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Let it snow

October 12, 2008

Winter’s early arrival in southeastern Montana is a welcome change of pace for me.  I’m finally able to see the reservation in a new light – or new white, rather – and one that is much more typical of the area than the hot and dry summers I associate with the state.  Summer is only four months here – winter is eight. 

I spent my first snowy Saturday the best way I could think of:  with the Spangs.  We had a fun-filled day of horseback riding (and horse chasing) and indoor games, in which close family friends of the Spangs also participated. 

The afternoon started out with Zane, Lia, and I herding horses in Zane’s pickup.  The horses we were to ride had broken through a gate and gotten out into a larger field, through which we bumped and skidded and popped wheelies as we chased them back towards the house.  Zane is quite the modern cowboy!  Unfortunately, the herd was in such a frisky mood from the cold weather that the horses ultimately proved too difficult to round up into the corral, so we had to forgo our trail ride – but the helluva truck ride was fun enough!  I did end up getting to ride by myself for a little bit since one horse stayed behind, and it was one of the most gorgeous rides I’ve had.  I didn’t go far since I was on my own, but the brief ride I took along the valley bottom was exhilarating.  Snow dusted the ground and shrubs, the moisture causing the sage to release its sweet scent into the air as Max, my mount, brushed past the bushes.  The pine boughs were weighted with puffy white snow that stuck to everything, clean and clear and free from auto pollution to spoil it. 

After I unsaddled, I joined an energetic game of stuffed-animal dodgeball in the basement with Lia and the family friends while Zane and Sandy finished making dinner upstairs.  Then we all sat down to share a meal and dessert (compliments of me – when I’m bored, I bake!) and cleared the table to play a wicked game of cards.  I believe they called it Nerk?  Anyway, it was quite fast-paced and intense.  Don’t cross a Spang or Arpan when they’re in their groove!

On the ride back to Lame Deer with Audrey, who’s also a colleague of mine at CDKC, and her family, I thought back to the sad stories that Sandy had shared with me earlier about the way Indian people were treated when she was younger:  forced to lose their language, to look down on their culture, to submit to mysterious x-rays for which they never saw results.  And I thought about their treatment today – shunned or forgotten by most of society because they’re “different” or “drunks” or “lazy.”  Yet sitting in the car with me as we drove over the divide was a beautiful, loving, deserving family with whom I’d just laughed, played, and ate.  A family headed by a hard-working woman who wants nothing but the best for her children and her students – and they will get the best from her, but from the rest of society?  Likely not.

As we climbed the divide, snowflakes still falling from the sky, Audrey and I talked about our ethnic backgrounds.  Her son, who has many different ethnicities running through his veins, announced “I’m all colors,” and proceeded to name all of the colors of the rainbow.  It was a poignant moment, one that I hope he can repeat again and again with the same innocence.  As Audrey pointed out, we all ultimately trace back to the same group of people, so why do we consider ourselves so different today? 

When it comes down to it, we’re not.  We all live, love, and long, and we all deserve the dignity of doing so without denigration.  Color matters, but not for purposes of classification.  It matters because it brings more beauty and diversity into a world in which diversity is essential for survival and health – even a scientist won’t disagree with that. 

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