January 22nd, 2017: Simplicity & Humility

Click here to see some reflections on their first weekend on the Res...
10:30 AM:  Mass at Little Flower Parish
After our drive into to town for Mass, we walked into Church and were introduced to Father Ed who is the pastor of the parish.  We walked down the center aisle in the relatively small church and felt like we stuck out pretty obviously (especially in our CHC hoodies).  We took seats in the first two pews. The altar was decorated in Native American influenced art, which was beautiful.  The stain glass windows were very simple in their art, but still beautiful as well.  Father Ed introduced us in his opening remarks to the congregation.  After his homily, during the prayers of the faithful, Father Ed asked us to turn around to face the rest of the congregation while they all lifted their hands high over us.  They sang a blessing for us in unison and wished us well this week helping the de La Salle Blackfeet School.  It was very comforting to see the people of the reservation, together, pray for us and our well-being for the week. Father Ed’s forty-five-minute homily about seeking out and being the light in a sometimes dark world spoke to many of us as we begin our week of service on the reservation. Mr. Baker facetimed with us last night and warned us about “the mass of a thousand handshakes.”  So, when the sign of peace came, we were prepared as the Blackfeet came up to us for the sign of peace from as far back as six pews away.  Peace offerings were spread throughout the entire church.  Then when communion came almost every person in church came and shook our hands passing us to and from communion. After church ended we all got up and headed out the doors, many of us still receiving handshakes.  It was kinda nice and unique to be so welcomed in a place where we didn’t know anyone. ~ Jake Commodari
1:00 PM: The Reservation Tour: Duality
After Mass and lunch at Subway (very cultural experience!), we all piled into the van for a driving tour of the reservation. We saw a number of interesting and important sites throughout the town such as the hospital, churches, and tribal government buildings, as well as a few residential neighborhoods. There were buildings in all different conditions, including a few completely abandoned buildings, and some that needed tires to hold down the roof in the strong winds and boards to replace busted windows. While just driving through somewhere can never fully give you a measure of their culture and living conditions, parts of the reservation where the poverty was most evident left a vague sense of despair and decay. The rural poverty experienced by some of the people on the reservation rivals the most run down parts of Baltimore that many of us are familiar with. However, we also saw at Mass and through our interactions with the Blackfeet people that they are strong, culturally unified, and full of hope and life. As both our Immersion Director (John) and Mr. Darrel (the artist who taught us how to make drums) explained to us, the Blackfeet culture and mythology is based on a series of dualities, such as the balance between Sun and Moon, the seasons, and man and nature. The Blackfeet Reservation displays some of the same intriguing and seemingly irresolvable dualities, such as the contrast between hope and despair, crumbling houses against a breathtaking natural landscape, and a strong and unique people against a seemingly unconquerable set of challenges. Today’s tour further reinforced our awareness that our group will not be able to fix the Blackfeet’s problems by ourselves, as much as we may want to, and raised the more difficult question of who can. ~Andrew Scarbrough
5:30 PM: The Teepee Lodge and Gallery: Drum Painting
Following our tour of the reservation, we returned to The Teepee Lodge and Gallery for part two of our drum projects. Yesterday we strung our drums, and today our task was painting them once they had dried and hardened overnight. Darrel, who owns the art shop and is an artist himself, shared with use many stencils to assist in our drum paintings. The stencils primarily included animals from the land of the Blackfeet such as buffalo, wolves, bald eagles, and elk. The other stencils were common symbols and shapes used in native art. By engaging in making our own drums, we were able to learn more about the Blackfeet culture. Blackfeet have a greater appreciation for the land and animals then we are familiar with, which is reflected in the art that depicts the scenery and treasured animals. The painting was not our only source of cultural immersion as we were also able to hear live native music sung by Darrel. Darrel sang the Blackfeet Flag Song along with other popular Blackfeet songs. The art and music helped us learn about the Blackfeet culture, which is very different to our own, enriching our knowledge. ~Kyle Lehnhoff