Monday, November 7, 2011

Miikinaa (The Path)

Health care in general is an interesting field. One is exposed to a variety of people, ideas, and cultures. To be honest is part of the reason I choose this profession. Who doesn't like people watching and drama?! Just kidding (but not really : ) But a true blessing of nursing is the ability to be able to learn about other cultures than my own. My journey through nursing school has recently brought me to the Leech Lake reservation. For the next month I will be working in the public health and mental health nursing arenas on the reservation. The Leech Lake reservation is home to the Band of the Objibwe tribe.
For most of us, we might be aware that the Native American populations mostly live on lands that are called reservations and they have pow wows but honestly thats about it... maybe thats all I know. Through the request of a couple of friends my goal is to try and blog about my experiences here on the reservation and hopefully bring to light the unknown. Because this "white girl" truly doesn't know much.
Day one:
So day one has finally come to an end and it has been nothing short of a sensory overload. Most of today was consumed with orientations to places and times for the month of clincals we will be serving on the reseveration. However, today we did get in on a drumming ceremony that was accompanied by a traditional Ojibwe meal. Not going to lie when a group of primarily white students walked into this ceremony (which was located at the local tribal college) you could tell there was a level of apprehension when we walked in. It was interesting, and yet I can respect it. We have had a tremendous amount of history prior to our arrival, so that we have a vague idea why there is apprehension toward "the white man." I have definitely never felt like the odd man out like that before. For lack of better words... the minority. It was humbling. But back to the drumming. This particular ceremony was to offer prayers to a family with in the tribe who had someone pass away recently. The drummers played and sang "he will not cry... for he is taken care of." The beat(s) of the drum we varied in tempo and strength. I swear you could feel the energy in the room; somber but resilient. Gave me goosebumps. It was also wonderful to see how ingrained the culture was here. One of the drummers had his grandson on his knee teaching him. Passing on to him the culture. I wish all of us had the opportunity to see where we come from. Because I really believe... to know who you are, you need to know where you came from. Anyways if you ever get the opportunity, I highly recommend it. After the drumming was over we had to get going to our next clinical site. We got to leave. Unknowningly and apparently it is EXTREMELY offensive to not eat with the collective. Our instructor allowed us of to stay and eat with the tribe. We had the opportunity to sit down to a meal of indigenous foods including: grilled moose, whitefish bake, walleye, squash with venison, blueberry wild rice, 'swamp tea' (junipter, peppermint, and something else?!) and my favorite sweetened popped wild rice with berries. WOW, was it great food. It actually reminded my of Thanksgiving in the sense I ate an obscene amount of food. We talked and visited with other students. By the end of our experience today we had felt a new level of welcome. Needless to say it will be an interesting Miikinaa.