Sunday, February 09, 2014

Local Arlington pastor gives dramatic talk on plight on Pine Ridge Reservation

I float among several area churches many Sunday mornings, and even without reading much from the churches’ websites (I do peek), I seem to walk in on services where something very important is presented. 
Today, I re-visited the Clarendon Presbyterian Church in Arlington, VA (smaller than Trinity), and found the Director of Christian Formation, Susan Q. Graceson, presenting a 25-minute “reflection” that amounted to a one-person play, the script for a probable short film.
The presentation was titled “Reservations”.  Rev. Graceson, as part of her qualification for her degree or appointment, had to complete an immersion trip. 

So this January she visited the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation (“Wazi Aharharj Oyanjke”) of the Oglala Lakota nation, in southwestern South Dakota. 
She stayed in a “retreat”  (cosponsored by Presbyterian and Lutheran groups) housing six people in a small room.  She was introduced to the extreme poverty of the reservation, including the lowest per capita income for any county in the US, lifespans of 48 and 52 years for men and women, extreme incidence of adult onset diabetes (due to sudden use of western processed foods after centuries of living off the land – wild animals would develop diabetes if suddenly fed by people out of generosity), and the presence of gangs, and the lack of sanitation and normal retail stores and supplies.  This sounds surprising when one considers that many reservations make large incomes from casinos (such as Mystic Lake near Minneapolis, one state away).  Nevertheless, the entire presentation drew a parallel between American conquest of native lands in the through the 19th Century, compared to European style colonialism leading to horrible poverty, religious and sexual violence, and civil war in much of sub-Saharan Africa today (as well as apartheid, and even the extreme inequality in its aftermath, leading to violence, as in the film “Tell Me and I Will Forget”, reviewed on the Movies blog Feb. 4).  Her delivery was vivid and would make good material for a short POV PBS-style film.
The music include pastor David Ensign’s guitar. The hymnal doesn’t name the composers, but I think one of the hymns was by Ralph Vaughn Williams. 
I have visited the Black Hills (including Mt. Rushmore) and Badlands twice, in April 1974 and May 1998. (Both of these occurred in particularly interesting professional and then personal circumstances;  I went out to SD on vacation from a work benchmark in Minnesota after working on a particularly novel technical problem for the time).  In March 2001 I visited other reservation areas between Watertown and Siselton, with 30 inches of wet snow on the ground everywhere, and apparently again in the summer of 2002. The Badlands-Rapid City area was a favorite of my late father, who had a home movie of a freak June snowstorm above (6000 ft+) Rapid City in 1941, which I have not been able to locate in the estate (I have made DVD's of most of the family's 8mm home movies from the 40s and 50s). 

Wikipedia attribution link for Badlands picture (at top). 
One other question to ponder:  Is the debate over the Washington Redskins professional football team name relevant here?  Did the controversy last season affect the team's poor performance?  I think it did. 


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