Tauzha and I were invited to participate in an educational environmental camp with the Boys and Girls Club on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation. Christazia, a VISTA (Volunteers In Service to America) member was put in charge of the programming and gave us a day to put the members of the Boys and Girls Club through team builders and educational activities. The camp was based at Crazy Head Springs, a sacred area on the reservation where water flows out of a pipe from an aquifer to provide fresh drinking water. We had elementary and middle school aged children from the Northern Cheyenne Tribe as well as a group of high school girls from St. Louis, MO. Our day began with getting familiar with the group and pairing the Native youth with the high school girls.

Tauzha led a group get-to-know you activity that was called ‘All My Friends and Neighbors’. The game is similar to musical chairs where everyone makes a circle and has a place marker. There is one person in the middle who will say “All my friends and neighbors…” and continue to say something that pertains to them like “who like pizza” or “who have dark hair”. And the friends and neighbors who like pizza or have dark hair will go and find a new place marker to stand at. The game continues with the person who can’t find a place marker. This was a good game energetically because you sometimes had to run to the next place marker!! Most everyone had to speak in front of the group also which I think is always a good life skill to practice.

The youth decided that they wanted to go on a walk into the woods to appreciate the land that they were camped out on. We reminded them of the native plants and animals in the area. Wild roses, echinacea, sego lilies, bee balm, balsamroot and raspberries were all in bloom. We even witnessed a skeleton of an animal that the group concluded was a horse. We made sure to thank the children and volunteers of the Northern Cheyenne tribe for allowing us to visit and appreciate their native ancestral lands as well.

When we got back from our walk, we led the group into our sense of place activity where we had them visualize a special place and then sketch and color it on paper. This was a good activity for the entire group because the older 16 year old girls were from the big city so they were sketching neighborhoods and circuses whereas the native youth were visualizing much more rural ‘places’ like rivers and forests.

Tauzha and I circled everyone up one last time before lunch for an educational activity on scat identification. We had obtained piles of scat that ranged from bear scat to coyote scat and even chipmunk scat! The kids were a little grossed out when Tauzha reached up and took a little taste of some of it!! As it turns out, the scat were only replicas made of tootsie rolls and other candy! We laughed at their reactions as we were served a lunch consisting of taco salad and watermelon.

After lunch, we were led into a team-builder activity called ‘pipeline’ where the group had to get a marble from one set starting position into an old empty coffee can using parts of PVC pipe. The trick here was that the course was much longer than the continuous pipes so they would have to maneuver and run down end over end to keep the marble going in the right direction. It was a good team-builder and the group was having fun for the most part, but when we ran out of time they were discouraged that they didn’t reach the end of the course with the marble. There was pointing fingers and people asking “who dropped it?!” accusingly. We used this time to ask them questions about why they didn’t think that they were successful. A mindset of blaming others only divides the group, while helping your neighbor and being positive can strongly influence it as a whole to be successful.

I wrapped the day up with a lesson on Rock Art where we talked about what pictographs are and their importance. I led the discussion to define other types of rock art such as murals, graffiti, and stone painting. I wanted the youth to be engaged in knowing the difference between art and vandalism. We passed out trays of brightly colored acrylic paint and flat round stones for them to use to the extent of their creativity. I suggested animals that they might relate to or a positive symbol that they resonate with. We let them choose what they wanted to do with their masterpieces; whether it be to leave them in the woods for others to find or give them to a loved one.

The MCC duo was wrapping up and cleaning up the area as one little boy ran up to us and asked if we would PLEASSEE go to the spring with them. “Of course!!” so we headed down to the spring, about 200 yards away where the kids showed us their sacred watering hole. We drank and played in the water for a long while. One boy, named Ransom (pictured below in the green shirt) kept saying to us “you’ll never forget this day, you’ll never forget this day.” And I believe he was absolutely right. He also expressed his concerns about this water not always being available and had good thoughts on how we should be seeking to preserve clean water.

Overall, I believe the entire group (as well as the handful of adult volunteers) had a pretty good time, but that’s not the reason why we were there. We wanted to leave the youth with a better understanding of appreciation for our public and ancestral lands and that care of these lands belongs to everyone.


Comments

Be the first to comment, using the form below!

Post a Comment

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)