hear the story of the Bear River Massacre at the library when the hide was being presented after being stored away for some time.  We learned from Darrell that some found the story “healing”, but it also “opened the eyes” of some of the younger generation to a raw part of their history.  But the stories persist for others to learn and to teach. 

We then had the community meeting where 6 were present to introduce themselves, their   positions and their volunteer needs: Ginny from the BCC library, Smokey from BCC facilities, Bob regarding the teen camp, Elva from the Children’s Center, Sean Pitts from Manpower, and Craig Falcon from the International Traditional Games Society. 

As you can imagine with our diverse but flexible team, everyone found projects to interest themselves and so, many roles were filled. 

Inquiring minds learned the following:
Charlotte assisted Dr. Thomas, a Navaho, and a chemical engineer from NASA who were together running a one week camp for middleschoolers. There were 12 kids from 6-8 grade, with 5 girls that Charlotte helped supervise. Other counselors were college age, some from the University of Montana. The kids made hot air balloons out of tissue paper, and they plan to set them free tomorrow.  They also made rockets out of paper card stock and had a competition all afternoon. If you need proof – one rocket is on the roof of the Higher Learning building down by the gym.  Ask Charlotte about lunch at the “Gas Pump”. 

Kathy M, Diane and Ali went to the Eagle Shield Senior Center, where they trayed lunches for community elders. Lunch was available free to those that were seniors in the community, and for a nominal fee for others.  They got their food, sat and ate and talked. Ali played “receptionist” while lunch was being served. In the afternoon, they all headed to the BF Care Center, where they met with the activity coordinator, to determine what they could do to help out. Ali played blackjack with some elders, while Diane spoke with 80 year old Barbara and painted her nails the “brightest color in the box”. 

Kathy was put to work  as Mother Nature’s helper – working on plants that had been left out in the cold, attempting to bring them back to life so the elders have them healthy and lively through the summer and beyond – long after Team 96 is done.

Kyle had a FUN DAY constructing bunk beds, step ladders and hunting others to fulfill his free time coordinator role. Thanks Kyle! And Martha let her creative juices continue to flow, finishing up her illustrations for the children’s book she started on Team 95. Kyle and Martha are going OUTSIDE tomorrow…..if they have the energy post sweat.

And finally, after a short 15 minute drive out to East Glacier, the 6 of us: Maria, Diane, Margaret, Kathy, Bunny and Gale, drove down a small and very bumpy road to two amazing houses in the woods.  The bigger house was  cedar cabin neighboring a garden which houses not only beautiful pieces of art but most of all Deanna Leader, the creator of the International Games project. On the other side of the garden was a smaller house, which held all of the games and the major office. The day started with mostly cleaning: sweeping the floor, organizing boxes, and shaking out old rugs. As the day went on there was serious improvement in both the paperwork and the organization of the games. Mainly consisting of rocks, sticks, and the occasional hacky sack, it was interesting to see the variety of games these simple items created. While Gale filled balloons with the exact same amount of sand, Bunny mastered the old sewing machine.

At around 3 we had a break during which Deanna gave us a tour of her house along with her life story. We sat on the screen porch and heard about her husband, children, and this project that has grown so much over time. After the break, Gale and Bunny headed off with Craig to accompany our fellow volunteers to the sweat, while we returned to the office. We constructed kick balls out of hacky sacks, braided yarn, and attached to the previously filled sand balloons. After we were done, we met up with Deanna to head back to the BCC, on the way stopping to pick up her grandson and his friend who had an interest in going to the sweat.

When we arrived at the BCC, we met Diane, Ali, and Charlotte along with Ann. We traveled to The Hut to eat our dinner, the choices ranging from frybread burgers to Indian tacos to Nachos. Our conversation covered what everyone had done throughout the day and so much more. We once again returned to the BCC to shower, make some root beer floats and play cards. Overall, despite the hectic-ness of the beginning of the day, I feel we accomplished a lot in ways that interested us individually.
- Maria and Diane

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Day Two - Getting to Know Each Other

Global Volunteers Host Bob Tailfeathers in Traditional Regalia.
The day started with a great team breakfast. I know it was good because both the coffee and tea were refilled regularly, the sign of a good team. From there we all wandered into our meeting classroom for Orientation 101. It lasted the requisite amount of time.

It turns out the team has some very similar goals, and they are all much better than mine. Even those of us who claimed they were being selfish (Gale) had very giving, community minded goals. The three categories our goals fell into: learning about Blackfeet culture, serving with respect, and sharing our experience with other. Fortunately the group is so giving and community minded that under those three headings we even found room for occasional fun-having. It was especially fortunate that we did, because the rest of the day seemed to me to qualify as fun (despite also being culturally enlightening).
We took a reservation tour in two vans. In Ann’s van, we had breathtaking sights and good conversation. In Joe’s van, we had breathtaking sights and a better tour guide than any park ranger could hope to be (Thanks Joe!). And the rolling green hills of Montana will provide the perfect backdrop for our service projects. We returned in time for a delicious pile of lasagna at Eagle Shield, and then headed back to the BCC to meet Bob Tailfeathers. We heard his story, saw his art, smelled his art, and bought his art.

The night culminated with some card games and conversation. All in all I’d say we did a fine job learning some culture, getting to know one another and maybe, accidentally having fun long the way.
- Kyle

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Another Week Begins in Browning

After helping team 95 pack their luggage into the vans, we were off to the airport. It seemed as soon as we had finished giving hugs and saying goodbyes, members from the next team began to arrive. It was exciting to meet all of the new team members. After everyone had gotten their luggage (those whose luggage had not been lost, that is), we headed to the van and began our drive back to Browning. The drive to Browning was scenic to say the least. The sky was clear, so we had a perfect view of the mountains in the distance. Once we got to Blackfeet Community College, we had a quick tour and got ready to go to dinner. Dinner was wonderful, consisting good food and conversation.
Today was the perfect start to this week. I look forward to learning more about my fellow team mates in the days to come.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Cultural Experiences on a Blackfeet Volunteer Vacation

The day began as usual – early birds up and at ‘em paving the way for the rest of us not-so-early-birds by making coffee and setting out breakfast foods.  We each pack a lunch, and as the hour of 8am drew nearer, our community meeting would take place…in Indian time.  Only in our group -  it’s not the Indians that are tardy…( ;

Unlike yesterday, we have all had assignments, and a chance to get our feet wet a bit with a volunteer project.  So this morning we all gather to refine those assignments a bit more – some projects need more assistance, and others perhaps not the right timing due to weather or other circumstances.  This all makes perfect sense as we are the first Global Volunteer group to be at the Blackfeet Reservation this year.  So we adjust, and flex and figure things out as we go – and it all works.

Some of us are working on projects that will take place later on in the week as we also do volunteer assignments during the day.  Those of us who are not able to do a volunteer assignment, due to weather, are quickly grabbed up by others as we round out our needs with various assignments.

Today, the bookstore is open following inventory on Monday, and many of us have looked at the wonderful selection of children’s books that describe Blackfeet culture, as well as a robust selection of Blackfeet culture and history.  A selection of Bob Tailfeather’s earrings is also available at the bookstore and his quill art is tough to resist!

Today is not a day to stain fences, nor cut grass as it is windy, a bit cold and drizzly.  That does not matter – we simply adjust and share our skills in different ways and in different places.
I am fortunate to be with a group that will work with Girl Scouts at the middle school today, to cultivate interest in science and a bit of math through a “CSI” exercise.  It is great fun to be with such energized young people and to be able to contribute a bit to their summer enrichment.
Others are interacting in the community and having substantive conversations designed to gather information, learn and then develop ways to launch additional projects to contribute in meaningful ways.  These conversations are critically important as they inform future volunteer projects designed by those we are privileged to serve.
Some of our team participated in a sweat lodge ceremony and had an incredibly rich and unforgettable experience with our Blackfeet hosts.  There are no words to adequately describe the depth and impact of their spiritual  experience.

People are working at Eagle Shield with residents, in food service, helping to assist administration, visiting with elders at the Blackfeet Care Center, and in a multitude of other ways.  Clearly the culture of Global Volunteers resonates as we are able to support each other and give to others.  What a wonderful gift  - to be able to give in our unique ways to our Blackfeet sisters and brothers.

Respectfully Submitted – Alison Brown

Monday, June 10, 2013

First Day of Work Brings Anticipation, Excitement

This was the day of great anticipation: the day we would learn about our work assignments!

Our Community Partner Meeting began with a warm welcome and thanks from BCC President Dr. Billie Jo Kipp and Vice President Dorothy Still Smoking. Several representatives from an assortment of community organizations then indicated the particular needs they had and ways we might help.

After each volunteer shared his or her specific skills that they could offer in service to the community, we tried to match those skills to the most immediate tasks at hand, and the first day’s assignments were made.

One group drove out- of-town to disassemble a previously used sweat lodge because a new one is built for each occasion. Lily was surprised to find that the lodge is not as tall as she is. Five team members also participated in the sweat lodge ceremonies this evening, and we are eager to hear about their experiences.

Another group went to the middle school for training as project leaders in the Girl Scout Summer Camp. Based on the CSI program, the scouts and volunteers will have fun using investigative techniques like blood-typing and fingerprinting to “solve a crime.” And Helen expects the number of Girl Scouts to increase when they discover our youngest volunteer is helping out.

Other volunteers assisted at the BCC Library and the Community Development Center and served lunch at Eagle Shield Retirement Home. Betty had a ball playing Bingo and other games and listening to the stories of residents at the Care Center.

The best part of my day was when I worked alongside Maria – and Colin – in the kitchen tonight. We shared stories about our families, and Maria happily explained about pow-wows and the various Blackfeet ceremonial costumes on the dolls in the dining room display. I felt like I was learning about a new friend as we worked together … and that’s one big reason I came to Browning.
- Geri

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Orientation Day on the Rez

The morning started with "the shower experience."  I visited the men's shower at ten minute intervals throughout the morning to check if the water Had reached a reasonable temperature for use, finally I cracked the case and found out that the handle had to be pointed at cold in order to be hot.

In the morning, I was able to talk to some of the other volunteers over breakfast.  While we were eating, Darryl Wippert, one of our connections in the community, joined us.  He spent a few hours talking to us about his life, where he had gone, and his art work.  He was a very talented artist and I feel lucky to have seen his artwork.

Next we had our first team meeting.  This meeting encompassed the preliminary team orientation and introduction to the Blackfeet program.  We played the beloved name game and miraculously no one was forgotten.  After creating descriptions of an effective team we realized that we were striving to be communicative, hard-working, patient, kind, understanding, flexible, effective, fun-loving, and later Betty reminded us the importance of Punctuality.  

After the meeting, we got our lunches from the kitchen and went to the vans to go on a tour of the reservation.  We broke up into two different groups one for each van.  We drove along the western edge of the reservation stopping to take photos of terminal moraines, mountains, and lakes as we went along.  The landscape was absolutely beautiful.  The atmosphere inside the van was enthusiastic, stories were told about the land features and songs were sung.

While driving on the reservation side, we saw sights of chief mountain, the Hudson divide, duck lake, St. Mary lake and several other beautiful sights.  We had the privilege of having a world class, "should-have-worked-for-the-discovery-channel-grade" tour guide -- otherwise known as Joe.  Joe explained all about the geological processes that lead to the development of the mountains, the glacial movements and the seemingly endless supply of beaver dams.  We also stopped in St. Mary and East Glacier to walk around, enjoy a beer with the staff and explore a hundred-year-old lodge along the way. 

Once we got back, we had a wonderful dinner at Eagle Shield Center.

Then we finished up our meeting with more talk about stuff.  Finally we wrote this journal to document our day.
- Martha and Andrew

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Volunteer Vacation Begins on the Blackfeet Reservation

Today is my first day of a week-long service program with Global Volunteers. When I arrive at Great Falls Airport, I quickly meet Mimi, a fellow volunteer from Rhode Island. Soon enough, our team leader, Michele, arrives and introduces us to Kyle, a college student from Pennsylvania. Over the next hour, other volunteers arrive in twos and threes, gathering together by the luggage pickup.

Michele, our ever enthusiastic team leader, ushers us towards the parking lot while excitedly detailing the fascinating histories of the sites surrounding us. At the doorway, we meet Joe, our extraordinarily knowledgeable liaison with Blackfeet Community College (BCC) and Global Volunteers' Assistant Team Leader. After splitting up into two vans, the drive to the BCC passes in the blink of an eye as our guides regale us with tales relating to the Blackfeet community.

Dinner is a lively affair, kicked off by a traditional Indian prayer. Following the native customs, the “elders” are served first, though only a few embrace their status as being older (and possibly wiser) than everyone else. At the conclusion of the delicious meal, we thank Maria for her hard work and retire for the night, determined to be well rested for the next day’s adventures.
- Kevin

Monday, April 15, 2013

New Service Partnership Begins on Crow Reservation!

Global Volunteers has been invited by Crow Tribal Chairman Darrin Old Coyote and the Tribal Council to begin sending teams to the Crow Reservation in South Central Montana beginning with two service programs on August 10-17 and August 17-24, 2013.

Crow Tribal Chairman Darrin Old Coyote
and Ross Whiteman, host contact.
Ross Whiteman, friend of Global Volunteers since he worked and lived on the Blackfeet Reservation, is responsible for introducing Global Volunteers to the Crow Tribe.  He and his wife, Roberta, a Blackfeet Indian, moved back to his home reservation, just 60 miles north of the Crow Reservation, in 2008.

"We have a great deal of work to do here in "Crow Country," Ross said, "and I know Global Volunteers' reputation for respecting cultural norms and providing excellent assistance to local people.  It was a pleasure to present them to our leadership."

The first two teams will be based in the multi-purpose building in Crow Agency, the tribe's government center, and begin work on the Black Canyon recreational buildings.  The facilities will be restored for their original use as a youth summer camp.  Additional work projects may include tutoring summer school students and stimulating elders at the tribal care center.

Plumbers, carpenters, roofers, painters, and trades professionals of all kinds, in addition to generally "handy" people will be especially helpful on these early programs.  Additionally, volunteers in good physical condition can help clear brush and landscape the grounds - and clean and prepare the buildings for rehabilitation.  Local adult and youth volunteers will work with team members to provide direction and assistance.

"Virtually all healthy volunteers of all ages and backgrounds can be helpful," said Ross, stressing that living conditions at the multi-purpose building and Black Canyon camp are rustic, so team members must be physically -- and mentally -- flexible and fit.
The Crow Tribe lives on Montana's largest reservation, which features picturesque landscapes of mountains, canyons, rivers and grazing land less than 200 miles east of Yellowstone National Park.  Black Canyon (Named Bighorn Canyon by the National Park Service), carved by the Bighorn River down 2,000 to bedrock in some areas, features some of the most pristine waters and greatest fly fishing in the Rocky Mountains.

The Crow Tribe is called "Apsáalooke" in the Crow language, which means "children of the large-beaked bird."   Early white settlers misinterpreted the word as "Crow."  85% of the Crow people speak the native language.  The tribe has a membership of 11,000, of whom 7,900 reside on the reservation of 2.2 million acres.

The tribe's annual Crow Fair (native pow-wow) in August, called Baasaxpilue (to make much noise), it is the largest and most spectacular in the northern Plains. Volunteers on both service programs will take part in celebrating - and working with local people to set up and take down structures.
Please call 800-487-1074 to apply for one of the two Crow Reservation service programs in 2013.  Read more here on the Global Volunteers website.