Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Day 27-28 Saturday 8/1/09 Glasgow to Wolf Point, MT
Day 27 Saturday 8/1/09
Glasgow to Wolf Point, MT
1176 total miles
Late start out of Glasgow and a ride into the "feared territory" of the Ft. Peck Indian Reservation. At least that's the prevailing story I kept hearing from the "Anglo" locals in the neighboring communities as I approached the Rez. "don't stop to camp on the reservation, they'll stab you!" one man said. I stopped in Nashua at the Wagon Wheel for a beer, just at the western border of the reservation to hear the local stories. Not sure I got the complete and unvarnished truth there, not only about the rez, but also about the general affairs in Washington and Montana at large. Seems like the federal highway system has forgotten all about their promise to widen US Rt. 2, a promise made in the 1950's, to a 4 lane divided highway. Seems like the diminishing numbers along the hi-line have everything to do with the replacement of transportation alternatives to the south with interstate 90 getting all of the east-west traffic routed along it. The population lost along the towns of the hi-line don't seem to have anything to do with the improved efficiencies in American farming technologies and to some degree, migrant labor, which have replaced jobs in the once labor intensive farm economy for good. The secondary and tertiary jobs associated with support functions in communities hasn't improved as a result either, and many of these rural communities are a shadow of what they once used to be.
When I arrived in Wolf Point, I checked into the Sherman Hotel, whose accommodations are comfortable and clean enough, even though the purported "non-smoking" room in the "non-smoking" hotel sported an ashtray and book of matches beside the bed, as well as a pile of cig ashes next to Gideon's bible on the shelf below. Was pleased to find that behind the hotel there was the Wadopana (canoe paddle) powwow celebration going on, hosted by the Assinniboine who are river people from the Milk and Missouri valleys. Dancers and singers are here from all over the region to celebrate heritage and fellowship with each other and the gathering is a very generous spirited group. I had several good and warm conversations and was made to feel very welcome here. Delicious Indian soft tacos and other good things to eat and marvelous haunting, powerful singing and colorfully costumed dancers. There is a very strong association of military service veterans from the reservation and a particular returning marine was honored by the many people there after 13 years of service including 2 tours of duty in Iraq. I also learned about many of the challenges facing the broader Indian nation of the Sioux, including alcohol and drug abuse, poverty, gang violence, education issues, depression, and so on. The reservation is a very tough place to grow up and opportunities are few, but the family ties here are very strong and the people genuinely have a sense of caring and supportive community amongst themselves. Blood relationships run deep and powwows create the place for reunions of many of the far-flung extended families among the tribes and settlements.