Hey everyone! I, Emily, wrote this blog while I was reflecting on my trip out to Fort Peck.
It’s hard to sum up the experience of what going to the Reservation was like. One thing I can say is that it was nothing like I had expected. From working at TNR I had heard many stories about Boot Camp. I heard about all the fun that was had, all of the activities, and being able to spend time with the children and their families. I loved seeing how excited the kids were when they got their backpacks and how they all put them on immediately and wore them for the rest of the day.
What I also didn’t expect was how it was going to make me feel. I felt emotional in more ways than one. I felt overwhelmingly happy and excited as I watched LHNC volunteers and the Wolf Point and Poplar communities come together. I was excited to help with painting nails, putting on temporary tattoos, and coloring hair with hair chalk. I was also very happy no one commented on my lack of nail painting skills! Watching the kids faces light up and show off their temporary tattoos was awesome. I loved how sweet and loving they were to me. I spoke with a grandmother who was so excited to bring her granddaughter. This was the first time her granddaughter was visiting for a whole summer and thought it was so great that we were putting on the Fun Days. She mentioned that there isn’t a lot to do around there so they had been looking forward to this event.
On the opposite side, there were times when I also felt somber. For the first few days, I didn’t understand this feeling because I was surrounded by so much happiness and love. But I took some time to explore it. What I realized was I was feeling this way because in the back of my mind I knew this group of people had been forced into a life they didn’t ask for. Their ancestors had everything taken away from them without any second thought and to this day a lot of US citizens still don’t understand. People have turned a blind eye and don’t think about the people who are suffering, right here in our cushy United States. They haven’t taken the time to visit a Native American Reservation and see the conditions people there are living in. Now, I’m not judging anyone or think I’m better in any way for going to Fort Peck. Before the trip there, I only knew what I was taught in school so I can’t say I was very knowledgeable. I know that a lot of people genuinely don’t know what’s going on. There isn’t a lot of time dedicated to teaching students about the US’s past wrongs. But there is a learning opportunity. We can’t change the past but we can work together to change the future.
I know that helping the world and healing past wounds will take time but a giant first step would be to start with our own. We aren’t different groups of people, we’re all one. One of the things that make the US so unique is that we have so many cultures and backgrounds of people who live here. We have so much we can share with each other and help one another heal. Life can be tough enough, why should we withhold the opportunity to grow just because someone had a different upbringing than you?
And even despite all the negative happening, the people of Fort Peck were some of the nicest I have ever met. There were no expectations. I came as myself and that was good enough for everyone. There was no judgment or reservations on either end, just volunteers and the community coming together for one purpose, to bring fun, love, and joy to the children for a few days.
If you’re wondering if you should get involved the answer is YES. It’s time! In order to grow as a world, we need to start at home. Don’t sit back and think someone else is going to handle it.