Monday, July 28, 2008

Life On The Rez

Wanblee, South Dakota
Pine Ridge Indian Reservation
Volume 3, Issue 12
July 25, 2008

-Life On The Rez-
…an outsider looking in…

The sky fades from pink to plum as the guttural sounds of Oglala Lakota Sioux Indians fill the air, calling to the their ancestors of long ago. The shimmering adornment and flowing capes, the bells on feet and gown, the rhythmic, pulsating movement of men, women, and children as they dance to celebrate who they are and where they came from. This is life on “The Rez.”

Tonight marks the beginning of the annual Wanblee Powwow, a celebration of Oglala Lakota Indians. As an outsider allowed a glimpse of storied tradition and rich heritage, I view the dance with honorable respect. A people group I know little about, but now have become my neighbors. I am a guest living on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in Wanblee, South Dakota. This is my life. I am blessed.

I arrived one week ago amidst the plains of the Midwest, where wheat and rolling hills seem endless - a vast conglomerate of ranchers, cowboys, and Indians. A historic and time honored land, where the Black Hills collide with the Badlands, where white meets Lakota, where Pow-Wows and rodeos coexist, where thick grass buttress towering rock, where Mount Rushmore reigns and Crazy Horse is taking form – this is southwestern South Dakota, a place of beauty, rich history, geological wonder, and endless fascination.

Though simple splendor abounds, there are many things here which I wish did not exist. I’ve been in Wanblee only one week, but I have seen poverty, injustice, depression, alcoholism, and rage. In a town of 637 people the history of violence, neighbor against neighbor, depression of many young and old, the increased high school drop out rate, and teen pregnancies has been staggering. Come Lord Jesus, come.

I continue to thank God for the experiences he has allowed me to have, humbling me through the sites of long-standing oppression, despair, and hopelessness – teaching me to look beyond my own surroundings and ever increasing my knowledge that the world is not right. God did not create humanity to exist in malodorous disharmony, but sin and satan’s snares have wreaked their havoc. I long for Heaven and the coming of Christ, when wrongs will be made right and satan’s ensnaring hand will be no more.

All hope is not lost in this present world. God has not abandoned us here. For every scene of injustice that has played before my eyes, I can recount ten times as many acts of kindness and love, iridescent beauty and solid hope, creation in all its grandeur, times when all seems well and I never want the moment to end. I have faith in humanity, and that is why I carry on trying to pursue the road that God has set before me, cognizant of my deep and daily sins, but learning every day that Christ carried the cross for me. I can not hide behind my sins and run from the love of Jesus, even though I often try. His arms are wide, his embrace calling us home, his love beyond our understanding.

I will be in Wanblee, SD until August 8, 2008. I am currently working at an Indian Health Service community clinic on the reservation. I’m not sure where I am headed next, but the Oregon coast is beckoning as I long to visit friends there for a short while, and then hopefully begin a position in Washington State. My access to internet and cell phone service is very limited in Wanblee, so my posts and communication may be very sporadic for the next few weeks. Thank you for following along on this grand journey of mine. It is always wonderful to hear from you.


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