Today’s offering for The Journey comes through the voices of John Around Him and Lori Patriaca ‘01, both of whom have served a critical role in helping our Proctor community connect with, understand, and become a part of the Lakota communities of South Dakota, continuing a legacy of connection first made by John’s father, John Around Him, and late faculty member George Emeny in the 1980s. John spent last week visiting classes, spending time with students and faculty, and immersing himself in all that is Proctor. Enjoy John and Lori’s offering below.
Each year on Indigenous Peoples Day we pause to recognize the Abenaki people who lived on this beautiful land before European settlers colonized it. We look out from Balanced Rock toward Mount Kearsarge (g’wizawajo in Western Abenaki meaning Rough Mountain) and honor those who first called this valley home.
“Voice can take a long time to come all the way out, brother.” Bobby said. “Be patient.” These words jumped off the page of Tommy Orange’s There There as John Around Him discussed the book with Proctor’s American Literature students. This notion of voice, of who has the courage (and privilege) to share their voice, and who will listen when they finally do, cuts through an American Literature curriculum to the core of how we empower students to live lives that matter.
Much of the country enjoys a federal holiday on the second Monday of October each fall. Operating independently of a regular federal holiday schedule, Proctor does not observe Columbus Day. Instead, we have chosen to acknowledge the ‘discovery’ of America by European explorers by recognizing and bringing awareness to the culture and beliefs of the indigenous peoples of this great land. Sunday’s indigenous peoples celebration at the Proctor tipi reminds us of the importance of continuously bringing different perspectives into the Proctor community.
When I told friends my plans to spend four weeks in South Dakota this summer, I had more than a few people tell me I was crazy, but it was an amazing month thanks to the fantastic group of eleven students who ventured alongside Tim Miner P'10 and me to spend ten days living and working at the Rosebud Reservation in southwestern South Dakota. With daily temperatures hovering around 100 degrees, this group cheerfully responded to constant reminders about sunscreen and hydration while working incredibly hard in the heat, sun and wind without a single complaint. They pushed themselves and were proud of the work they accomplished at the Sinte Gleska Ranch for Tiwahe Glu Kini Pi Program, Tree of Life Organization and at Marlies White Hat's house. This group acted like a sponge, soaking up all that they could during their visit; meeting new people and exploring the Lakota culture with an open mind and a positive attitude. I was proud to be part of their group. The student reflections below provide a window into their varied experiences as a part of Proctor's Summer Service Trip to South Dakota, but I encourage you to seek these students out in person to see first hand the transformation that has taken place. You won't be disappointed.
Proctor's Mountain Classroom program turned our focus to Colorado's grasslands as we drove to Chico Basin Ranch to study rotational grazing and ranch management. Our experience was facilitated by Lee Derr, a local bird banding expert and grassland ecologist. The next stop was St Francis, SD, on the Rosebud Reservation. There we spent time with the White Hat family, whose longstanding relationship with Proctor has been a fixture of Mountain Classroom for years.
The best ones are those that you move in and out of seamlessly, that offer delight, bring laughter, and deepen an understanding of the world. They are the friendships forged over years, spanning decades. Sometimes, in rare instances, a friendship will touch a community, its impact ringing out the way a bell rings out, looping its peels in ever widening circles. That’s the kind of friendship Proctor has with John Around Him, who has been on campus this week. He has brought the experience of his travels in the world and the wisdom of the Lakota people to Proctor’s campus, and we have delighted in his return as one delights in a visit of the closest of friends.