Resurrection chose to take part in the Oki-Na-Soo-Ka-Wa Immersion Program, hosted by De La Salle Blackfeet School in Browning, Montana for the inaugural Immersion Trip Experience, now named L.I.V.E. (Lasallian Immersion Volunteer Experience.) A select group of senior students, chosen by members of the Mission and Ministry Team, were to travel to the Blackfeet Reservation, where the school is located, and build relationships with students and families, as well as learn about the culture of the Blackfeet Indians.
The students, as well as two adults – Nicole McGrath and Maggie Qualter, met biweekly in the fall and participated in a number of pre-trip lessons, discussions, reflections, and more to help prepare them for what life on their Immersion Experience would look like.
Unfortunately, in January, due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases, De La Salle Blackfeet School would no longer be able to host an in-person immersion trip. But, with students and staff determined to still have a positive experience, we began to plan with the Immersion Director at De La Salle Blackfeet to create a four-day virtual experience.
The virtual trip took place in late February, from Feb. 22 to Feb. 25. During the trip, students virtually aided in different classrooms (grades 4-7) at De La Salle Blackfeet School. They helped with daily lessons, tutoring, and recess, while also meeting with different teachers and students on a more casual level. Each evening, Resurrection students participated in lessons, group discussions, and reflections on Blackfeet Education, Reservation housing, Native American Women, and more.
"My immersion experience was extremely eye opening and very educational. It was such an amazing opportunity to be a part of, and I’m grateful that I was chosen to be a participant,” said senior Audrey Rajski.
"The immersion trip made me more aware of the unseen, everyday struggles on Reservations, and I was able to gain the perspective of Indigenous persons in not only an educational setting, but also in their day to day life."
The virtual trip also consisted of two field trips – one at the Mitchell Museum of the American Indian, in Evanston, and the other at the Field Museum, in Chicago.
During the week, Resurrection students also met virtually with Br. Dale Mooney, the president of De La Salle Blackfeet School, as well as Lasallian volunteers and teachers at De La Salle Blackfeet. They learned more about De La Salle Blackfeet School, which serves a remote region on the Blackfeet Reservation bordered by Canada to the north and Glacier National Park to the west. It is the only San Miguel school that provides quality Catholic educational advantages to the economically disadvantaged in a rural setting; as well as the only Catholic school on an Indian Reservation in the Western Montana diocese.
"My immersion experience really opened my eyes, showing me that there are people and places who are less fortunate than many other people/places. It also showed me that there are little things we can do, such as volunteering time or just learning about these Reservations to make an impact on these young lives,” said senior Jamison Wisniewski.
"This experience affected me, because I was able to give my personal time to get to know these students and learn about their culture and how different their lives/daily experiences are from ours."
Towards the end of the immersion trip, students took part in an overnight experience, where they watched a short documentary before meeting with the Immersion Director one final time to discuss what life after their immersion experience will look like, focusing on the question: “Where do we go from here?” Following this reflection, students set up a sleeping area and spent the night participating in various reflections, watching a movie, and playing different games.
On the last day of the trip, students participated in a final prayer and reflection before finalizing ideas for their service project.
“Our students were wonderful throughout the week, helping with various classroom activities, engaging with students and teachers, reflecting about their experience while learning about the experiences of others and visiting different museums. While the ‘trip’ may have looked different than originally planned, it was a positive experience for all involved!” said Campus Minister Maggie Qualter.