Sept 17th-Green Grass Reflections-Travelers

Green Grass Reflections from the Travelers

Elsa Jungkeit’s Green Grass Reflections

 The biggest reason I enjoy going to South Dakota is that I get to see old and new friends.  It was good to see my friends Angel, Jessie, and Aspen again.  We had fun beading together, playing kickball, and hula hooping.  I was really excited about Morning Start camp with Kylie and Morgan.  I liked making our tee shirts.  Travis taught us how to draw buffalo and eagles.  I also liked having my cousin Anna with me.  It was fun to do Karaoke night with everyone.  One special thing I remember this summer happened on buying day.  Aspen and I took care of a little boy named Liam during the busy day, and Aspen’s aunt gave me a gift of some earrings that she made for buying day to say thank you.

Sabina Jungkeit’s Green Grass Reflections

 If you’ve ever been to a summer camp twice in a row, you can easily tell that it will be different the second time around. It will always change. Maybe for the better, maybe for the worse. And that’s okay. Green grass is an amazing place to visit. This year was different in a good way. My cousin Anna was with us. It was amazing to see my friends there after a year. It’s kind of hard to stay in touch when you’re so far away from them so seeing them was one of the best parts of my summer.  Also I was really interested in the ways the Lakota People have been protectors of the water, especially at the No DAPL protests.  I hope they find ways to resist the black snake (the oil pipeline).  Even if some things changed, this trip was as amazing as ever.

I’m so glad that I got to return to South Dakota again and I hope that I’ll get to go last year.


Stephanie Kenny’s Green Grass Reflections

Good morning,

Last Saturday, I had an interesting experience that brought me way outside my comfort zone, skydiving. Now, I won’t get into the details, but falling 125 miles per hour from 14,000 feet has a way of “waking you up”. I am happy to be back on the ground with my feet firmly planted but it did get me thinking about today and what I would share with all of you.

There are so many amazing moments when we travel to Green Grass, I always find it hard to pick just one story to reflect on. But, seeing as it’s an anniversary of sorts, let’s jump outside of our comfort zones for just a moment shall we?

So there is a plane outside… don’t worry, I will not ask you to skydive, but simply to join me in a little call and response. When I say Mni Wiconi you all say as loud as you possibly can Water is Life! Ready? Let do it!

Me: Mni Wiconi

Congregation: Water is Life!
Me: Mni Wiconi

Congregation: Water is Life!
Me: Mni Wiconi

Congregation: Water is Life!


Do you feel that, that energy stirring in the room right now? This was the energy we felt out at Green Grass. The call of the water protectors was thick in the air and the stories shared from Standing Rock kept the fire burning. 

One year ago, this very weekend, Mary Tomassetti, Mattie Renn and myself packed a van filled to the brim with supplies donated by all of you, friends and members of this congregation. We drove for 30 hours to deliver those supplies to a protest camp that had formed in Standing Rock, North Dakota. Our friends from Green Grass took part in this monumental gathering against an oil company, the Dakota Access Pipeline or DAPL, that was set to burry a pipeline underneath the Missouri River.

After months of enduring unprovoked arrests, tear gas, pepper spray, water cannons and direct hits from rubber bullets, the Trump administration, just days after inauguration, gave the go ahead to build that pipeline. 

On February 22nd at 2pm water protectors were made to leave camp, the only home they had come to know for nearly a year. A camp that had become a sustainable community, with no money exchanged; a camp that had become a place of healing for many of our friends; a camp that provided purpose to those that were lost.

And without a place to go, many were left homeless or stranded. Deserted and beaten by the very government that is supposed to be protecting them.

However, it was not the end you see, but merely the beginning. Their legacy and their stories continue on. Our friends are known as water protectors and water protectors are known as heroes.

Travis Harden, who many of you know, spent months out at Standing Rock. One day he found a red cape and mask amongst the piles of donated clothing. He became the true physical representation of a hero. His superpower, spreading joy and inspiration through his music and stories through-out the camp. You can imagine that Super NoDAPL Man quickly became an internet sensation!

This year, as 23 of us descended upon Green Grass, it became clear, the water protectors, the energy and the spirit were everywhere. Men, women and children each with a story to tell about their time spent at the camp and what it meant to them.

At each social gathering, at every shared meal, the water protectors were there. At the Morning Star day camp, while singing Karaoke, even at our sunset communion service, the water protectors were there.

They were also present at this year’s Tribal Crafts buying day, many now living on the powwow grounds in Eagle Butte. They brought with them flags and knives used at the camp, dream catchers, beadwork, quilts and more.

For those of you who don’t know, Tribal Crafts in a non-profit incorporated in 1987 through hard work and dedication of a few of our very own church members.

Every Year, Tribal Crafts schedules what we call buying day where artists come from all over the reservation to sell their goods. On this day we sit and visit with all of our Lakota friends, old and new.

Anyone that has had the opportunity to take part in the Green Grass partnership knows first-hand the value in meeting with these artists. Their stories and traditions come alive in their artwork and they are more than happy to tell you what’s new in their lives and what they are working on next.

We had 54 people walk through our doors that day, and nearly all of them water protectors. Not only did we hear stories of their artwork, but of the camp, keeping that spirit alive and the sacred fire burning.

You’d hear the call, Mni Wiconi, and fists would raise in the air as if to say, this story is only beginning.

Our friends out at Green Grass are working hard to build a sustainable community to reflect what they discovered at the protest camp. Oscar High Elk and his friend Marla have been pouring sweat and energy into this venture, digging a well, building a storm shelter and dreaming of what it will be.

They have plans for a school, a place for traditional medicine, a learning place for sustainable living, a place where drugs and alcohol are not welcome, a place of healing for many that are

sick with abuse or depression. A place where the community can go to find purpose and that moment that “wakes them up”. 

Oscar made this dream catcher from fresh willow branches from the Morreau River located behind the Green Grass church. The Morreau is a tributary of the great Missouri which our water protectors were working to save.

The dream catcher is said to catch the good dreams and allow them to rest in its web. For me, something as beautiful and as simple as peeled willow woven into a web, represents what this movement is all about.

Water, life, love and peace. The dream that we all wish for will find its way onto the web of life and into our world.

I’m guessing that Oscar has no idea how much this dream catcher moved me, or that I would be mentioning his name today. In fact, I wasn’t sure until I found myself falling from the sky.

Green Grass is but a small community on the reservation but…  I believe in many ways, they are the keepers of the dreams. The renewal and love you feel when you return from a trip like this is hard to explain and often it takes me a while to come back to the everyday norm of work and activity. In fact, sometimes it takes something like jumping out a plane to wake me up from the fog.

I look to the water protectors as a sign of hope and courage and who I should model my life after.

The vision for what this world could be nearly came into fruition at Standing Rock. I for one am ready to continue that dream by living more simply, by living with love and light and joy; by acknowledging the wrong that has been done, not only to our Native American friends, but to mother earth and the plants and animals that live upon her.

So I stand here today and raise my fist up high. I will continue to share the stories to keep that sacred fire burning.

Mni Wiconi

Nancy A. Mol Green Grass Reflections – Messages and Signs

This has been a journey of awakening for me on many levels. So many messages and signs were seen and felt by me on this trip. I drove in a minivan with Mary Tomasetti along with her mother, Mimi. Any trip with Mary is an adventure and this was a double adventure.  I say that only with affection. We drove in caravan with Steve and his family. Having never been past Washington D.C, riding to Duluth Minnesota and then on towards Green Grass in South Dakota, was a unique experience.  Both in going and returning, I’ve never stopped at so many Motel 6s and Comfort Inns.  I’ve heard someone say that “life begins at the edge of your comfort zone.”  This is true.  Despite being out of my usual element, I went to a number of James Beard noteworthy, eating spots with the Junkeit and Tomasetti clans.  I so enjoyed the comradery while traveling, learned some real gems from Mary and became far more confident with my map and atlas skills. The changes in landscape were amazing. Before leaving on this trip, Don Gerber told me about the expansive skies.  He was right.  They were breathtaking. The photo below was taken with my phone one night in SD, while riding in Steve’s van.

   When we left Rapid City, traveling towards Green Grass, we stopped at a visitor’s site of the Badlands.  I could only stand motionless, as Travis played his beautifully, painted drum and sang to his ancestors. How small I felt at this majestic scene and could not help but sense past souls who were there.  Earlier, I recall having a similar feeling as I walked along the waterfall and creek at Pipestone, Minnesota. Once we arrived at our lodgings, just outside the reservation, Ginny Speirs and I hunkered down in a hunting cabin. The night before we were to arrive at Green Grass, I felt apprehensive. Will I be of any help to anyone at Green Grass? What can I possible do there, never having been there before? Will I know the right things to do or say?  It was a long night but the next morning I had an “ah ha” moment, realizing that I just needed to be me.  When I arrived at the church, I was amazed at seeing all the swallows flying around. I looked up what swallow symbolizes and read that it means love of family and friends.  This was where I needed to be.  The people I met – those living on the reservation, the families, the minister who was just starting to work at Green Grass- seemed all so peaceful and open. I have been working at our Food Pantry for nearly 15 years and I have not sensed those feelings from many of our recipients.   Attending to some ceremonies on the reservation opened my eyes to true reverence and respect for another culture. 

  On the day before we departed from Green Grass, I experienced my first buying and selling day.  So many artists and crafts people brought their creations to a large room at a local motel. Coinciding with buffet style lunch and dinner, their wares were presented.  How fortunate I was to be able to peruse the room admiring and purchasing treasures. 

   The morning of departure from the lodge and cabins was a little chaotic.  While travelers were packing and moving their luggage and possessions into vehicles, along with the multitude of treasures for our Tribal Craft room, I sensed some tensions rising in the group.  I stepped back from the phenomena occurring in front of me and tried to be still.  I heard my phone ding and looking down, I saw that I had received an email.  I clicked on the mailbox and read that it was a Daily Bible Verse James 1:17. I have never subscribed to Daily Bible Verses and was overcome knowing that this was a message from my husband Jim.  I opened the email and read the verse.  These are the words I read. “Every good gift and perfect gift is from the above and cometh down from the Father of lights with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” At that moment, I was filled with an incredible sense of abundance and the feeling that I will never be alone. 

  Right now, I am reading a book titled The Grace in Living. To me, Grace can be a feeling or an action that evokes abundance as well as gratitude and acting through one’s heart, with kindness.  I have felt Grace at the Badlands, looking up at the skies, being with friends at Green Grass, with fellow travelers and here with you.

Thank you.

Kylie Hall Green Grass Reflections

 When asked, as a traveler inevitably is after every trip, how my time in Green Grass was, I have always found it difficult to formulate a real answer. Adjectives such as “fun,” “interesting,” or “eye-opening” can always be used in a pinch, but they never seem to encompass the whole experience of the journey. The truth is that the trip has far too many layers, too many meanings and purposes, to be grasped in one or two words. Trying to find even a couple of sentences that would do so is futile and, at times, mildly frustrating.

            I first went to Green Grass just after turning twelve, and I have returned every year since. This leads to another difficult question I have often been asked; “Why do you keep going back?” Its answer is one I have never been able to securely put words to. In truth, it’s more of a feeling. A sense of belonging as soon as you step onto the lawn in front of the tiny church placed snuggly between the rolling hills of the South Dakota plains. The feeling of your heart beating faster as you observe a sunset more beautiful than any you’ve ever seen before, every single evening. The perceptible release of the weight of normal, tedious responsibility to make room for the bustle and also the tranquility of a day on the reservation. The suspension of time; to me, it is not so much a deceleration, as I have heard it be described before, but rather a notion in the back of your mind that time is no longer something that really exists, and definitely not something that matters. The immersion into a fascinating culture, so very different from your own. The sense that you are a part of a family including every person you see, although you may not know many of their names. That in particular feels so nice compared to the world in which we live, where the need to put things in organized containers has separated the people themselves. All of these sensations and more make up the one feeling that brings me back to Green Grass every year.

            I know that at first glance, the excursion may seem to be composed of mostly idle chit-chatter, while most expect to see a hammer-and-nails mission trip. I myself have described the Green Grass trip to others as our church “visiting friends” on the Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota, because those words feel appropriate on some levels. However, that does not mean our trip is not worth the time, energy, and money that goes into it. Those that have gone on this mission trip have done something that is in some ways less valuable, but in other ways more, than seeing to physical needs. We are showing people in Green Grass that there is someone out there who is still thinking and caring about them. The people of Green Grass and our church are learning from each other, listening to each other’s stories, and opening up channels of communication that may never have been opened before. 

            Of course, I am by no means saying that the types of mission trips which build houses or feed families or distribute education supplies are not important and necessary. On the contrary, these are vital to making the world a better place, and our trip to Green Grass certainly does some of this too. We prepare lunch and dinner for anyone who drops by the church every full day we spend in Green Grass. We fix up the church, because there is always at least one problem there; an issue with the plumbing, a lack of propane, or perhaps a broken refrigerator. We also organize a day every year during which the Tribal Crafts organization buys as many Native-made crafts as they can from as many people as possible to bring back to Connecticut, where we sell them in order to bring back money the next year to buy more crafts. This helps to give people a small source of money while also expressing to them how valuable their talents are. Tribal Crafts is something I have always been drawn to, partly because each of the hand-crafted pieces has a story and a meaning, but I suspect also because participating in this appeases the part of me that wants to be doing physical things right away and seeing immediate results. Knowing that the money we spend will go to paying water bills, feeding children, and quite simply surviving in this expensive world does make me feel a sort of sense of justification.

            However, caring for physical needs should not be the only part to a mission trip. In the modern world, we can talk to the people in Green Grass from across the country in Connecticut, and yet, we are never truly communicating with a person unless we are sitting beside him or her and listening to his or her voice as it really is while they share with us his or her stories. We need to learn from the people of Green Grass just as much as they need our help. They teach us how to sit down and just breathe, how to make connections with people unlike ourselves, and how to absorb every little bit of beauty around us.

            This past year, I helped run a day camp for the children of both sides of the relationship in order to help foster new friendships to connect our groups. Through this experience, I have learned that there is a sort of wisdom in young children, evident in their tendency not to flutter around the edges of their thoughts or desires when communicating them to others, but rather to get straight to the point. They are honest—both to others and to themselves. This helped all of the children that attended the camp to make friends in such a short time without thinking about the fact that they speak, look, and live differently, because they see straight to the heart without their vision being blurred with prejudice. Because the children got so close to each other, they were able to teach each other about their cultures, sometimes without even realizing that they were doing so. I believe that this part of the trip is one of the most important parts, as the friendships they make now will one day become the friendships that help change the world. I was honored to provide a setting for the children to begin those relationships.

            I believe that my experiences in Green Grass have turned me into someone much more equipped to go out into the world and make it a better place. I believe that I am now someone who appreciates that there are real tragedies in the world, ones that I am lucky enough to never have to personally experience. Tragedies that I now know I can help fix. But I hope I have also become someone who knows of the power of little things- the ability of one conversation to make a whole day brighter, or the importance of one bond between two seven-year-olds. These are lessons everyone deserves to learn, and this, along with so many other things, is the value of the Green Grass trip.



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