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Indigenous Peoples Day… in the woods

Blog Post & Photos by Sister Patrice Colletti, SDS
Kateri Initiative – Sisseton, South Dakota

Do you have a favorite place where you can sense how close you are to the sacred? For some, it is in a church or in the presence of a favorite person. 

For me, it has always been the woods.

In some places I have lived, spending time in the woods was as simple as driving or biking a few blocks to the edge of a river. In other places, it meant going a significant distance to find the solitude and peace that emerges when I stand or sit perfectly still among trees and leaves and grass and sun.

Here, it often means going “up in the Hills.” Sica Hollow is a state park near Sisseton. It wasn’t always a state park. In fact, throughout most of the history of humans in this region, it was a safe place, a hollow, that offered protection from the weather as well as protection from invaders. Until the 1950s, it was a lively community, especially as winter closed in and families chose to shelter out of the whipping winter winds. It was populated enough to have its own Catholic mission St. Benedict’s with a wood frame church building. Today, St. Benedict’s cemetery continues to serve the Catholic Indian Community. In the 1950s, the federal government decided it would make a good state park. Because the people living there didn’t want to give it up and lose their homes, the government decided to condemn the land. Once condemned, everyone was forced to move. A short time later, it was re-opened to the public as a state park.

On Monday, October 11, Indigenous Peoples Day, we didn’t have school. So, I tucked my journal, my camera, and some water into my bookbag and went up in the Hills for the afternoon. The sun was warm, the yellow jackets were on the hunt for protein as they prepared for the coming winter, and the leaves, though past their “prime,” were clearly celebrating the transitioning of the trees as the seasons turned once more.

Here are some photos – I hope they can convey the life-giving energy of the day. They capture the colors of the place and time… and are certainly a glimpse of the Holy!

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