2013 CBC In Montana

2013 CBC In Montana

Friday, May 10, 2013

Glacier Park and A Bear

So today we enjoyed Indian Tacos and a great visit to Glacier National Park. We walked the South Shore Two Medicine Lake trail. We spent part of the trail in Snow Shoes as we headed through a mountain trail to Aster Falls. As we went along our guide Ranger Kelly pointed out beaver damns bear tracks and all sorts of wildlife. We did not see many animals on the hike. It we did see a bear on the ride into the park. It was a juvenile black bear and we got a couple of great pics.

After that hike we walked the Two Medicine Lake picnic area where the snow drifts are still 8 feet high. The day was beautiful and we hung out along the lake skipping rocks and getting great info from the ranger.  

Our Glacier park visit ended with a short hike to Running Eagle Falls. It was breathtaking. Check out the photos to get a sense, words don't do it justice. 

We are finishing up with dinner at Two Medicine Grill in East Glacier. We will have a bit longer to wait since the train is running a bit late. No sweat we will be home tomorrow and have memories to last a lifetime. 

Growing and Learning

Anytime you get a group of adolescent boys together for any extended period of time you will have your highs and lows. This group has been largely all about the highs. So that I can end on positive note I will relay the ONLY negative to the whole week. It is not even a negative, it is about learning how to work and live together in community. Trying to get each of the guys to do their part at the bunkhouse when it comes to cleaning, doing dishes and respecting each other is a challenge for any group. We have some guys who were first to jump up to accomplish any chore thrown and them and some guys who were unsure or content to have someone do it for them. In the end everyone has pulled their weight.

Today in the classroom has been business as usual, but we made a decision as a group to help support the 7th grade fundraiser to Yellowstone. This was significant because the boys have limited cash and they made a conscious decision to partake in this regardless. The 7th grade also put on the weekly mass and Fr. Ed talked extensively about the Ascension and the upcoming Pentecost, very fitting under the circumstances. They have forged some relationships with the kids and their primary objective was to be a role model of why education is important. In talking to the students about dreams and what could be for themselves they have sparked interest in things that some of the De La Salle student may not have thought possible.

It is a hard time around the school as their year comes to a close. Each year DLSBS goes through transition. It is a poor school with limited resources and the teachers sacrifice greatly in their personal live to teach here. Some of the more seasoned teachers are at a place in their lives where they are ready to move on. All of the teachers are young energetic and selfless, but there comes a time when they want to start families and focus on careers. They need to fulfill their own dreams. The DLSBS students are hurting because they are close to these teachers. Our boys have helped like all the immersion groups as a buffer to this. In addition to 4 teachers moving on the principal is also moving on. This is a lot of turn over for such a small school. Thankfully Brother Ray and Brother Dale are up to the challenge of keeping this school going strong.

This afternoon the CBC boys took some time to visit the Trading Post and the Gift Shop to get some gifts and souvenirs. They enjoyed the opportunity to shop and check out some beautiful Native American art and artifacts. When we got back to the bunkhouse we assigned a team of three to help Brother Ray replace and spruce up the solar lighting around the bunkhouse and Mr. Gerdes replaced a faucet while I continued my role as Mr. Mom and cooked supper. We shared our supper with Brother Ray and Darnell Rides at the Door. She and her granddaughter shared their experiences as members of the Blackfeet tribe. The boys asked wonderful, insightful questions. They showed they were learning about the plight of the Blackfeet and other Native Americans.

As the evening winds shut you can see how these boys have grown together as a group. As I sit here typing this up they have had a wonderful conversation about their childhood TV shows, Movies and experiences. Many laughs have been shared and you can see their inhibitions dropped as they have grown into a community. They may never all be best friends but they will always be able to share this experience. I hope these ranks as some of the strongest memories they have.

Tomorrow we get to have some fun and then start our long journey home. 

Men For Tomorrow…Brothers For Life
Live Jesus in Our Hearts…Forever

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Long Day, Bright Night

Today was the longest day we have had so far. The boys worked hard in the classroom with the Blackfeet students and some of the CBC students are working on PowerPoint presentations about themselves to present to the classes they are working in. This is a great opportunity to educate the younger kids about our lives and lifestyle. Most of the kids have no idea where St. Louis is and when you say Missouri they think River first not state. Half the students, Mr. Gerdes and I went to Medicine Bear the local soup kitchen and shelter. This was eye opening for everyone involved. One of the biggest vices on the reservation is Alcoholism and it was front and center for the boys to see. Many of the patrons were buying their time till they had money or knew someone who had money to get some alcohol. Every person we talked to was very appreciative of our work and wanted to know as much as possible. They are very happy go lucky and nearly everyone knew at least one student at De La Salle Blackfeet.

The afternoon was pretty calm for our boys with primarily time in the classroom, but the teachers at DLSBS had a bit of handful with some student behavior issues that most of the CBC guys were oblivious to. In the end all was well and Brother Ray took the boys on a long bus ride home going on the scenic route near Heart Butte.

When we got back our two swimmers took their daily dip in the Two Medicine River, but the current had picked up a bit and they did not make it across this time. As dinner approached we had our first guest speaker of the week, Mr. Marty Martain an Elder in the Blackfeet Tribe. He gave the boys an in depth history of the Blackfeet from their perspective. Mr. Martain is a skilled story teller and wove the myths of the Blackfeet along with the history to captivate the boys attention for nearly three and half hours. His experiences and faith the “Creator” showed the connection between the Christianity and the Native American ways. The interesting fact is the majority of the Blackfeet are Catholics and this “One Creator” connection is the driving force behind their evangelization.

The end of the night was a sort of surprise trip “off the grid” to star gaze. Brother Ray fired up the bus and took us 15 miles east until we left pavement, then there were no more fences and then there were no more utility poles. We then stopped and got out to see more stars than you could fathom along with satellites and the Milky Way. It was a great end to another great day. It is going fast as Thursday will be our last full day in the classrooms.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Swim, Swim, Swim

On an additional note. The tradition is that on the first day the immersion groups visit the Two Medicine river and the brave take a swim. That happened on Sunday afternoon as a good chunk of the guys gave it a go. The weather was great (70 ish) and Monday afternoon two boys decided to go again. Not sure this has happened often but this is water coming out of a Glacier. Not sure they will brave it today though. It is much colder and windier. Time will tell though.

Into the Grind of the Work

So the boys are midway through their second day of service at De La Salle Blackfeet and the adrenaline and excitement is wearing off a bit. The boys are very engaged and plugged into the community at this point. As we finished up our day yesterday and discussed what they saw each had their own story to tell. In many cases they had to earn the students and the teachers trust. In others they were welcomed right in like they had been there all school year. They are eager to “change the world” and the reality of what that means is slowly starting to dawn on them.

One of the biggest roles they play is as an example of why education is important. The students that are getting tutored are in a situation that could lead to much greater success and wellbeing. They are developing a self-worth that will hopefully change not only their lives but the community. We get to be a part of that process and it will not happen overnight. In some of the pictures you can see the boys reading, working on homework and other chores. They got involved working on a Paper Mache art project, they helped clean and set up the gym for a guest speaker, who is a holocaust survivor. Six boys ventured a couple of blocks away and served food at the local soup kitchen (Called: Medicine Bear).

The reality of the life up here is setting in. When Brother Ray said you need to go 30+ miles to the nearest movie theater, 120+ miles to get to a Sam’s, Wal-Mart, Target, McDonald’s, etc. It crystalizes that you are in not only a remote, rural community but an impoverished one as well.

The excitement for day two has probably been the Holocaust speaker. As she wove her tale of survival in a concentration camp in Germany, everyone was captivated. The Blackfeet students asked very astute questions and it was a tremendous experience. Afterwards she was initiated into the Blackfeet Tribe and given her own name. Brother Ray has been here for 12 years and that is only the 2nd time this has happened. The CBC students got to witness two significantly persecuted cultures collide in a special way.

Our day will conclude here in a bit with a speaker just for the CBC boys. Mr. Harry Barnes will talk to them about the economics of the life in Browning. 

Monday, May 6, 2013

So How Do You Get to Browning Montana???

So after a trip that started on 6:00 pm on Saturday and ended at 10:00 am Sunday that included 2 flights (the flight to Denver was a bit bumpy) a 4 hour layover in Spokane, WA and an 8 hour train ride through Washington, Idaho and Montana we a here in the heart of the Blackfeet Nation, Browning, MT. Our travels included a nice night walk in Spokane to a Burger place called Dick’s that would be similar to a 50’s style drive in. Good Burgers and Shakes. Some of the locals referred to it the way us St. Louisians would refer to Ted Drewes. 

As we made a feeble attempt to sleep on the train we awoke to awe inspiring mountain views as Glacier Park and the Continental Divide came into view. The anticipation and the questions from the boys grew. Upon arriving at the station in East Glacier, you get a great view of snow covered mountains and the lodge that sits at the foot of the Park Entrance. As we got off the train we were greeted by Brother Dale, Brother Ray and the entire 8th grade class. Not a welcome party but a travelling pass by, they were getting on the train to take a trip to St. Mary’s College in Minnesota. 

We then loaded our gear on the Bus and headed to Browning, while Brother Ray gave the boys the history and orientation of what to expect. We were in plenty of time to attend mass with Fr. Ed next to the school and the friendly nature of the Blackfeet was on display. The community aspect that many of the boys do not get to experience was in full effect. Following Mass we took a fly by tour of the school and got some lunch at the local Subway (There are only 2 chain eateries in Browning the other is a Taco John’s) Following lunch Brother Ray gave us the Nickel tour of town, followed by grocery shopping and off to the Bunkhouse at the Mission. 

What is the Mission? It is the site of the Old Catholic Mission and school used to educate the Blackfeet, now it is the home of the Brother Ray and the Lasallian Volunteers who work at the school. 

The rest of the day was spent setting up shop in the Bunkhouse, going on a hike to the Buffalo Jumps (another story or an old one if you page back) and a trip to the Two Medicine River where many of the boys took a quick and cold swim. Thankfully it was close to 70 degrees yesterday. We finished up the night with an orientation movie, dinner and some cards and games. 

Now starts the real part. This morning they are in the school work with students. More to come on that ….

Friday, May 3, 2013

There and Back Again...Again

Tomorrow CBC will take 12 Juniors and two Chaperones and make the long journey to the De La Salle Blackfeet school for our immersion trip.

It looks to be another great time with a group of great kids. Stay tuned here for our thoughts and experiences about the trip.