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January 8, 2014

A Trip to Medicine Bear and Beyond

by carrollministry

Today was another really eventful day. We began the day by getting up and arriving at De La Salle Blackfeet School at around 7:40 am. We had time to just hang out with the kids in the morning. It was amazing to just see how full of energy and excitement the kids were to be playing around with their friends before school.
Around 9:30 am we left the school and walked over to Medicine Bear. Medicine Bear is a soup kitchen type of home for the Street People. The Street People are not homeless, but rather are people that have a place to live but have been kicked out of it. These people are some of the happiest people that I have ever seen. From the moment that they entered into the Medicine Bear to the minute they left, they were smiling and laughing. They are a huge family that must stick together. While we were there, I really saw Christ in these people. Because of their joy and happiness about everything. Even though they are not the most well off, they are ok with it and are just trying to be the best that they can be.

Medicine Bear Kitchen, Browning MT

Medicine Bear Kitchen, Browning MT

There was one man that a few of us got to listen to talk for a long time. He was a decorated member of the marines. He was medically discharged because he was shot in the leg. He was one of the nicest gentlemen that I have talked to. The part that struck me most about the conversation that we had with him was when he talked about his drinking. We have all known about the drinking challenges here on the reservation, but to hear about it from a specific person was really amazing. The gentleman kept saying that he knew that it was bad for his health and bad for his personality; however, the reason he kept drinking was to make himself feel better about the person that he is. He does not use drinking to just get drunk but to feel better. Which he believes is different for many of the other drinkers in the community.
There was another man there that was also a retired member of the military. He said that the reason that he drinks is because when he is sober, he has dreams of the war and nightmares of things that happened. During our evening reflection, Cody said that the gentleman that a few of us listen to really gave a good reason for the drinking in the community and on the reservation. Many Indians enter the army and love serving the United States; however, it is hard for them to come back and be the same. This can be said for many of the soldiers that are not Indian or from the reservations.
Later that afternoon we had the pleasure of listening to a man named Harry Barnes. Harry lives in Browning and is a Blackfeet from his mother and Irish from his Dad. He was born in Spokane, WA. He has moved back and forth from off the reservation to on it for years. He now owns his own business in Browning. Because of this, he knows a lot about the economics of the Blackfeet reservation. This was a big eye opener for us. We had heard about the hardships that the people are having to go through, but to hear about it from a person who lives it each day was amazing. He talked about the different big economic advances for the reservation, from the horse to the coming of the whiskey traders. He also talked about the tribal government. Just like the United States government, the tribal government is unable to make decisions and are fighting and may possible shut down like ours did. Because of this, they are unable to pay certain people what they need to be paid. For Harry, his business does a lot of business with the government, but if they are not cooperating, then they can’t spend money and therefore he has lost business. This then effects how much he can pay his employees. Which then affects his employees’ way of life.
Today was a very important day in our immersion in Browning. We really got a glimpse into the life that we had only heard about. Being able to spend time with the Street People and then to listen to Harry really put into perspective the lives of the people here in Browning. During reflection that night we talked about what is that God is calling us to do. So, as we continue throughout this week, it is important that we start looking for what it is that He is calling us to get out of this immersion and what it is that we can do when we return to Helena.

Alex Chopyak

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