Life on the Rez

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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