Apparentely there are no words for Hello or Goodbye in the Cheyenne language. They say hello with a gesture as if they were calming you down (and goodbye in English ;-). This is what I was told in our visit to the Cheyenne reservation last Friday (time flies). We were all day long visiting Dull Knife Chief College Montana, a modest but efficient College for Native American Indians. We attended some talks about the organization of the tribe, had lunch with some young students there, and then visited the “Medicine Rock”.
This is a big rock that is situated in the land owned by Jack Bailey, an adopted Indian (as he called himself) and that is supposed to help in healing people. Jack’s family has had this property for more than a century, but he never wanted it to be a tourist attraction. I reproduce here the text I found in a blog by Andrew Muller that explains exactly what I saw and understood in his attitude.
“Jack Bailey could have queues of tourists with sun visors and camcorders stretching from his gate to the sunset, ……………. But there are no signs on nearby roads directing traffic to this glorious, lonely place, no souvenirs available bar a brochure which doesn’t even contain the address, and no charge for admission beyond the addition of your name to the tattered guest book on Jack’s kitchen table. Jack is also scrupulous about letting local Cheyenne pray at the rocks as and when they feel like it.”
After this visit to the Medicine Rock we went back to the College where a group of drummers and dancers were going to show us what a pow ‘wow was.
My feeling throughout all day was that these Indians were lost in a society (to which they still do not belong) and do not find their place in it completely. They all seemed nice and even naive people, and / but some also looked not having much to do in the reservation. I found the young Indians not to be very aware or interested in their culture, but hopefully this will change when they grow older.
After the Pow Wow, some people from our group gave a present to some others there. You had to choose a person as you felt. I hadn’t got anything, because I had forgotten the present in Amherst and felt quite embarrassed (my sister Joeng Sook, too).
However, at the end of the ceremony I got a nice present, a shall that one of the women had lent me when she asked me to take part in the dance. It was a surprise that shows how nice these people were with us. I took this as a lucky premonition for the future because in fact it seems that nobody else got a present like that. Wait and see what it brings.