June 7 – Making Ourselves Home on the Rez in Montana

This is our second morning at the Christian Brothers Training Center, our temporary home due to an event at the school in Browning. Brothers Paul and Ray have been our hosts. The Brothers have have done things for us past common courtesy. The Center is located in the Two Medicine valley; it is on the same grounds of the Holy Family Mission Church.

(Being an occasional punster –encouraged by my wife’s groans — I quickly learned that one must be quite “careful” with one of the Brothers, who may be called the original “pun-gent”. He has an amazing store of puns, many of which I’ve never heard!)

I happen to be an early riser, but one of us, Mary, gets up even earlier. She returned after a walk while I was having breakfast, a bit after 6:00 a.m. The morning was partly cloudy, cool, and extremely pleasant, a combination of inner mood, the Montana landscape, and anticipation of the day ahead. We are moving into a new home for the remainder of the week, at the De La Salle Blackfeet School. We drove into Browning, left our luggage at the DLSBS, and then were given a tour by Michele (our leader) of the main sights in and near Browning. The tour ended at the Community College, where we were given a tour by Smokey Henrickson, the man in charge of maintaining the facilities.

Afterwards, we met in an upstairs conference room, where we were introduced to several key Blackfeet leaders, who will coordinate our work projects. We met Nikki Hannen from the Blackfeet Academy, Shirley Weatherwax from the Heavy Runner pool, and Shaunelle from the Blackfeet Care Center. They outlined several projects for the week. The team members then introduced themselves, briefly sketched their backgrounds (particularly in reference to the projects)and expressed their interest in one or more projects.

Among the projects are (1) helping scrape paint at the swimming pool, (2) helping out at the Care Center, (3) helping with computer-related projects, (4) cutting grass or otherwise helping maintain the grounds at the Community College, (5) helping out in the Learning Center in mathematics or computer-related questions, and others as they come up.

We adjourned for lunch at the DLSBS. I was hoping for a nap, but quickly realized that a critical project for the afternoon was planned — namely, putting together our beds for the remainder of the week. The beds were newly purchased and were in their packing boxes. Jeff and I found ourselves starting on the unpacking and assembly of the beds.

There were instructions and by following them we made only a few mistakes. Laura joined us and assembled the ladders to the top bunks. Soon others came along and with a real cooperative effort, we completed the assembly in 3.5 hours or so.

After that, supper, and a variety of individual activities. We’re all looking forward to our first day of work with the Blackfeet|adults, older adults,and kids. We hope to learn something of their culture, to help them out in some useful ways, and to come to know at least a few of them as individuals.

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