I have spent the past week with the Lakota at Cheyenne River. As each day came to a close, the darkness already well in place when I leave the building at 7 pm, a silent prayer escaped me, to the empty void outside: Grateful for this life, Grateful for the Indians who accept me and who validate this life of service to them.
It would take the entire day of traveling to reach Miami from this village of the Lakota: drive 200 km to Rapid City and fly to Miami with stops in Denver and Houston. It is no effort to do this, when I know that smiles, laughs and hugs wait for me at the reservation.
Lakota has wonderful names: Crow Ghost, Fast Horse, Iron Hawk, Brings Plenty, Taken Alive, Lone Eagle, Bald Eagle, Good Eagle, Two Dogs, Red Elk, Yellow Owl, Blue Arm, Kills Crow, Black Tail Deer. The beauty of these names never cease to bring joy to my heart.. When you are here, someone introducing themselves as Walking Elk, seems so natural that you look at White Americans as intruders to this sacred land of the Indians.
The Administrative Assistant of the programme and her husband, an impeccably dressed indian in a cowboy hat with an inscrutable face and economy of words, comes to pick me up. We usually have lunch together and then begin the drive through the strange beauty of this land, which millions of years ago was under water..
Ably co ordinated by my friend, MWE, who has gathered a nice group of people to assist her, I look forward to my bi annual visit to them. They make me feel so welcome, respectfully listen to my words that I bring to them.
My Lakota friends know that I have come to educate parents about Nutrition,among other aspects of being healthy and happy, so they pay special attention . Each day fresh meals are prepared and we share the lunch time together, eating and laughing and talking.
Apart from the counseling sessions I came here to do, I was able to talk to the senior students at high school about Career Choices. Choose a profession that suits your personality and if you can, choose carefully whom you are going to work with or for. Being happy and content at what you do is far more important than making money just doing a job, I told them. I was surprised that they were listening to me intently and asking me various questions which i answered with relevant references and stories about the outside world which many of them are yet to experience.
It is always good to see children in the Lower Grades and it is a sheer pleasure to talk to them about Health. The above kids were very cooperative when I examined them for the protocol of the programme.
The Third Graders were a whole different story, they wanted to hear stories, wanted to ask questions and they asked very intelligent questions about Geography (marsupials in Australia), Food, Travel. I thoroughly enjoyed that session.
The best reward certainly was to go to the home of Mrs M LeB who wanted to discuss about generational trauma and wanted to teach me a thing or two about the Lakota.
As I was about to leave to attend people waiting for me, she asked:
Do you know how I celebrated my last birthday on October 12 just past? She smiled mischievously and says, we went and climbed the Bear Butte..
she got into her car and drove to her next appointment!
She was celebrating her 93rd birthday!
I promised to my self: To show my gratitude to the Lakota who gave me so much during my stay with them, I will try to be more human, a better person, a better friend, a better lover, a better father to my family and friends all over the world...
some of the beaded gifts for my family..
This photo of Bear Butte State Park is courtesy of TripAdvisor