Library, Communion, and Marty, oh my! Day 4
Hello everyone! This is Blake and Sarah blogging here to share our experience. Both of us chose to be placed in the seventh grade classroom, a class we were told had the most energy. And believe us, that rumor turned out to be true!
Yesterday, we started out the day by visiting the Blackfeet Tribal Community College. We helped the students research their Ancestral History. This involved anything from major events in their history to specific people. The students did a great job working with the Library staff and being respectful at the school. It was cool for us to learn more about the rich history of the Blackfeet tribe.
After the library, we returned to De La Salle and we worked on math lessons. Students had a tough time to adjust to a new routine, as their teacher was sick. However, they persevered and we got through the lesson. After math, we went to communion service (normally they have mass, but the Priest was gone).
Communion service was an absolute joy and blessing to be a part of. We loved seeing the kids participate—doing the readings and prayers for the service. It’s a job that rotates between the grades weekly. All of the students were very quiet and respectful, and it’s cool to see how the kids become much more quiet and reflective during Mass and Religion Class. This shows us that they are aware that there is something much greater going on. This gave us a lot of hope for the students at De La Salle and Browning in general.
Deacon Ron gave an awesome homily. He spoke a lot on the Holy Spirit, which is very appropriate as a lot of the Blackfeet’s spirituality is centered on the Holy Spirit. Deacon Ron was truly filled with joy and fire for the Gospel, and you can tell that he is changing lives in Browning. (SIDE NOTE: Blake fell asleep during the service, so he doesn’t remember a whole lot about it J).
After Communion service we went to lunch and then came back to the classroom. The rest of the day was challenging, but still a joy to be a part of. It was hard for us because this was our last day with them (they are leaving for Helena tomorrow for an overnight trip). They were much calmer this afternoon and enjoyed working with us. As Blake pointed out, “They seemed to want to attack us much less.” At the end of the day, we didn’t say goodbye, as the Blackfeet don’t have a phrase that says goodbye, but rather Kit ah kit ah maht sin which means “see you later.”
That evening, Marty, the oldest elder man of the Blackfeet tribe came to talk with us about the history and traditions of the Blackfeet Tribe. He first gave us a Blackfeet blessing which allowed us to touch and wear Blackfeet artifacts that we otherwise couldn’t. Marty showed us the history of how the Reservation came to be. Initially, the Blackfeet Reservation included a good majority of Montana, North and South Dakota. However, after Treaties, Executive Orders, and “Agreements”, the Browning Reservation was reduced to a small portion of Montana. Even Glacier National Park was taken from them, which is a huge place of their spirituality, a place they call “The Backbone of the World.”
Marty had a lot of artifacts that we could touch and even put on. Some of this included sacred eagle feathers, medicine rattlers, and much more. It was really cool to hold the Eagle feathers, as we learned that without permission from an elder of a tribe, it is a crime to possess or hold Eagle feathers if you are not Native American. You could also tell as you held the feathers that this is a holy object and should be treated with great respect. The Native Americans respect the Eagle so much because they believe it is the Eagle that carries their prayers to God.
Marty was a blessing to talk with and he shared a lot of wisdom and history about the Blackfeet Tribe from a perspective that we are not accustomed to hearing. Marty was incredibly open to sharing his perspectives with us and shared in a beautiful, graceful way.
We came to Browning literally never being exposed to any Native American Culture. Unfortunately, the only things we have heard are the stereotypes and arrogance of people “perceiving this culture.” As Blake pointed out, “The only thing I heard about Browning is that it was a rough town.”
In a sense, Browning is a rough town. It’s very cold and windy; the town faces huge challenges—drug and alcohol addiction, high unemployment, poor economics, lack of teachers, etc. However, Browning is also incredibly beautiful.—the mountains in the distance, the silence that this town has, and the beauty in the people and their culture.
It would be easy to look at Browning and all the challenges they face as a “Hopeless Town.” However, our trip so far has proven the exact opposite. The De La Salle School is providing hope and guidance through education and faith. They are forming students and making disciples. They are providing a guiding light to Browning and beyond.
During this trip we have seen that God is everywhere. And God is with the students of De La Salle and Browning as a whole. There is great hope and love here, and God is with every person here. Please pray for us as we continue our journey.
Blake and Sarah