In the distance, I could see piles of twigs and decaying fabric, each one telling its own story of the Sun Dance Festival. “Don’t step over the branches. It is disrespectful to the spirit of the tree,” they told us. For many years the Blackfeet tribe has cut willow branches, dug holes, and wove their sacred hut. Left to the passage of time, I see the bones of once mighty encampments before us.
I remember how I felt. I was standing in their field. I was listening to their history. I was part of their culture. The more they shared, the more I learned and respected. At that moment I was not a tourist, but a guest, one of the community. Now, I cannot claim any Blackfeet heritage of my own, but at that moment I reached a level of cultural understanding I could have never imagined I would ever receive.