Tuesday, June 30, 2009

June 30, 6 p.m., Wolf Point Mountain (3rd entry)

Our u-turn this morning - when faced with the wind and storm - has been worthwhile. A morning nap after a full breakfast. An afternoon nap after a massage (and more about that later). Neither of us anticipated the eagerness our bodies had for this extra sleep and rest. Seems time off is a physically agreeable thing. A stop also mitigates against the development of bicycle phobia which can attack you unexpectedly at the sight of your bike when you awaken in the a.m. and is associated with the desire to believe you are in a dream, that this can’t be real, and when that abates and reality sets in, an uncontrollable urge to buy an airline ticket home regardless of cost. So far, this reactivity has been manageable.

We are almost across Montana and around 500 miles from Minnesota. Minnesota, as I recall, is practically to Maine in a very general, non-specific, semi-deluded way. So, we are very encouraged.

We did have a massage. Tacy, an off-duty ER Trauma and OB nurse, provided it. She grew up here and knows the local people, the state of the Indian nations and the quality of health care - and gave us quite a tour of these considerations. She also gave us a massage which was just short of a roffing, a deep tissue screamer. Hard to keep our mouths shut with many tender points. It was an excellent, if at times, uncomfortable and hopefully, helpful massage.

Tacy’s description of the Indian circumstance here was troubling:

1) high unemployment - up to 70 percent
2) high teenage pregnancy rates “babies having babies”
3) high addiction rates -- alcohol, meth, gambling
4) generations of welfare dependency -- “all they know now”
5) lack of economic opportunity -- tax businesses too much and an
unreliable work force
6) high levels of violence -- Indian on Indian with poor law
enforcement and prosecutorial function
7) corruption and cronyism in the tribal councils that impede
needed change
8) meddling and tribal council intervention in medical activities
and treatment in Indian health service - with resultant declining
access and quality of care
9) neglect of the young by addicted parents with poor nutrition and a
lack of any useful developmental attention
10) high incest and child sexual abuse rate - “If you make it to eight,
you’re lucky.”

Not a pretty picture if even partially correct. She added that the town is dying. The young non-Indians are discouraged by all of the above and because they do not see a future here for themselves, are leaving.

Her description of medical care here for non-Indians was not much rosier - aging, worn-out, over-worked doctors - though the facilities are good. Physician assistants and nurse practitioners “middle level providers” do help. She remains committed to the community and to helping the Indians. “They are this way because that’s all they know. I’d be that way, too, if I had been born into it. I think, ‘There but by the grace of God go I.’ ” Would we all be able and willing to understand complex social problems with compassion - and with the understanding that however negative things are, they make sense in light of all the contributing variables - and that demonizing and blaming do not a contribution to needed change make. This situation clearly is maximally difficult and not unlike the problems of the Mississippi Delta in some ways. Both situations have countered the best intentions of many up to now. They can burn out well-meaning people. An amazing human drama, though, is to be seen from the seat of our bicycles not visible when you roll through with the windows rolled up, the AC on and stop only at the historical point signs. One of the benefits, this closer look.

Pat Sewell

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