Wednesday, July 21, 2010

I'm back...

So much occurred this weekend on, basically, our single day in Rosebud that I've decided to split up the post about it into two components: WHAT happened: the events and facts of our day and What HAPPENED: the emotional impact and reflection about those events.

Here's the WHAT:

Because a college group was arriving and staying in ‘our’ dorm, Sandy, HFH Director, was kind enough to let us stay in one of the trailers on the south side of the campus.

No hot water and a disabled refrigerator and stove didn’t bother us a bit…the most unsettling thing for us was being on that side of the circle drive!!

While being grateful for a roof over our heads, I can honestly say that the whole trailer was in perpetual motion!

Between the constant South Dakota wind whipping across the plains, the trailer being spring loaded and the reality that it rocked whenever one of us walked or turned over in bed, it was like sleeping in an out of control hammock – in the middle of a wind tunnel!
Who would have guessed we’d need Dramamine for a night on the rez!

The next morning started early,

with an assist from a gorgeous sunrise.

We helped Maggie with last minute prep in the kitchen, then loaded up the van with star quilts and headed out to the cemetery for the unveiling of Dons grave marker.

The cemetery, next to the Episcopal Church in Soldier Creek, is a lovely spot on a hilltop where Don was buried last year next to family.
The ceremony honored both his upbringing in the Episcopal tradition, with prayers and words from Webster Two Hawk (one of the clergy on the reservation)as well as Don’s cultural heritage in the prayers and incantations of his brother-in-law, a recognized medicine man in the Lakota tradition.

After the service, everyone headed to Don and Maggie’s farm, Meadowlark Village, for a “Feed and Give away” which lasted for 5+ hours.

(For information about the historical roots of the 'giveaway', this article might be helpful).

Basically, for the past year, Maggie has been working night and day, preparing star quilts, and other tokens, to honor those people who were important to Don and his family during his entire lifetime - including the treatment team who followed him during the medical and physical changes which ultimately led to his death.

The amount of work involved in preparing for a giveaway is awe-inspiring.
Maggie made 60+ quilts; her sister in law made many others and even Jemma, their 9 yr old daughter made 5 contemporary quilts to honor her friends.

I don’t know about you but my past year hasn’t been nearly as productive!

Surprisingly, we were among those gifted with yet another example of how much more we receive from our time on Rosebud than anything we could possibly contribute!

Don was a member of the Bigfoot Riders, a group of Lakota who journey on horseback every December and camp along the paths taken by their ancestors on their way to Wounded Knee. These present day men and women ride to honor their tribe members massacred by Federal troops in 1890. The events and pain of that day, and era, continue to speak to the Lakota reality today and that group was the first to be honored.

The President of Sinte Gleska University, Rodney Bordeaux,spoke of Dons work as Cultural Documentarian, in preserving and defining their language and heritage, his commitment to educating all people about the Lakota way of life, his love of children and, above all, his devotion to family.

Much of the event was accompanied by music of a drum group Don started decades ago in Santa Fe. To see Alan, at his age, playing with the same group was very moving.
Alan’s intuitive love of all things Lakota is truly heartwarming to see.
While guests remained seated in the shade of the arbor, family members served a wonderful meal of fried chicken, ham, roast beef, soup, fry bread, salads and desserts that was enough to last the day, actually the whole week! Food kept being distributed until it was completely gone and friends/family were expected to bring dishes and containers (watecca dishes) to use in taking left-overs home.

After the celebration at Don and Maggie’s, we had a long visit with Stacy and the kids back at their house. (Harold was announcing a softball tournament across the rez and wasn’t able to join us.)

Only the reality of a long drive the next day made us end the evening at 10pm and head back to Bishop Hare.

I should add that, in between all the events of the day, we also managed to deliver another 20 boxes of personal sized toiletries.
Because of how successful the toiletries drive had been in June, we were unable to bring it all with us on the Mission trip a few weeks ago.

This ‘extra’ trip allowed us to bring the overflow…much to the delight of All Nations, White Buffalo Calf Woman Society Shelter and Tree of Life Ministries.
Pastor Russell Masartis told us that Tree of Life serves 160 families every day they're open/four days a week. With unemployment topping 90% on the reservation, economic ‘hardship’ doesn’t begin to describe the conditions in which many people live.

For $1.00 a visit, people become ‘co-op members’ of the Tree of Life; that membership ‘fee’ entitles them to a hot meal, 15 items of clothing, a bag of other items as available (now our toiletries!) and participation in whatever educational or recreational events are being offered.

Tribal EMS/Firefighters also receive items from Tree of Life to distribute when they respond to emergency situations on the reservation throughout the year.

We have NO doubt that the ‘small’ items donated by our friends, congregations and Webster/ Rock Hill Ministries will have a HUGE impact on the quality of life for many people on the Rosebud.

In so many ways, it feels as if things are coming to fruition with our efforts on the rez - which is an odd feeling to have given the reality that so many changes are imminent and things are actually very tenuous.

The inevitable ying-yang of existence, I guess - which clearly won't get altered by me!

So there you have the WHAT!

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