Learning from the Lakota
by Marcia Dorey
Oct 04, 2012 | 1228 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Marcia Dorey
Marcia Dorey
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At Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, also known as the US Bureau of Indian Affairs  POW camp #335, it is hot and dry.  Last month, temperatures in South Dakota ranged from 103 to 111 degrees.  Ten of us from Vermont went out there to work (a kind of thank you to the folks who helped us in Vermont last August). Besides us, there were people from Michigan, Wisconsin, Virginia, Oregon, Denmark, Spain, and Scotland.  We dug a trench to hold electrical conduit cable from the electric pole that had just arrived in a particular neighborhood. We built a ramp for a man who is wheelchair bound and, until now, had to be carried from his house by friends or relatives. We closed in the bottom of a trailer home with insulation. We built bunk beds for children living in overcrowded homes.  We were part of an organization called Re-Member, which has served the reservation for 15 years.

We learned a lot from the Oglala Lakota people who live there. One of the interesting things we learned is that the founding “Spirit” of the Lakota, sent by the Creator, is White Buffalo Calf Woman, whose presence promises blessing.  It is this founding story that has caused such a stir and such interest in the white buffalo calf that was born recently in Connecticut.  We learned the Lakota love their wide open prairie, although we who were new there couldn’t figure how survival is possible in a land that we see as hostile, and they see as beautiful.  We learned of the holiness of the Black Hills of South Dakota to the people of Pine Ridge, and of how the loss of that holy land  is a major concern.   We learned that they see what we call the Badlands as the White Lands – not bad at all!  We learned about the sense of humor that keeps people grounded, even in a culture that is in confusion and transition, having to live with today’s interaction, yet yearning for yesterday’s traditions. Having memories of betrayal, yet yearning for healing. 

The Lakota people of Pine Ridge entered our hearts and will be in our minds for a very long time.

The trip was sponsored by a church focused on “mission.”  And we felt as though we had accomplished something physically useful and helpful during our time there.  In the letter from James in the Bible, there is a question asked of people: “Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food.  If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well, keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?”  The gathering of people in places of worship not only brings comfort and a sense of history to people of faith, it challenges us, too.  It is like a goad that sends people out of their comfort zone and into new experiences to discover new ways to answer James’ question: “What good is it?”  Sometimes during times of worship a new idea is planted, a new group of people forms around that idea, and working together, something real is accomplished in this world we live in.  Worship does that for people. It comforts and helps, it calls and teaches, but it also offers a challenge to people of faith to look around, see what needs to be done, near and far, and calls for action. “Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead,” says James.  

Life is certainly not dull in gatherings where people are challenged as well has helped; comforted as well as sent into the world. 

I invite you to find a place of worship this week, and join in hearing words that might just change your life.

Rev. Marcia Dorey is the pastor of the Halifax Union Society. 

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