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Losing a Very Old Friend
3 June 2010

In this issue of United Tribes News there are several stories and photographs about tree planting at United Tribes. These are ceremonial plantings that commemorate a person, achievement or event. Many members of the campus community are also concerned about the trees themselves – about maintaining and enhancing the community forestry resource that beautifies the campus, provides energy savings and serves as habitat. Richard Laundreaux Sr., a kitchen aid with the United Tribes pre-school, wrote the following essay earlier this year when he learned that a mature Cottonwood tree that stands next to the cafeteria building would be removed. Perhaps you have some thoughts or suggestions to share about how to remember this stately Kola and what might be done to account for his loss to the campus community. Please e-mail: opi@uttc.edu.
– Editor


Richard Laundreaux Sr. with his “Old Man of the Campus,” a mature Cottonwood tree that stood next to the cafeteria building.

      My heart was saddened today as I saw a man looking at a very old friend. This very, very, old friend never said a word, to be understood by humans without a heart or soul, without feelings and happy memories.

      He said, this man looking at this old tree: the old man of this campus is to be “cut down to make way for progress.”

      I thought about that really hard and a tear fell from my eyes and froze to my cheek as I looked at this old tree. My heart cried and I cried after he drove away.

      I prayed to the Creator to help me understand my sadness; I found myself apologizing to this old tree, my friend.

      “Sorry my friend (Kola), he doesn’t understand all the good things you do. All the things you gave throughout your time on earth. But I do my friend. I know you have a good soul.”

      My Grandfather taught me to respect life and everything that lives, everything has a soul; it is our belief, our way as Lakota.

When the “Old Man” was removed May 20 for the cafeteria renovation project, Jason Parisien of the UTTC Maintenance Department counted the growth rings and determined the tree was about 67 years old. Royce Fiddler at right.

      I stood there and thought and found myself talking to this old tree, this old friend and I gave him a hug and I didn’t care who was watching. I thanked him for all the things he gave to me: the green leaves of shade when it was too hot to be outside, you gave me shade and cooled my brow, thank you friend. You showed me beauty of the changing leaves – the color of seasons. And the time when you were barren of leaves you still worked your magic; you sheltered me from the cold winter winds. Thank you my friend.

      I found myself thinking about what was in my heart and said to him, “Old man of this campus, if you could talk with a voice I would love to sit and hear you speak of all the winters and summers past, all the birds that rested on your strong branches, all the animals that came to visit you throughout your years.

      “Even the bugs that bugged me?” he said to my heart.

      And I had to laugh because it was like he didn’t want me to be sad anymore.

      And, I said, “You stood strong against the tide of time.”

      I thank you, Old Man of this campus. I write these words in your memory; I will never forget you, Old Man of this campus.


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