Working on the Reservation

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

During the morning drive to town, the team admired unusually clear views wispy clouds shrouding majestic mountains partially covered with snow. After our orientation tours the previous day, the team members seemed eager to start working hard. Showcasing our flexibility, the team changed their plans when we discovered that the Tribal Center was closed due to the Flood Memorial and the nursing home staff was busy with administrative meetings. Team leader Michele dropped off the team at the Blackfeet Community College while she figured out how we could help with the Flood Memorial effort.

Initially, Don, Steve, Kevin and Rosa worked clearing a rock garden overrun with weeds. The small rocks and weeds needed to be removed before a lining could be put on to keep out future weeds. Larger rocks would then be added to form a rock garden to greet students and faculty as they drove into the campus parking lot.

Using shovels and rakes, the team exercised their muscles in the surprisingly sunny and calm weather. A maintenance worker named Bony told interesting stories such as his month long trip to Hawaii and his four children. He informed us about a Kids’ Rodeo that his son was participating that night.

Rosa was called up to work at the Head Start Center where a worker and her extended family were helping to prepare a meal for hundreds of attendees at the Flood Memorial. She found the workers very warm and friendly. Rosa said that she could not believe how many baked potatoes that she put aluminum foil around!

Kevin was called up to work at the care center. After visiting with several residents, he played checkers with Lester, who proved to be a formidable opponent. Lester could move any red or black checker in any direction. Whenever he captured a checker, he always had a friendly smile. Kevin talked with Joan, a former elementary school teacher and principal, who is a resident at the care center. She told many stories including how a relative was able to lasso a baby out of the water during the flood of June 8, 1946.

Meanwhile, Don and Steve were slaving away at the BCC. They had suggested to Bony to use the backhoe to break up the soil and shovel rocks into a mini-car that could dump its cargo. Bony decided to use the backhoe, but also enjoyed the more strenuous approach of shoveling by hand. He had many entertaining stories.

“Mama Bear,” aka Michele, gathered her “cubs” and took them to the Flood Memorial site, which was a field near the Indian Museum with a circular arena. The team cut watermelon, set up tables and trays of food, and assembled plates for 75 elders who were not able to attend. After a few speeches, a flag ceremony, a drum ceremony, a few speeches by flood survivors, and a few more speeches for good measure, the ceremony was over and about 400 people descended on the food tables. The Global Volunteers team worked frantically to keep up serving food while the line progressed. Afterwards, the team had a chance to eat some of the leftovers.

The team had a chance for a bonus volunteer activity to clean up the pots, pans and serving utensils and tour the Head Start Building.

Finally, the team members decided to go to the kids’ rodeo in the rodeo grounds next to the Indian Museum. A few children rode horses bareback during the warm-ups. Young equestrians guided their horses to gallop down, steer through a set of poles twice, and gallop back. Very young children competed as “sheep riders”: trying to stay on a sheep, often with the assistant of a father running along for support. Most riders only stayed on for a few feet, but one rider nearly followed the sheep out of the ring. In all cases, the audience cheered on the young cowboy-Indians.

The team returned to the boarding dorm after a hard day’s work. It was a great day and we expect the week to continue to be great.

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