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Delores and I met in the dining room at the Lakota Prairie Ranch Resort. As I waited for her, community leader Ed Young Man Afraid of His Horses offered some background to Lakota culture, acknowledging that Delores was nervous, too. I would have to adjust to her way of speaking, to the Lakota way of speaking in general. Lakota is a layered language, with one word encompassing different meanings and histories. To translate that into concrete English requires not only a structural reorganization, but a conceptual one. It takes time.
The Lakota people also tend to be a reserved, quiet, and thoughtful culture that considers direct eye contact rude. They rely on all senses to experience the world, Ed explained. "We taste with our eyes. We smell with our ears," he gestured toward the table condiments as example, saying that by truly looking at them, he knew how they tasted.
Then, he nodded toward the door. "Here she is."
I turned to see two young women pushing a petite woman in a wheelchair. I went to them immediately. "Delores. I'm Katie. It's wonderful to meet you," I said, bending to hug her. As apprehensive as I had been leading up to this moment, to finally see her eased my fears of the unknown. She wore glasses, bright green earrings, and had pulled her gray hair back from her face.
Delores spoke so softly that I had to lean in close to hear. She introduced her daughters Bethel and Loretta. They were my age, and Delores was my parents' age. Though we came from very different worlds, this offered some perspective. Over breakfast, we set plans for our first interview back at Delores' home, a yellow house overlooking an uninterrupted landscape of rugged hills.
As we sat down to her kitchen table, I asked the question that had brought us together. "Why do you think Ray said that to you, that you have a book in you?" Two of Delores' grandchildren peeked out from behind a chair next to her, watching me, unblinking.
Delores shook her head. "I think he said that," she paused, "because I've been through so much." She looked from me to the table, and smiled a sad smile, her eyes moist.
This would be a journey for both of us.