Our road trip this summer took us on the eastern side of Glacier National Park in Montana. Vast ranch lands stretched for miles with rolling green, wildflowers, and rising mountain views. Much of the land was owned by cattle barons. But, thankfully, other pieces belonged to the various Indians ensconced on their reservations: Blackfeet, Sioux, Shoshone, Cheyenne, Kootenai, Flathead Salish, Crow, Gros Ventre and Oglala Sioux.
\As luck would have it, I met one of the Oglala Sioux as we filled up the car with gas. He offered a very different account of Custer’s Last Stand which, upon later examination, was far more accurate than my feeble history brain could remember. I loved our conversation and asked him if he would teach me a few words in his language.
Sadly, I never was able to say his name but I followed his mouth as he made different sounds that became "Good Day" and "Have a safe trip." While the pump rang up the gallons, I rang up sounds in my head. He’d nod and smile if I somehow got parts of it right.
He offered me a firm handshake and we smiled as I got in the car to leave. But before Bill could fasten his seat belt and I could double check our map, my new Sioux friend came running up to the car with a small piece of paper. In very beautiful handwriting, he had spelled out phonetically the few words for me. I have attached them for you, my readers.
Look carefully. Try and say the words. I am struck by a clear fact: what would it mean for our nation, our world, if we took the time to learn even small bits of another language? My new Oglala friend just beamed as he patiently tried to teach me. We bonded over a gas pump!
hope the first words he wrote might come true—if not between us—perhaps between another Sioux. "See you again."