“We’re here!” my sister shouts, as our van turns onto a dirt road. The faded sign says “Welcome to Immanuel Mission.” As our car bumps along the road, kicking up dirt into the hot Arizona air, I am in awe of an almost untouched America on this Indian Reservation. An expansive desert with cacti and tumbleweed, horses roaming free, and a mesa rises in this landscape while the sun sets in the background.
A dust storm swirls around the small school on this reservation, which will be our home for the week of this mission trip. The principal greets us and shows us to the classroom where we set up our air mattresses and sleeping bags. I walk through the quiet, empty hallways during the summer break, and think about the Native American children that usually crowd the building. These are the children that deserve the best of America, as their ancestors lived here first and taught others how to survive. This barren land offers little to make a living. This school is not equipped with any of the luxuries I am accustomed to. This place is not the best for those whom we owe our life to.
As the scorching sun beat on my back, my hair flew in the wind. After working on the reservation all week, our new Native American friends wanted to thank us by bringing us to see ancient ruins near the mesa. I stepped inside one of the houses chiseled out of stone. It was empty, but the walls were thickly lined with straw and cattle manure. Outside of the house, there were pieces of a broken vase scattered in the grass. The pottery was exquisite with intricate painting. Another area at the mesa contained paintings along the walls from the Native Americans of the past. I put my hand to the cold stone following the patterns on the wall of horses and people. This is the real history of America. The people that were here long before my relatives from Europe arrived. I felt a reverence and gratitude for the wisdom and strength of my new friends and their ancestors. Then, a young Native American girl interrupted my thoughts and pulled me to an area in the rock where there were dinosaur footprints. Dinosaurs walked right where I was standing! These mesas in Arizona contained treasures that I was privileged to enjoy.
As a teenager, I often think that what matters is what is happening right now. This trip showed me that history is important, because it impacts my life today. And the people of history are important, because they have changed the world. With appreciation, I will learn more and respect more of my past, and with determination, I hope to make a difference too.
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