I’ve never been to South Dakota before, I’ve actually never been west of Rochester, Minnesota in a car, so this was certainly a new experience for me . . . geographically anyway. On the first day driving through South Dakota, we dropped down into the Missouri River Valley and everything changed – it was amazing. As we kept driving west I found that I was loving more and more of this new and somewhat alien landscape. We just didn’t have stuff like this growing up in Pennsylvania.
I’ve always been a person to need to feel connected to where I live, not just connected with people and institutions, but connected to the land. the food, the smells, and noticing the various ways the Earth asserts itself despite our best efforts to tame it. Perhaps it’s borne out of the desire to be oriented, but I think it’s something much more than that. The best I can conceive of it is there is a satisfying balance of energy in my life when I can begin to call a place home.
After settling in and getting some sleep, we woke early to drive deeper into the Black Hills where the camp was being held. During the Lakota Prayer to start the activities at camp, the Elder said that this [the Black Hills] is our sacred homeland. That stuck with me because I began to consider the energy the children at the camp may be able to draw from re-connecting with their sacred homeland. Without realizing it until about half way through the day, I had been trying to frame everything with the children I was working with in the context of re-connecting and deepening their connection with their ancestral homeland. From climbing rocks and canoeing to searching for interesting pebbles and feeling the warmth of the sun in contrast to the cool grass and gentle breezes (during a mindfulness exercise), the children were noticeably starting to embrace the world around them. Could it be that this is the first step for some at the camp to embrace and experience the sensation of being home, their ancestral home?
On this note, I am anxious to see how the rest of the trip unfolds as we continue to discover the Black Hills together.
– Justin McKnight