The day dawns orange and dusty with the smell of sage, grasses and some floral scent yet to be identified, but it is lovely and lingering. Across the road, a boy rides his skateboard down the gravel road. Like so many things I see and hear on Pine Ridge, it leaves me with questions and wondering. Why ride your skateboard on a gravel road? Shouldn’t you be getting ready for school? I wonder and wonder as I sip my delicious coffee that Kelly brought here from Wisconsin. Also, who thought to bring half and half?
We drive to Porcupine Head Start to wrap our hands around the little precious ones, who solemnly ponder us with their big soft brown eyes. We squeeze a four month old with loads of silky black locks. Where did she get that hair? Where does she sleep? Will she have a pony, a paint, and ride after school until dark? Will she see her graduation day?
Our team sets up in a little room where the little ones go to school. We get everything set up just right and then proceed to see 67 children so their center can qualify for badly needed funds to run their stellar Head Start program. Will it make a difference? My little patient watched us carefully as we did the exams on the other children before her. I finish her exam and she looks at me disappointed, “Aren’t you going to use the hammer?” I gently tap her arms, her legs, and finally her forehead. Her giggles sound like rain on a steel roof and linger in my ears.
Dakota, our young guide who teaches us about the massacre at Wounded Knee, has an earnest face and knows his history. He tells us the tragic story. Was it planned? Yes, he says. Do you still wish to eat dinner with us? Of course.
There is one thing I do not wonder about. I do not wonder if these people will rise above their problems and be able to live the beautiful life again. They will. In many ways, they already are.
– Ellen Ott