It was the third school day. I was impressed by how much easier it was to work with the children after just a couple days. The 4th graders are incredibly sweet, intelligent, and energetic. Parts of me wishes I was in the fourth grade with them, so I could be a part of their family, and in on the tricks and games. The children are challenging at times, but as they slowly reveal parts of their personality, I am starting to understand why the teachers stay in rural Montana to serve them.
A speaker named Robert came in to speak with our group about Blackfeet history, culture, and politics. This was the most insightful part of the journey yet. Robert is one the last Blackfeet people to speak the language fluently and is also a man of tremendous respect within the community. He spoke open and honestly about the influence of white people on their culture and how it is still affecting the climate on the reservation today. Robert, a rather grouchy, odd man, did not mean to offend or frighten us, but instead was hopeful that what he said would be taken to heart and be used to help change the perspectives of others. After his talk, I stuck around and spoke with him for a while. I expressed to him my most recent “existential crisis”. It has been difficult to for me to identify with the church because of all the oppression and pain it has caused. These systemic issues have left me feeling helpless, unbalanced, and with a lack of identity and faith. When I told this to Robert, he told me “Without the horsefly, the horse doesn’t know it has its whole body.” He continued to say that healing has to come from the within and people like me are instrumental in change, he also encouraged me to keep questioning, fighting, and be loving. I was awestruck by his authenticity and kindness towards a stranger.
Overall, the experience has been challenging. Every day I find myself confused, frustrated, and joyful at different aspects of the journey. Browning, Montana, is undoubtably a special place with enormous power to change, heal, and challenge.