A Slam Dunk Day in Browning
It has only been one day but we have already begun to see the culture of the Blackfeet tribe in person. First, we visited the graveyard and church that are only hundreds of feet from the bunkhouse. Both of these are a physical sign of the conversion that many Blackfeet members made for Christianity, and more specifically, Catholicism. At the cemetery, we were able to see the way that the Blackfeet envision those that have passed away and how they pass down their American Indian identity that has such deep meaning. The family members will come by and drop off little objects that represented their life. Even in the Church, we were able to see the way that the Catholic Church has been flexible and open to the Blackfeet and their culture. Even the tabernacle had a feathered Blackfeet emblem hanging from the tabernacle. Later in that day, we saw the way that the people of Browning rely on tourism. We visited two stores that had “touristy” things like bows and dreamcatchers. In the town, we saw the struggle of the people, trying to get money in any way, hoping for a better life. The spirit of the city can be seen in the numerous free-roaming dogs in the city, without help, but in need of shelter and support. Many of the houses are run-down and some are even the equivalent of a shelter built out of drywall.
There was at least one place in the town that was amazingly built and attractive to the eye. The High School Gym! When Mr. Ortiz and Mr. Bobak told us about the connection that kids have to basketball, I thought that they might like playing during the day at school. However, it is a communal thing. The gym’s bleachers look like they could hold the entire town of Browning. The one end of the gym had a wall of state championships that would compete with Calvert Hall’s MIAA championship numbers. The team, halfway through the first quarter, was up 25-0. Every time they scored, the noise was comparable to Mr. Bobak’s explosive reaction, “Get that out of here!!!”, commonly referenced after a clutch Presidents moment. This team was completely in control of the entire game. The crowd was electric and so involved. It reminded us of the “Red C” and encouraged us to be involved. The student section around us was the same way, even acting like we might at Calvert Hall games. They sang the national anthem along with the Blackfeet tribal song at the beginning of the game with sounds similar to the “O” we sing in Baltimore. The pride that the people of Browning show is seen in Mr. Daryl, when he was showing us how to make drums. He told us that he was drawn to return to the Blackfeet life after he lived in Seattle for years when his father got a job there. This is when he was given the name “Buffalo Body” and he is proud to still be called by it today. All of this allowed me to reflect on how everyone’s life is Browning has true value and beauty. I’m looking forward to what each day will teach me throughout this week. ~Michael’18
Finding Beauty in Simplicity
After only six hours of sleep and a long day ahead of us, we knew the first impressions we would make today would last a lifetime. After an 8:00 am wakeup followed by family breakfast and a couple of games of President, we departed for the Blackfeet Reservation Cemetery and examined the culture of the Blackfeet people in how they bury their dead. I remember walking through the cemetery, with the beautiful, snow-capped Rocky Mountains in the background, and all I could see were groups of graves outlined in stone, most members buried with their families and with some of their most prized possessions left atop their graves. After a brief period to examine the rest of the cemetery and to talk about our experience in a larger group, we departed for the Holy Family Church. This was the first moment where I discovered the true beauty in simplicity. The Church we visited was small, containing about twenty pews total, and the design of the Church was very simply decorated with the Stations of the Cross on the sidewalls and two statues along opposite sides of the altar. However, despite being in a smaller and more simple Church than I was used to, I felt a more real and personal connection with God and the Blackfeet people. It’s hard to explain, but I felt my personalization with God came more from the simple, traditional Church than the more modern and elaborate one. After touring the Church, we finally departed to the main town, about 30 minutes away. As we approached the town, Mr. Bobak gave us a tour of the entire location, pointing out the De La Salle Blackfeet School, the various shops, and the segregated homes that marked the identity of the city. After visiting the town and stopping by various gift shops and the only Subway, we had a more in-depth encounter with the Blackfeet people and their style of life. Seeing stray dogs around every corner and finding the more stable homes on one side of the road while the more run-down homes on the other side, I was truly immersed in this strange idea of simplicity. I thought to myself, “How could people live here?” I experienced that type of true poverty that you need to see to believe, that I have never experienced in my entire life. I realized that most of these people have never experienced a “prosperous” life that we live day-to-day, yet they still find joy and prosperity in life and especially their culture. Following our tour of the town, we departed to a local basketball game where we experienced one of the most important sports in Browning, cheering for the winning Browning high school team as they destroyed Ronan 83-31. After the game we headed to Mr. “Buffalo Body’s” home to build our drums. After spending about an hour building our drums and heading to the market to finish shopping for supplies for the coming days, we returned to the reservation where we celebrated dinner with Br. Dale, Sister Pat, Principal O’Brien, and a few volunteers. Following the dinner, we returned to our trailer, exhausted, to enjoy time together and to reflect around the table. As I conclude this journal entry, I just want to say that out of all the amazing experiences we have shared together as a group and with the Blackfeet people the most memorable experience to me was immersing myself in a life of simplicity, a life marked by culture, love, and most importantly no technology.