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
  • humble

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. 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. Continuing south, we wound our way up through the mountains to a vantage point over Two Medicines lakes.

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.

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