Indigenous Immersion Initiative Reflection
Jo Ann Eder, Red Lodge, Class of 2008, and III 2022
On this, our first reservation immersion, I noticed that my goals for the Indigenous Immersion experience have morphed since the first session at West Creek. Time has become circular instead of linear. Agendas changed and developed a flow as “plans” adjusted to circumstances. I appreciated that we are gradually evolving from a Western-centric worldview to a Native worldview. Our Native guides are sharing what THEY would like us to know about their life experience, not necessarily what we “Westerners” think is important.
Historian and author, Susan Weber, shared the Historical Trauma of “Mathematical Termination” as generations had their cultural roots and language methodically stripped away at the local Indian Boarding School at the Holy Family Mission. It was chilling to stand on the very site where this occurred with its graveyard where “mistakes” were buried.
However, this approach obviously didn’t work! We learned of the resurgence of the culture strengthened by the dedication of young reservation families grounded in their traditions. The Cuts Wood Academy, a Blackfeet Language Immersion school, teaches preschool and elementary students to converse in their Pikani language. As one of the oldest, continuously operating Native immersion school in the US, Cuts Wood helps other tribes restore their languages as well. The brilliant Blackfeet Community College is merging the traditional Blackfeet view of their natural world with modern scientific understanding. Their research results in a deeper and more profound view.
The Blackfeet tribal enterprises have capitalized on the summer tourists flooding through Browning on their way to Glacier National Park with a well-stocked grocery and gas station, as well as a modern hotel, restaurant, and casino. Local entrepreneurs offer art galleries, craft stores, and excursion companies. Juxtaposed with the bustling Browning is the idyllic peace and isolation of smaller communities like Heart Butte.
We, participants, who are privileged to take part in this inaugural class are gratefully expanding our worldview through the traditional Native values of Relationships and Reciprocity.