As we pulled up to my ‘double-wide’ trailer, I was apprehensive. This whole experience was so new to me. A new school, a new place to live, a new state. All of it. We walked in, and to my surprise, found an incredible space to live. With a living room, kitchenette, washer and dryer, and three separate bedrooms (my own room!), this was better than any place I had lived throughout my college career. Lisa helped me move in, and the next day, I had to travel to Nebraska to pick up students who attend the Pierre Indian Learning Center. Just what I needed, another overnight trip.
A group of five teachers, including myself, took a Suburban to Sioux City, Iowa to stay the night. The next day, we drove the rest of the way to Macy, Nebraska, where we met our first group of students to be picked up, as well as a large commercial bus to take us back to Pierre. I was nervous. Coming with either their grandparents, their older brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, and sometime parents, the students were dropped off. Just as soon as one of the students arrived with what looked like her mother, she started yelling at another woman who dropped off a child from lunch. “She better give me my f&$*ing money!” she continued to yell. “She owes me $17.” Apparently the school gives food to the students to buy lunch and snacks on their long trips back to Pierre. This woman was accusing the other student, and consequently that child’s family, of stealing from their drop-off at Christmas break. In reality, though, one of the teachers told me, that student lost the money along the way. This is just a glimpse into the vulgarity of what I would be hearing throughout the day. Old, rusted vans, and pick-up trucks came and went dropping off more students. Some of the parents, or whoever it was who dropped them off, never even hugged their kids goodbye. I can’t imagine saying goodbye to my child, especially a 1st or 2nd grader for more than four months at a time. As the bus went to more pick-up spots like Winnebago, NE, Crofton, NE and Wagner, SD the bus filled to about 30 students. I’ve never seen such a disruptive, violent, and a vulgar group of kids in my whole life. As I was trying to spark a conversation with an 8th grader, and a 6th grader, one of the boys turned and looked at me and asked, “Are you calling me a n***er?” I was taken back. “Of course not,” I replied. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. “Sit down!” “Take off your hood” “Excuse me, what did you just say!?” were the norms and background noise of the ride. What I needed to start realizing was where these kids were coming from.