Local couple tell of visit to Indian reservation
Although not trained in the field of architecture, Pam and Bob Censier of Elizabethtown still admit that they've spent the last 20 years building bridges, and couldn't be happier with the results.
Members of the Baha'i faith, Pam said, "Bob was elected to go to the national convention of the Baha'i faith in Chicago a few years ago, and we were able to speak with a friend, Jacqueline Left Hand Bull, who is a Lakota Indian. There were some reservation projects going on at the time, and we asked if they needed any help. She told us of a beautiful reservation in the northwest corner of Wyoming that could use us so we decided to go."
The Censiers, and three young people who traveled with them during that first visit, ended up staying on the reservation for six weeks. Their intentions were not to proselytize the Baha'i faith, but just to help wherever they were needed, thereby living the Baha'i message of unity.
"At first we didn't know many people and didn't really know what to do when we got there," Pam said. "But soon, we started to meet people, and found ways to get involved, and before we knew it, it was time to turn around and come home, but we so enjoyed every minute of it. After all this time, we've found our niches. Bob does a lot of hay cutting, physical and mechanical work, and I have learned many of their native crafts and spent time with the children.
"This year will be our 20th visit, and we've made some life-long friends that we stay in touch with year round."
The reservation where the Censiers visit is the home to two tribes, the Eastern Shoshone and the Northern Arapaho Indians. Bob said that there are some tensions between the two tribes, but he is pleased that they've been able to help build some bridges between the two.
"The message of the Baha'i faith is one of unity, and one thing that's been such a bounty for us is to help bring these groups together," Bob said. "For example, we've taken some Shoshones to the Arapaho Sundance, something they wouldn't do on their own, but with us as neutral friend, they will go. We've been fortunate to have at least 50 people from home here visit us out there, and they've had a chance to learn a bit about the culture.
There have also been people from the reservation come to us. In fact, we have a Shoshone couple living in town now, and we feel blessed that part of the reason they came was because we were here to help and support them."
When speaking of Indian culture, Bob said that we're really talking about 520 cultures, all very different from each other in many ways, and yet he said that he and Pam have discovered there are common threads among the groups.
"The tribes are fiercely patriotic," Bob said. "The first thing that comes into the Dance Circle at a Pow Wow is the American flag, right next to the tribal flag."
"Because it was their country first," Pam said.
Patience and the ability to be at peace with silence is another common factor among the tribes.
"The Indians will spend time in silence, watching before accepting, and they are comfortable with that," Bob said. "We've just learned so much from them, and we don't intend in any way to be spokespeople for their cultures, but by spending so much time with them, in a small way we've become a part of those cultures."
Bob and Pam have experienced that acceptance in part because of their willingness to learn and work with the Indians themselves.
"The Indian people don't come in contact with a lot of white people except those that bossed them around," Pam said. "I think they really appreciate the fact that Bob will jump in there and work with them. You just go and you just do. I remember the second year we were out there, I asked them to make me a pair of moccasins, and they said I could make them myself, then they just taught me how."
The problems that the Censiers have found on the reservation could be found in any culture.
©Copyright 2003, Columbia Ledger (PA, USA)
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