I invited the two seminarians who are with us for the summer – Anthony and Justin and our summer intern from Notre Dame – Anna, to accompany me to church at Fort Thompson. We left early so we could drive around the community and explore a bit. What’s striking to people seeing the Indian Reservation for the first time is how many homes are sadly in need of repair. I explained about the complicated system of land ownership and tribal housing authority. As we passed the Tribal Council headquarters, and Bureau of Indian Affairs office, it presented an opportunity to teach about the governmental structure.
Going by the memorial flags near the river led to a lesson about the history about the 1862 Minnesota Uprising and how the families of those 38 Dakota Sioux who were publicly executed were sent to Fort Thompson, hundreds of miles west of their homelands.
Later in our travels, when an inebriated man started to talk their ear off, they got an idea of one of the biggest challenges of working on the “Rez”. When people are drinking, I try not to be enabling, but do try to be kind and understanding; hoping it opens doors to hope and help later on.
Church was a joyful event as seven children from Fort Thompson received their first Holy Communion today. After Church, the families of the first communicants provided a meal for the whole parish – soup and frybread, which was tasty and a nice introduction to the hospitality within the culture. Our interns got to make the rounds and visit with many people at the gathering.