Wind River is a Native American reservation in Wyoming, which is home to both the Northern Arapahoe and Eastern Shoshone tribes. That in and of itself is a testament to what humans are capable of. The Northern Arapahoe and Eastern Shoshone were once enemies back in history but when the Shoshone people needed a place to live, the Northern Arapahoe welcome them as friends – not enemies.
The people we met on the trip were so willing to give of themselves. They seemed so eager to have new ears that they would share anything and everything with us. We would barely have met some of the people and they were already be instilling us with their life stories. This is what I enjoyed the most of the trip – hearing the stories of the people, from the people.
There is a difference in learning in justices in a classroom, yes, you can read a whole book on Native American history and get the grasp of the in justices, but when you hear from the people themselves, sense the pain that they have, then it really clicks. You learn and gain so much more from those that you are serving than they will ever get from you.
My favorite part was when the reservation put on a feast for us accompanied by a traditional dance showcase. They went through various male and female dances, along with wonderful food prepared by the people, then in the end we got to join them. As I was sitting there feeling the reverberations of the drums the eeriness that came from the chanting, I really felt alive and present to the moment. I felt connected. I felt connected to the people, I felt connected to myself, and I felt connected to life.
Our final excursion, if you will, of the trip was a sweat lodge. A sweat lodge is an ancient healing ceremony in which you sit inside of a tent-like contraption with a pit in the middle. Scorching hot rocks are added then water. The tent is sealed off, songs are sung, prayers are spoken, and meditation is ever-present. I felt so privileged to be invited into a ceremony such as this. It was just one of the many traditions that I got to witness and experience.
My experience in Wind River started my on a mission that I am still trying to figure out to this day. It opened my eyes to the reality of injustice. My appetite for social justice became voracious and I looked for every opportunity to satiate it. It lead me to going on a spring break border immersion trip, the School of the America’s protest, and looking in the future to other trips focusing on social justice. Oh, and it made me change my major.
I’m glad I started myself on this life long journey of serving, I feel more alive each and every day.
Much love and few worries,