by Laura Hunt
The two weeks I spent in “Big Sky Country” last summer have inspired my teaching in powerful ways. Working with Global Volunteers on the Blackfeet Reservation immersed me in the daily life of a culture I had previously only experienced through reading. Time seems to move at a different pace on the reservation. People stop to listen deeply to stories others yearn to share. As I worked side-by-side on community projects with tribal members, I learned about their families, their history, and their hopes for the future. Simple human interactions allowed me to begin breaking down stereotypes I had encountered about contemporary American Indians. I opened my eyes to the politics that underlie the tribe’s struggles, as well as to the resilience, pride, and passion that characterize its people.
My backpacking trip over 34 miles of backcountry terrain in nearby Glacier National Park gave me plenty of time and space to reflect on what I had learned with the Blackfeet. Pictures I had seen of this beautiful landscape became my reality. On the second day of our hike, I stood atop the rise at Pitamakin Pass with my husband and son as four lakes shimmered like gemstones below vast fields of wildflowers and bear brush. We stopped to catch our breath before our next descent. The great expanse of this lightly traveled wilderness was humbling, and I couldn’t help but think of the Blackfeet who had trekked the same trail I was on. I felt blessed that the Leonard Miller family had given me an opportunity to experience this awe-inspiring place.
I returned to New England feeling deeply committed to doing my part to protect and preserve the land that native people hold sacred. In my teaching, this commitment has driven me to weave a thread of environmental stewardship throughout the third grade social studies curriculum. I have been thrilled to discover that the lessons I learned in Montana are beginning to kindle a light in my students that is guiding them toward doing good things for the earth themselves. I am excited to see that light shine ever brighter as we engage in our study of National Parks together this winter.
Laura Hunt teaches third grade at Moses Brown School. A highlight of this year’s work was the National Parks Fair, presented by students.