Life on the Rez

Life On The Rez

From the eyes of a white boy.

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I've always been fascinated with Native American culture. Their languages, customs, history, etc. It all inspires me and I never grow tired of digging into the different tribes and peoples that occupy this continent.

For the duration of this article, names and locations will be glossed over. I recently had the privilege of taking my students (I'm a youth pastor) on a Mission Trip to an Indian Reservation out west. And, out of respect, I will keep it as anonymous as possible. Because what I am going to talk about is not some happy little article or a message that everyone can get behind. Let's get something out in the open first: One, I'm white as rice. Two, with the latter in mind, I'm ignorant. Not because I choose to be, but because I did not grow up on a Reservation nor am I Native American. So I feel the need to stress that what I'm writing is my own observations and feelings, not stone-cold facts or a true reflection of how others feel. Sadly, I cannot report that because I just don't know. Blissful ignorance.

I feel like if there is one people group who have been overlooked in this country it's Native Americans. This is not me trying to make little of what African Americans have gone through either. I genuinely think that. Name me one Native American actor, or writer, or anything other? Besides Pocahontas and Sitting Bull, we don't have very many Native American celebrities. There is no real way to say it other than just coming out with it:

Life on the Reservation is hard. Last week we saw true poverty. There's a difference between someone peddling for money outside of a McDonald's and true poverty. There was on high school for about a hundred miles, and if you couldn't make it there then you just didn't go. Alcoholism, drugs, and marital abuse run rampant. Jobs are scarce. And, in some villages, to adopt newer technologies or beliefs (like Christianity) is immediately seen as "white" or evil.

I guess I really can't blame Natives to a degree. What was done to their cultures and nations was wrong. I can admit that without admitting guilt. Does that make sense? I hope so because the last thing I want to sound like is hateful. I am so very sorry for what happened to Natives, but I know it wasn't my fault. I need to be a part of the solution not problem. Does that make sense?

The students on the Reservation that we got to hang out with were very closed towards us. One of our Native leaders told us that this specific tribe was not trusting towards outsiders. Again, I don't really blame them.

Wrong was done in the past. And the only way for us to work past it is for forgiveness on both sides.

My wife is Cherokee and very proud of her heritage. But it saddens me how it seems, each and every day, a little more of Native culture disappears. The language is replaced with trash talk. The customs are replaced with drunk dads and loss of vision of the future. Pride is replaced with hate.

Again, I cannot blame most Natives for the hard feelings they have towards everyone, especially whites. But how I long for all of us to somehow move past what was done and move forward towards these cultures thriving. This article is all over the place, but maybe you understand what I am trying to say?

I highly suggest you read "Diary of a part-time Indian kid" by Sherman Alexie. It's a great book about this topic.

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To The Friends I Won't Talk To After High School

I sincerely hope, every great quality I saw in you, was imprinted on the world.
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Hey,

So, for the last four years I’ve seen you almost everyday. I’ve learned about your annoying little brother, your dogs and your crazy weekend stories. I’ve seen you rock the awful freshman year fashion, date, attend homecoming, study for AP tests, and get accepted into college.

Thank you for asking me about my day, filling me in on your boy drama and giving me the World History homework. Thank you for complimenting my outfits, laughing at me presenting in class and listening to me complain about my parents. Thank you for sending me your Quizlets and being excited for my accomplishments- every single one of them. I appreciate it all because I know that soon I won’t really see you again. And that makes me sad. I’ll no longer see your face every Monday morning, wave hello to you in the hallways or eat lunch with you ever again. We won't live in the same city and sooner or later you might even forget my name.

We didn’t hang out after school but none the less you impacted me in a huge way. You supported my passions, stood up for me and made me laugh. You gave me advice on life the way you saw it and you didn’t have to but you did. I think maybe in just the smallest way, you influenced me. You made me believe that there’s lots of good people in this world that are nice just because they can be. You were real with me and that's all I can really ask for. We were never in the same friend group or got together on the weekends but you were still a good friend to me. You saw me grow up before your eyes and watched me walk into class late with Starbucks every day. I think people like you don’t get enough credit because I might not talk to you after high school but you are still so important to me. So thanks.

With that said, I truly hope that our paths cross one day in the future. You can tell me about how your brothers doing or how you regret the college you picked. Or maybe one day I’ll see you in the grocery store with a ring on your finger and I’ll be so happy you finally got what you deserved so many guys ago.

And if we ever do cross paths, I sincerely hope you became everything you wanted to be. I hope you traveled to Italy, got your dream job and found the love of your life. I hope you have beautiful children and a fluffy dog named Charlie. I hope you found success in love before wealth and I hope you depended on yourself for happiness before anything else. I hope you visited your mom in college and I hope you hugged your little sister every chance you got. She’s in high school now and you always tell her how that was the time of your life. I sincerely hope, every great quality I saw in you, was imprinted on the world.

And hey, maybe I’ll see you at the reunion and maybe just maybe you’ll remember my face. If so, I’d like to catch up, coffee?

Sincerely,

Me

Cover Image Credit: High school Musical

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Don't Be Afraid of Changing Your College Plan

It really isn't THAT bad...

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I can't claim to have any deep wisdom on life, but I at least have some good experience with a highly turbulent college career. I started as a game design major in a tech college in Rochester, NY, transferred to a college in Texas, and now I'm an English major at CofC.

My college life has been something of a roller coaster.

But I regret none of it. Maybe it would have been easier to stick to the track I was on initially, but I would never have been fully satisfied with it. Now I've finally found my place and, even though it may have taken a lot of shifting around, it was undoubtedly worthwhile.

I don't mean to say that everyone who is slightly dissatisfied with their major should transfer all over the country and change their major(I had to sacrifice the ability to get a minor because of the path I took, so I wouldn't recommend it to most people). I just believe that if you find yourself not liking the classes that are vital to your major or if you can't find a place at your current college, then changing your major or transferring isn't as horrible as you might imagine.

When I started college I was completely confident in what I wanted to do and what my future would look like. I thought it would be ridiculous for someone to stray from their initial path. That idea led to me deciding to transfer later than was smart.

I think everyone should know that having to change your plans for the future, sometimes in dramatic ways, isn't a bad thing. No matter how scary transferring and changing majors can seem, many people have done it before you and many will after, you aren't alone.

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