Connecticut Service Group travels to Wind River Indian Reservation, Wyoming, to connect, build and learn
Despite the beating sun and the long hours that caused us terrible sunburns and exhaustion, we persevered. We continued because we knew the end result of this mission. It wasn’t to recreate a beautiful basketball court for the kids at that school to play on, it was to help recreate the bonds that have gradually been broken over the years between Native Americans and those who do not share this. origin.
Located in central Wyoming, a four-and-a-half-hour drive northeast of Salt Lake City, Utah, is a large 3.5 million square mile reserve called the Wind River Indian Reservation. 27,088 people call this place home and I was fortunate enough to call it that from June 28 to July 3, 2021. Twelve people, including me, traveled here as members of a non-profit based organization. in Connecticut dedicated to uniting communities through basketball called Full Court Peace. Every day the 12 of us would leave a small town called Lander, Wyoming and venture into the reserve in a large white van full of paint cans, brushes, duct tape, and crack putty to paint and repair. a basketball court at Wyoming Indian Middle School.
I was also in Cuba in March 2018 for a trip of peace to the heart. Being in a third world country, I have witnessed crippling poverty and the lack of hope and opportunity for development and improvement. Traveling to the Wind River Reserve, which is in one of the most developed and prosperous countries in the world, I did not expect to encounter the same difficulties. Turns out I was wrong. Here, 40% of the people do not have running water; WiFi is practically non-existent among households; houses are made of whatever people can get their hands on; and unemployment is around 80%. Dependency rate close to 50%; the crime rate is five to seven times the national average; and 71% of the citizens of the reserve are obese. I have witnessed these statistics in action.
The things these people live with and have seen are the consequences of the embarrassing, shameful and inhumane treatment of Native Americans across the country for centuries by the United States government. Not just the context of how Native Americans were forced to live on disgusting reservations and a cause of the circumstances in which these people find themselves today, the unjust principles, laws and logistics upon which the state government- United founded these lands and which have been blocked since then are too. Much of the desperation on reserves like Wind River stems from the presence of communal lands. Forbes put it best, “Residents cannot get clear title to the land where their home is located, one of the reasons for the abundance of mobile homes on reservations. This made it difficult for Native Americans to establish credit and borrow money to improve their homes. This doesn’t just apply to homes, businesses are hard to create and therefore jobs are hard to find. Similar situations exist in South America, Africa and the downtown areas of the United States. Reform to privatize reserve lands must go through the Office of Indian Affairs of the United States government. This body is unlikely to mass privatize reserve land because this monopoly benefits government revenues positively. Without serious reform and the de-escalation of the continued presence of the United States government on Native American lands, the gruesome statistics on the Wind River Reservation and other places where Native Americans live together will only increase and relations between the Indians. Indians and foreigners will continue to collapse.
Reflecting on my experience on the Wind River Native American Reservation and the status of that country’s original inhabitants today, I still find some comfort and hope. Before taking the main road back to the Salt Lake City airport after we finished upgrading the basketball court, we first stopped at a local owned restaurant. Full Court Peace President and Founder Mike Evans was in the restaurant ordering food while we were in the van. Looking around, he saw that several native diners were staring at him annoyingly. Witnessing this behavior, someone in the restaurant that Mike knew spoke up and said, “He’s with us.” Instantly, the annoying faces disappeared and grateful smiles arrived.
Bringing this country together and bridging the divisions between individuals and entire groups is not as difficult as we claim. It takes simple things like showing initiative to want to unite communities, learn from others and connect with others to accomplish this feat. Division is everywhere and between almost everything and we can all do our part to have an impact on this serious threat.
Learn more about the Peace of the Full Court here.
Check out Max Porter’s podcast series HERE.