And what a week it was. Every day would begin with ‘Wisdom of the Elders’, a reading of quotes from people from many tribes giving a perspective on things from a Native American view. It was also a review of history, going more in depth into things glossed over in public school. “Battles” that were really massacres, like Wounded Knee. “Massacres” that were really battles, like the Fetterman Massacre. It was a valuable lesson that the victor writes the history, and many eyes were opened to the historical inaccuracies taught to most people in schools across the country.
Sunday the volunteers were taken to Wounded Knee to hear the history from a descendant of one of those killed in that massacre. It was shocking and eye opening.
Then they all went to the Badlands for a hike back to a place called the Sanctuary.
Jack walked with one of the staff who told him to try taking off his watch and letting himself learn to be peaceful. Not worry about time or anything back home. Just let the experiences that were going to happen this week sink in. This was a little strange to Jack, as he was a bit of a control freak. He liked knowing what time it was, knowing what time things were to happen so he could be a few minutes early, or at the very least not late for something. But the woman he was talking to told him that things worked differently out here. They were on ‘Indian Time’, which meant things would happen when they happened. Something starting at 3:00 PM may start ten minutes early or a half hour late. Time didn’t matter too much. Everything happened in its own time. She told him that people “out in the world” cared too much about the detail of time, and not enough about the detail of people, or the event. Jack took off his watch and put it in his pocket. Maybe he’d try ‘Indian Time’ for today or this week. But he figured once he was back in “the world” he would fall back into wearing his watch.
They stopped at the entrance to the Sanctuary and were told to spread out. Find a place alone and meditate, pray, sleep, whatever you felt like doing. There was no pressure to do anything, and such a non-structured time seemed a little strange to Jack and some of the others. But they were there for the experience, so the volunteers spread out into the giant valley. Jack chose a spot up on a hill. There was no shade, and the sun was beating down, but he had sunscreen on, a bottle of water, and a good hat.
He prayed a short prayer to God that he would be open to whatever happened this week, and for patience now that he didn’t have a watch. Then he stretched out on the rough, dry earth, pulled his hat over his face, and fell asleep.
That night they heard from a Lakota speaker named Inila Wakan, who spoke of taking back land that had belonged to his Grandmother. She had been removed along with 800 others during WWII. They were given a week to get out of their homes because the US Government was going to use those acres as a bombing range for B-17’s to practice on before they headed over to Europe. Most of them took what they could carry, and the next week their homes were destroyed by the US Army Air Corps. After the war, the land was leased to white ranchers. Inila watched his grandmother live the rest of her life bitter and broken. His father had been born in the house, and he too had lived a bitter and broken life. Inila decided to break the cycle and one day he took his family out to his grandmothers land and started living. He built a house, drilled a well, basically started homesteading. The rancher came with a pistol at his side to demand he leave, but Inila chased him off with a shotgun. Then the BIA came out and threatened to take him to court. Inila dared them to do it, as he had all of the paperwork and documentation that the land still belonged to his grandmother’s family. He has not heard back from anyone for years now.
Jack fell asleep quickly that night. It had been an exhausting day.