Monday, June 07, 2010

Our Montana Journey

Monday, June 7

Thought for the Day: From Tom Crawford, local elder: “Think of others before you think of yourself.”

Monday…our team’s first official work day after a weekend of orientation and settling into our comfortable lodging was both busy and exciting. We got an early start and after eating breakfast, we headed into Browning while threatening storm clouds gathered in the distance.

At the Blackfeet Community College (BCC), we were greeted by Connie Bremner, Eagle Shield Center Director, who described their services and residents. Eagle Sheield is one of the main wor projects sites for Global Volunteers teams.

Angela Johnson, BCC director of student services, and Jolene Kennedy, dean of Academic Affairs, told us about the BCC mission and courses. Smokey, the plant manager, discussed some of the maintenance work we’ll be doing this week on site.

Angela led us on a tour of the campus. Personally, as a college student myself, it was interesting to see the similarities between the BCC and my own campus.

We met with Nikki, director of the Blackfeet Academy, an alternative high school program on the BCC campus. She was eager to tell us about her students, especially about those involved in a service club that traveled to the Dominican Republic to assist with earthquake clean up. We met one of these students, Ronnie, a recent graduate, whose optimism and determination were quite inspiring. Some of the students will be assigned to work with Global Volunteers throughout the summer to earn community service credit.

After lunch, Michele and Steve finally had time to go to the “infamous shed” to find additional team supplies while Don, Kevin and I helped Smokey pick up trash in a section of the campus behind the Exxon Station. Despite the relentless wind, we picked up as many plastic bags, wood planks and soda cans as our garbage bags could hold. This appears to be a covert dumping ground for cast-off rfefuse, and Smokey works hard to keep the area cleaned up.

As we worked, Smokey told us stories about hunting moose and living at the Boarding Dorm. Ronnie arrived to work with us, and talked about his plans to attend BCC in the fall and to eventually become a lawyer.

Although the dark clouds overhead seemed ready to burst, it didn’t rain. When Michele and Steve returned in the Global Volunteers van, we drove back to the dorm for dinner.

We were invited to a traditional Indian “sweat” that evening in Heart Butte, so, towels in hand, we departed in Steve’s car and drove on a scenic route through the plains, with snowy mountains always in the distance.

As non-Indians, it was a privilege for us to attend the sweat, which is a kind of weekly “church” for local residents. While the plastic-covered dome seemed small on the outside, it fit many inside. Steve, Kevin, Michele and I braved the heat to attend the fascinating ceremony of prayer and song. We were so lucky to have experienced such an important tradition in Blackfeet culture, and it’s something I’ll never forget. However, one round of sweating was enough for us, so we thanked our hosts and returned “home.” It’s amazing how much was packed into one day, and I can only guess what’s in store for our team in the next four days!