A Blackfeet Reunion
A Blackfeet Reunion
Her identity as a Christian and as an Indian has special meaning for Sally Scout-Moore. "It's taken me all my life to fill my hole, to find myself," she said. "There were days when I asked myself was I Indian or was I white? I still struggle with that." Seventeen-year-old Sally Scout-Moore was born Sally Scout on the Blackfeet reservation in Montana. She was adopted by white parents when she was only two weeks old. As a child, she was curious about her native traditions, so her parents bought her books about her roots. But once she became a teenager, that was no longer enough. "I was seeking someone to teach me the ways, but I wasn't pushing for it," said Scout-Moore, a tall, striking young woman dressed in jeans and a denim jacket. "I bottle things up. I broke down once in front of my mom and dad and said books weren't enough. I have to live it!"
A couple of years ago, Scout-Moore made her first trip to the reservation where she had been born. She went to a tribal agency office in hopes of finding her mother. The journey seemed doomed to end in failure because they told her the process would take weeks and she only had two days. "I told them my real name-- Sally Scout-- because they wouldn't know Moore, and then they brought this woman in and she said her last name was Robby Big Head and that we were second cousins. And I started to cry." Big Head gave her the phone numbers of some of her sisters and her great-aunt Claudia, whom she called. "I got to talk to her that night!" she said. "We were both just like, 'Wow,' and then when we hung up, she said I love you and I said I love you too." Scout-Moore spent that night at her great-aunt Claudia's house, being reunited with one family member after another while Claudia fed her homemade stew and fry bread. From there, Scout-Moore found out that her mother, Caroline, had borne five children, Sally being the youngest. But a constant battle with alcoholism had left her unable to be a good mother. She still hasn't met Caroline yet. "I don't know if I'm ready or I don't know if I want to," said Scout-Moore. "I know where she is, but that's a hill I'm still climbing."
Last summer, Scout-Moore convinced her church youth group to attend a workcamp on the reservation where she was born. Although she attends the First United Methodist Church of Olympia, Scout-Moore doesn't call herself a Christian. "I don't consider myself to be a Christian," she said. "I feel that I'm more spiritual, I kind of don't like the labels that go with whatever church you are. . . .I do go to church. I am brought up to be a Christian. To be being Christian is being moral, being true to yourself, but I don't like the label Christian." Despite her distaste for the label, she says there is little ideological distinction between the two belief systems. "The moral system is the same between native and Christianity," she said. "Respect your elders, and if you want to look at it like the 10 Commandments, you don't steal, you tell the truth-- common sense, there you go." Armed with her joint belief systems, Sally headed to Browning, Montana to visit the Blackfeet reservation for the second time. For her, one of the most valuable parts of the week-long camp was that she was able to interact with Native peoples. "These people didn't know me but they knew who I was," she said. "That I was that sister and their arms were open wide and they said welcome home-- they actually said that! It was beautiful."
The most powerful moment was yet to come. Scout-Moore is the member of a drumming group at home in Olympia, and when she heard that a drumming group was going to perform for the camp, she wanted to participate. The night they were to be there, she waited with anticipation. "They were late-- there's this thing called Indian time and you never tell an Indian to be there on time," she said. "You tell them to be there an hour ahead." But eventually they arrived and Sally met them, but there was no time to practice before the performance. "I was a little nervous because I didn't know their language [to sing]," she said. "But the beat's all the same." From the audience's perspective, all the drummers were equally carried away by their rhythms. Introduced by the chief of the tribe, they bent low over their drums, pounding and singing in keening tones. All the drummers were boys high school age and younger, dressed in Cleveland Indians baseball caps, jeans and t-shirts. All except one head of long brown hair. Sally's.
"The chief said we have our fine young
men here, oh, and a young lady!" she said. "I sat down and I was feeling
the beat, and it was my traditional language and I so embraced it!" Her
face was so suffused with joy that audience members were wiping away tears.
Sally had found her roots. "They welcomed me as if I was one of their
own because they knew I was coming home," she shared with the camp. "I
didn't know any of these people and they welcomed me with open arms."
Her final conclusion about the melding of her two selves: "I'm both,"
she said. "I tell people that it's one being I'm worshipping and I really
don't like the politics of it all. Why build barriers? Why not learn about
the other group and the way they practice? I feel that I have a window
that I look through. I have the point of view of both cultures, and there
are some contrasts and some points of view that are the same.