Today, Kris, Emma, Josh and myself will be traveling to Porcupine to provide physicals at a healing camp for young girls. Don will be returning to the home of Bernadette and her son to continue construction on their new home. We gathered for a short breakfast, discussed each of our plans for the day and how much we were looking forward to our cultural orientation that evening. Satisfied with our well planned out schedule we departed. Little did we know that our well planned out schedule was soon to be altered.
Soon we arrived at our destination. The camp was located outside of Porcupine. The healing camp is for young Native girls who have experienced some type of trauma. The camp facilitates healing through the teaching of traditional native practices specific to the female of the tribe. When we arrived the girls were just returning from a week of camping. As they arrived they all introduced themselves to us and shook our hands. Two native women were in the kitchen preparing breakfast for them. The smells were warm and inviting, just like the women preparing the meal. We learned we would be providing physicals to 5 of the girls.
Emma gave each girl a physical form to fill in their name and date of birth. While waiting for the girls to complete the forms, Emma and I met Larry. Larry was there to see some of the girls he has counseled. Larry quickly invited us to attend a traditional Inipi that evening. This is a sacred prayer ceremony that takes place in a sweat lodge. I could see Emma’s eyes light up at this invitation. We thanked him and shared that we were attending an orientation and dinner at another couples home that evening. He gave us his phone number and drew us a map to his home in case our plans changed.
Soon we began our assessments. I was suddenly overcome with emotion and began to cry. They were tears of gratitude and joy. I could not help but feel that I was the lucky one and the one being served and not the members of the tribe we came to serve. Before we knew it we had completed 7 not 5 physicals. Kris, our nurse practitioner, had now completed over 60 physicals in three and one half days. She was truly amazing. I thanked her for her tireless work. After we gathered our equipment we went our into the gathering room. Here we were able to share in conversation with Larry. He shared several stories of the young women whom were attending the camp. He spoke of their incredible resilience and desire to overcome the obstacles in their lives. We then said our good byes and began the second part of our well appointed day.
We ate lunch and toured the red cloud school and museum. There was a gallery showing of local artisans. The art work and crafts were amazing. After touring the gallery and church on premise, we departed for our next destination, the Oglala Lakota College. We visited the bookstore and museum and then returned to our hotel. Josh spoke with our hosts for the evening confirming the time. He shared with our hostess that we had been invited to an Inipi that evening. Our hostess told Josh that it is a very high honor to be invited to this ceremony and that we should attend this instead of dinner as this takes priority. According to the Lakota culture, Ethlene indicated that there are no coincidences and this was meant to happen. Josh contacted Larry and informed him we would be attending the Inipi that evening.
After a freshening up we left for the ceremony with great anticipation. Upon arrival we me gathered around a bon fire with a group of students from the University of Nebraska. There were 21 of us that would be participating in the ceremony. Larry explained the ceremony and we all entered that sweat lodge. Soon the sacred peace pipe was brought in and we all prayed. Next the rocks that had been heating in the fire were brought into the lodge. The door to the lodge was closed and we sat in silence and complete darkness. The Larry began chanting and inviting the spirits of their ancestors to come. We then all took turns praying. It was so incredibly moving, beautiful and HOT. After the 4 rounds of the ceremony were complete we exited the lodge. We were all soaked! After changing into dry clothes we gathered and ate a meal of stew, fry bread and woyapi. (Woyapi is a blueberry pudding to dip your fry bread in) together. The night came to a close and we thanked our hosts for extending the invitation to this sacred event that nourished not only our bodies but our souls.
With a humble heart and gratitude I wish to thank global partners, my travel companions and the Lakota’s for an amazing week. It has been an honor in so many ways. I look forward to returning to this magical land, the land of the Lakota’s.