A week ago I was stressing about what to pack and about shopping at Costco with the hospitality group to get all the food for our trip. Today it is weird to think that our trip is over and that tomorrow is the beginning of third week. Our trip to Pine Ridge flew by so quickly. We were only there Monday to Friday, but we learned so much and experienced so many new things in that short amount of time on the reservation.
Overall I think all of us did a great job staying open to the opportunities presented to us while on the reservation. While some of us experienced things that made us ask questions and think about our uncertainties, I felt as if we all came away with a better understanding of the Lakota Culture and of ourselves. The ceremonies were a great time to be introspective, reflecting on recent worries and situations. At times it was hard to focus during ceremonies because of the heat, noises, or random flashes of light that scared and confused me. Going into most of the ceremonies I felt very anxious because I was unsure of what was going to take place and what the ceremony would bring to me. I think that the readings and discussions about the ceremonies we read before the trip made me a bit more hesitant because they only scratched the surface of what the ceremonies would actually entail. I knew there would be noises, lights, and singing in the dark spaces but the small amount of knowledge I had about these ceremonies left me waiting in constant anticipation or even fear for the next noise or light to appear.
One of the most unique experiences I had while on the reservation was during our sweat lodge on Tuesday night. I decided that it would be better for me to sit by the door because of my apprehension about the heat and small amount of space. So in order for me to sit as close to the opening as possible I sat next to Big Mike. Throughout the ceremony I heard this voice that sounded like a very raspy female voice having a conversation with Big Mike; this was confusing because I was pretty sure all of the women were sitting on the other side of me. During the second window, Big Mike had warned me that a spirit was going to answer my prayers from my prayer ties that I had hung above me in the lodge. During that second window Big Mike talked as a spirit to me and talked to me about my prayers. At the time, the sound of the voice and the confusing surroundings made me very frightened of the sweat lodge experience. The next two days I was unsure if I was going to participate in the next sweat, but decided I would stay fearful if I did not participate again. Although at the time this was very scary and confusing for me, looking back on it now I realize it was an experience very few people have and that I will remember it for a very long time.
While I was anxious and scared during most of the ceremonies I feel like looking back on the experiences now I feel a sense of peace and resolution. I am able to realize that all the ceremonies were good, safe, and learning experiences that only furthered my desire to learn more about the Lakota Culture and their religious ceremonies.