Monday, July 8, 2013

Chapter Eight - To the Rez

Jack scheduled a trip to Re-Member in March and looked forward to it with each passing day.  His wife suggested that he talk to the mission pastor of their church, to see if there would be interest in the congregation to donate supplies or money to the Re-Member group.  So Jack met with the pastor and told her about the organization, what they did, and about his trip.  It just so happened that the mission trip the pastor had been setting up had fallen through, and the Re-Member trip sounded like a perfect replacement to her.  Soon Jack found himself helping organize a second trip to the Rez later that spring with a group from his church.

                The weeks passed quickly, and soon it was time for Jack to bid farewell to his family and head for the Rez.  He stopped in Mitchell, South Dakota that night to sleep.  The next morning he made a quick visit to the Corn Palace in Mitchell, and got back on the road to the Rez.  The miles passed quickly, and soon he found himself in Batesland, a small town bordering the Pine Ridge reservation. He stopped for a Pepsi, and calculated how much longer it would be until he reached the camp.

                20 minutes.  That was all he would need to finish the drive.  But he was still an hour early.  He parked his car at the local post office, looking across the street at a structure he could not identify.  Logs, about 4-6 inches in diameter, had been placed upright in the ground in a big circle.  Other logs had been circled inside of those, and pine branches covered the top like a roof.  He wondered if it was a powwow circle.  He was also amazed at how quiet everything was.  The only sounds he heard were a few birds singing, and the wind in the grass.  It was peaceful, but Jack was a bundle of nerves.

                What would the coming week hold for him? Would he be able to do the work expected of him? Would he feel like an outsider since most everybody else would be coming in groups?  Finally anticipation got the better of him and he headed to the camp.

                As he drove up the dirt road to the camp, he noticed people working in a circular garden that served as a vehicle turn around.  There was a large, red Morton building, a large orangish/brown building, a mobile home, and a tipi.  He pulled up next to the garden and saw a tan, dark haired woman approaching his car.  Perhaps she was a Lakota? He wondered.

                “Welcome!” She said.

                “Hi.” He said back. She’s not a Lakota, he thought. She sounds Italian.

                Sure enough, he met Erika, an Italian woman who worked on the staff.  After the two of them had taken his things into the big red building and found him a bunk, they went back outside. Jack met Jen, the program director, Ted, the camp director, and a few others. They welcomed him and told him that today his only mission was to relax and acclimate to the weather and the place.

                Jack went up on top of a hill at the suggestion of the staff and took a look around.  It was amazing.  Quiet everywhere, a 360 degree view of the land.  Pure peacefulness. Whatever was in store for him, he felt ready for whatever the week would hold.


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