Submitted By: George J. Abeyta, Uncle of Stallone Trosper, Teacher/Coach, Fancy Feather Dancer Eastern Shoshone Tribe, Fort Washakie, Wyoming.
We, the family of Stallone Trosper, write from a place of terrible grief and sadness. Saturday, July 18th, Stallone, our beloved son, brother, nephew, cousin, uncle and friend was taken from us by an unconscionable act of hate. A man whom he’d never met, and to whom he had done no harm, shot and killed him while he lay at rest in a place of recovery.
Our grief has been compunded by the nature of this heinous crime’s coverage. For that reason we feel compelled to share our perspective.
Presumably in an attempt to make sense of this senseless act, the media has returned the focus, again and again, to the perpetrator and his reportedly self-declared motive that, “He was tired of homeless people using the city park as a sewer”. This insistence on analyzing the reasoning of a clearly disturbed mind has numerous troubling implications.
Foremost, it implies that there could possibly be some justification for the self-confessed killer's actions. Nothing of, course, could be further from the truth.
Secondly, such an emphasis requires repeated description of the perpetrator – descriptions which refer to his history of volunteer service and civic employment. The suggestion we hear is that “Well heck, he really was an upstanding member of the community, a real swell guy, except for that whole killing thing.” That is a suggestion that we can no longer bear to read.
Perhaps most troubling to us though have been the implications about Stallone that arise from consideration of the killer's motives. In saying that the shooter “set-out to kill as many people that fit his criteria as he could,” Stallone is inherently relegated to a hateful, racist stereotype.
Stallone was not a stereotype. He was not homeless, and he did not frequent the park. He was a cherished part of a loving and accomplished family, and a member of a proud community. Stallone was kind, he was meek, he was humble and he was loving. There was not a mean bone in his body. Like most of our young people he had plans to make the Wind River community – on and off the reservation – a better place. As with all of us, Stallone had challenges. He was engaged in the hard work of overcoming those challenges when his plans, his potential and his life were ended by ruthless ignorance and hate.
Stallone cannot and will not be replaced. He is lost to us forever. But our community, native and non-native peoples alike, must find a way to grow as a result of his sacrifice. That necessary growth cannot and will not come from denial.
Just as Stallone faced his addiction head-on, we too must acknowledge that we, as Shoshone, Arapaho, Wyomingites, Americans and human beings have deep-seated, desperate and dangerous problems. We share trouble with drugs and alcohol. We are besieged by racism. We are shackled by intertribal divisions. These problems are not bounded by any tribe, reservation line, county border, race, creed, earning’s bracket or social status. They plague us all, are owned by everyone and can only be beaten back together.
Our Elders tell us that the creator has a plan for each of us. We believe that Stallone’s sacrifice is a wake-up call to the community, and that we must return to the fundamental tenets of civilized humanity. Love, kindness, respect, loyalty, knowledge, spirituality, honor, family, hard work, sacrifice and perseverance: these are the universal moral fibers that separate man from his baser animal nature. And they are our only paths to a better future.
So please, let’s not devote any more energy to the cloudy motives of a troubled mind. Let’s instead start doing the hard work of building a better tomorrow, together.
The Family of Stallone Trosper