Sunday, June 21, 2009

Our Work at Crow Creek

Photos by me and by Beth H. - thanks for sharing, Beth.

A team of nine people from my local church traveled to Crow Creek Reservation in South Dakota for one week, to help in whatever way we were needed. (The girl smack dab in the middle is my confirmation mentee.)

Here is Peter (below), the Construction Manager, an employee of Tree of Life, talking to the group about what our tasks will be. There were three teams there ready to work: a team of about 45 teens from Illinois, 40 adults from Missouri, and 9 of us from Minnesota. We mostly worked alongside the Missouri team, and they also fed us quite bountifully. Yum!

We participated in a variety of cleaning jobs.

This is Jason (above), the other of our two teens. He was the only guy on the trip, and did marvelously putting up with a group of mostly old women. He was such a hard worker and a great guy!

Above is Corrine, a veteran mission team worker, who reminded us that when things get tough, our job is to "Choose Joy!" She's a gem.

A greenhouse is being built. We helped a little, but didn't have the construction skills that would have been helpful, so we moved on to other projects.

The Thrift Shop became our Project of the Week. It started out as an empty room. Random stuff was stored in there, so we started by hauling it out.

We cleaned the floor and were told to prepare it for cement sealant.

However, once the sealant cans were opened, it was obviously not useable. It was too old, or had been frozen... it looked like cottage cheese. Peter told us to forget the floor and go ahead and fill the shop. He was eager to get it set up and hoped to open next week! Our work was cut out for us.

The attic (aka sauna) was full of piles and boxes of donations. One crew of mostly elderly women, bless their hearts, spent nearly the whole week up here in the heat, sorting through stuff, organizing it into categories, and bringing useful items downstairs to the thrift shop for display. Some of us worked in here regularly. I worked here occasionally. I found it too hot, and bending down to avoid hitting one's head on the rafters was annoying and gave me a backache. I was more productive downstairs.... and also served as roaming Photographer.

This is me (above), half dead after a work stint in the attic, with cool and collected Beth J.

We made good progress getting things set up and arranged.

This is Beth H. who recruited some guys to put up these cabinets for the future kitchen area. Afterwards she helped clean them up.

We organized... arranged....

By the end of the week we had transformed an empty room into an attractive Thrift Shop. It had been cleaned from top to bottom, stocked and organized. Many creative minds working together made the room turn into a very nice-looking shop! We were pleased and proud of all the work we had done! Peter called us "amazing" which was a nice compliment.

Both our teens (one is pictured here with her mother) pitched in and did their share of the work!


Peter is the Crow Creek Construction Manager whose goal is to work himself out of a job. He has a clear and compelling dream for his people. He hopes to help them out of helplessness into self-sufficiency.

The challenges at Crow Creek are enormous. The Dakota people have been struggling with mistreatment and forced helplessness since the days when they were forced onto the reservation. Since then they have learned to keep a hand out for donations and help. This lesson was internalized thanks to years of neglect, broken promises, and nearly zero opportunities for them.

You would be amazed at the emptiness at Crow Creek. I find the prairie to be really beautiful, but there is literally nothing there for the people to do or places to be employed. The little town where we worked consists of the Tree of Life complex (Thrift Shop, garden, greenhouse), a small church, a gas station/convenience store, a casino, a Boys and Girls club, and a health clinic. That is IT. There is literally nothing else. No bowling alley for the kids, no tennis courts, no manufacturing or retail shops to provide employment. Depression and helplessness hang heavy in the region.

Still, the people are resilient, enjoy a great sense of community and camaraderie, are working on rebuilding their culture through schools and cultural revitalization. Tree of Life hopes to have a hand in helping re-create a strong and self-sufficient people. It would be fabulous if Peter and Tree of Life succeed in working themselves out of a job. It is a dream worth pursuing.

Until that happens, our work as volunteers is greatly needed and deeply appreciated. Everyone we met was gracious, funny, friendly, and very willing to share and teach. The Dakota/Lakota cultures are beautiful, very spiritual, and I am blessed to have spent a small amount of time among the beautiful people of Crow Creek (and a year ago, Rosebud). I hope to return next year to the beautiful prairie, to see what progress has been made, and to pitch in with my labor and sweat!


Beth said...

Tears streaming down my face! Thanks for the beautiful write up!

Can I "borrow" some pics? I promise to give credit!

Melissa said...

Isn't mission work incredible? I went on 3 trips in high school and I hope that all 3 of our kids are involved in trips as they get older.

I'm glad you had a wonderful experience and were able to do good while you were out there!

AnnieO said...

What a lot of helpful goodness you volunteers were able to get done in only a week! I'm glad the work was rewarding despite the physical discomforts and that you achieved your other joys through your small quilts and toy drops. It must feel very soul satisfying to know you brought help and joy to others.

Julie Sharer said...

Thanks for the long blog on your trip! I found myself checking in daily to see if there was an update. The thrift shop DOES look incredible and I loved all you had to say about the prairie and the Dakota/Lakota people...can you tell me why the 2 different names? I learned it once, long ago, but can't remember exactly. (Oh, and I LOVE that quilt you gave Holly! What a doll!) Miss you!

Carol E. said...

It's hard to keep it straight, but I think it's a language grouping.. and probably stems from the places where the people originated. There is Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota. The languages are related but slightly different, for example the word for thank you:
Wopila (Lakota)
Wopida (Dakota)
Wopina (Nakota)
I'm not an expert on this stuff. There is so much to learn. The people at Rosebud are Lakota and at Crow Creek they are Dakota. The people at Crow Creek were kicked out of Minnesota in 1863. The government said "annihilate them all or remove them forever from Minnesota." Nice. That's my legacy.

Sara said...

What a wonderful experience and looks like you made a difference! What an incredible adventure, and thank you for sharing with us!