Tuesday, July 13, 2010
I headed out, driving down the gravel roads along the Moreau River past Whitehorse. I had a great plan to phone folks along the way until I remembered that there are places so country that there is no cell phone service in the area and none of my calls went through. But it worked out fine anyway, as I focused my efforts on seeing some of the elders.
At 91 years-old, Charlotte is one of the matriarchs on the east end having raised a large family on their ranch. Many of the tribal members work on this part of the Indian reservation ranch, although it gets harder to make it financially each year without some outside income.
Many people work for the tribe or have a job in town, which requires daily drives of 80 to 100 miles. Charlotte remembers the horse and wagon days – having to make or grow most of what they needed … or go without.
Charlotte’s neighbor Mary also joined us for conversation around the kitchen table. I was humbled to learn both have been following my progress and praying for me; praying with quality and consistency. I hope I can be as dedicated as these two women when I promise to pray for people.
Louie is a widower, a World War II vet, and living independently, relying on himself to get around. His house was a beehive of folks coming and going as his family prepared to have the Sun Dance – Wiwanke Wachipi – on their land. Tree Day marks the first day of this special event. The prayer leaders selected a cottonwood to cut down and move with care by hand to the center of the dance grounds. I saw lots of relatives and friends coming and going, but also a little treasured one-on-one time before bidding Louie adieu.
I found Bunny home watching her grandchildren that I got to meet for the first time. Having been away quite a few years, I haven’t been a part of the births and baptisms as I once was. But when you sit at someone’s kitchen table, the passage of time evaporates and you get the chance to catch up with family and community happenings. I always learned the most about what is important to people around the kitchen table.
Tugie is 89. She’s lived on her land for over 60 years, and recently sold to neighbors. They told her she can live in the house for however long she wants and stop in daily to check on how she’s doing. Betty Anne was there as I pulled up, and it was so good getting to see her as well. Tugie still gets around pretty good on her own; hearty souls these folks are that work the land so many years.