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Saturday, April 27, 2013

Unbelievable Injustice

Sometimes in life we are faced with situations that can’t be described in any other word than “unjust.” For example, because the ambulance service was located on the land of, and run by, the Northern Cheyenne, we were expected to go to the aid of the people, regardless of how un-urgent their health problem.

Sometimes, that only constituted an inconvenience that included a prayer that no one else who was actually in an emergency situation would need us; but at other times, the inconvenience carried with it danger for the ambulance crew.

One such event occurred during a terrible snowstorm. Our roads were narrow, and could be dangerous on any evening; but in a blizzard, the roads were treacherous. Nevertheless, the call came, and we took off.

The ambulance did the slip-and-slide maneuver all over the narrow road, threatening to drop off the asphalt many times in the course of the journey. The care and skill of my driver kept us on the road, but there could be little doubt that his hands ached from gripping the steering wheel. Finally, one hour later, we came to a stop.

We grabbed the gear we expected to need for the “heart attack in the making,” only to be greeted by an extremely calm lady coming towards us on the path. Her demeanor didn’t match the crisis. “Well, it certainly took you long enough! It must be an hour since I called you.”

“As you can see, Ma’am, the blizzard has made the travel pretty slow going this evening. But, we’re here now. Please take us to the person who is having chest pain and trouble breathing.” I struggled to stay calm, but did continue walking towards the house as I spoke.

The lady’s focus was on the driver, just pulling the ambulance cot out of the back of the vehicle. “Oh, you don’t need that. I can walk over to you.”

I stopped dead in my tracks on the front steps and whirled around to address the lady. I must not have heard correctly. The heavy falling of wet flakes had lessened considerably by this time, but the road from here to the hospital would be more of the same. The plow would not be through this area until late afternoon the following day. The accumulation of snow on the unplowed road would be measured in feet, not inches at this point. “Excuse me, Ma’am. Did you say that you are the patient?”

“Yes, I’ve had a sore throat for about two weeks now, and I just don’t want another night when I can’t sleep.”

Well, all kinds of unchristian retorts threatened to escape my frozen to the gum line lips, but one glance at the stern expression on my driver set me straight. He spoke for me. “Okay, sister. Just climb in here and stretch out. We’ll take you to the hospital and see if they can help you.” Her smile was greeted with what I considered a seriously too-gentle admonition. “The next time you get sick, you really should go to the doctor after just a few days or a week; don’t wait for so long to get treatment. Also, these roads are pretty dangerous to be out driving, so you might want to think next time about taking a chance out on these roads for a sore throat.”

The words between my soft-spoken driver and I had registered only by the flares between our eyes; our lips didn’t move. By this time, he knew well what I was thinking and would have liked to say. No need to exclaim, “We risked our very lives, and will continue to do so for the rest of the way to the hospital--not to mention the two hours it’ll take for us to get home-- for a two-week-old sore throat!”

His eyes flashed back at me without the flares of anger seen in mine, It’s the reservation; they’re our people. I’d just never understand, but I learned to be as grateful for his calm acceptance as for his skill. This would not be the single example, but it was the only one in which our own lives were in danger.

For me, a far greater injustice was perpetrated against the people I’d come to love so much. Several of my men had been taking classes in a vocational training program. The two years were coming to a close and the men were excited at the idea of holding their certificate of completion. This certificate would allow them to gain regular, fulltime employment in various areas of construction. They all studied hard for the final examinations. However, when the time for results had come and gone, I wondered why I’d not heard of any celebrating amongst our team..; they couldn’t all have failed, could they?

Finally, one day I walked in on a tense discussion concerning their exams. For some reason unknown to them, the program had run out of money, and in fact, was in the red. So, no exams were going to be given. No certificates issued. The program was just dropped. Well, my crusader side kicked into high gear; they just weren’t going to do this to my guys!

Sadly, I didn’t find anyone in leadership who was able to do a thing about this unbelievable injustice for all of the students in this program. One comment by the guys about ripped my heart out. “We know all the things people say about the Native American Indian people, but what good does it do for us to try. Does anyone really care about us anyway?”

My heart was screaming, I do! I do care! But, it didn’t matter in the long run, because I was powerless to change things for them. And, that was the point. The people had become so used to others promising them the moon, if they would do such and such…only to drop the ball when the Indian people had done their part. I’ll spare you the many examples of these disappointments that I saw personally during my time on the reservation, but they were right to wonder if anyone…with any power…cared about them.

Well, I did know Someone with all power to change things and to Him I addressed my grievances. God listened; His Word says that He did, but I didn’t immediately see the results. I just cried along with those whose tears never dropped.

I left the reservation before the final hammer fell on this issue, so I didn’t get to, personally, see how it all ended. However, I believe that God was answering our prayers when we saw nothing.

How can I be so sure? Well, one year and a few months later, this very tribal headquarters opened the doors on the Chief Dull Knife College. Students from the Northern Cheyenne Nation, and those also living in the surrounding geographical areas, were given the opportunity for a college/university education in many fields of study. This community college allowed the students to earn an Associate of Arts degree, as well as a smooth continuation of their studies at a four-year program in the Montana university system, should they desire to earn a Bachelor Degree.

The CDKC continues educating the Northern Cheyenne Nation’s youth and adults even to the present… now just eighteen months away from their Thirtieth Anniversary year!

Yes, Someone did care and still does. Long ago, God’s Spirit moved on those who could make it happen and Chief Dull Knife College was born. God can do the same for every nation, if only His people, who are called by His Name will humble themselves, and pray! (II. Chronicles 7:14)

If you’d like to learn more about this school, here’s their link. (I especially liked the messages of CDKC President, Dr. Richard Littlebear and the vision of Chief Dull Knife posted on this site.):

****Final Moments…Next Post

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