(sorry for the lack of posting, it is difficult getting reception and wifi here!)
Happy Victoria Day! Since today is a public holiday, we had a lazy start to a lazy day. We caught up on some much needed sleep since no one really sleeps at youth conferences! We spent the morning getting to know our host Alice. She works as a liaison between the education system in the city off the reserve and the Saddle Lake community. It is a relatively new position but a much needed one as it has helped ease tensions between parents and the school board.
She drove us around Saddle Lake and told us some of the people who live in the houses we drove by and also some of the main buildings on the reserve. It is a really dark place plagued by much death and tragedy. One of the first houses we drove by, she asked us to pray for as the wife and 3 of the children had all committed suicide within a very short timeframe. Many houses we drove by had family members who also committed suicide or were broken by divorce, abuse, alcoholism, drugs…
Another thing we noticed as we were driving is how everyone seems to be related! Every house was either a cousin, in-law or some sort of extended family of Alices’! Relationships are very important to the Native people and they keep a tight community. Alice had stopped for gas and there was a nephew pumping gas who she caught up with and heard news of another suicide of someone she knew. As we were driving, we saw another one of her relatives, so we stopped to talk to her and she passed on the bad news. It is interesting seeing how news gets passed on the reserve.
We learned that Saddle Lake is actually an incorrect translation of the Cree word of the lake. It is supposed to be “Shadow Lake” because one of the hills casts a shadow on the lake during the day.
We stopped by a few houses and noticed how everyone seems to have dogs. By the end of this trip we are only going to have pictures of the sky and dogs!
We drove into St. Paul which is the closest city for some groceries for the potluck we would be attending that night. On the way out, we also visited the World’s FIRST UFO landing sight (as in landing site FOR UFOs when they come… not as in they have already come).
We attended the wake of one the people in the community. In Cree tradition, there is usually a wake for 2 days where the body is left on a open casket and people can visit the grieving family. Food is provided and there is a service, it usually ends at midnight.
Afterwards, we went to the house of one of Phil’s friends who is also passionate about helping the youth. She runs a employment mentorship program with the Band and also opens her house to any of the youth who need a place to stay. She asked us about why we were in Saddle Lake and told us how many people want to do good on the reserve but end up leaving. There are many people who come and go.
Please pray for us as we discern what the long-term goal of our partnership with Phil and Saddle Lake.