The Skins here at The Thing About Skins take New Year's very seriously. No, that does not mean that we’re going to drink bottles of Thunderbird and/or Wild Irish Rose from a paper bag and wanna cry/fight/call you “cuzhin” by the end of the night, although there are rumors that this happens whenever we watch Titanic. What it means, instead, is that we take the “out with the old, in with the new” (not a very popular saying amongst tribal elders, by the way) very seriously and try to brainstorm ways to get “better.”
That is, understanding that this thing that we call “Indian country” only gets healthier as individual Natives get healthier, how are we going to make ourselves healthier? Moreover, if we could influence a few Natives—including ourselves—to make a few changes/promises/resolutions to make Indian country healthier as a whole better, what changes/promises/resolutions would those be? I have a short list of things that I plan to do to be a better person in 2012—I think that if we applied some of these principles collectively, as Indian people, we might have a serious movement on our hands:
- Take out the Christmas Tree before Valentine’s Day. I find that yellowing Christmas trees becomes a serious fire hazard by about the middle of January, and by February?? Seriously folks, Indian country needs to be more diligent about their dang trees (and Christmas lights in June)!!
- I will not personally attack any Natives nor see myself as in competition with any Natives. It’s a big world out there—yet Indians only seem to want to fight each other and those fights seem to always get personal. They seem to always end up with someone “not liking” some other Native, 12th Grade-style, when it’s supposed to be friendly competition. To that end, I want to extend a big welcome and handshake to the talented Skins writing at www.lastrealindians.com and recommend that everybody go check that site out for some quality, intelligent perspectives on Indian country.
- I will be more willing to defend when Natives attack our icons/leaders in public, and ask for a respectful dialogue. I don’t assume that our leaders are perfect—in fact, just the opposite. Still, I was ashamed when I saw people attacking Elouise Cobell, God bless her, one of our greatest Native warriors of the 20th and 21st centuries. It was so ironic, yet so fitting given Indian people’s history of only attacking other Indians; so many of “us” would rather fight another one of “us,” instead of the true villain in this affair—the federal government. To put this discussion into typical “hero” perspective, let’s imagine a bunch of Indians are being attacked by the Green Goblin, while a bunch of other Indians stand by and watch. Spider-Man comes to help those Indians out; instead of helping those getting attacked escape to safety, those “standing by” Indians attack Spider-Man. When I see Spider-Man getting attacked, I resolve to get into superhero mode myself.
- I will eat slightly less Sweet Tarts and/or Sour Patch Kids this year; I tend to eat a lot. Seriously—diabetes is a big problem amongst our people and within my family.
- Along the same lines, I really wanna be able to do a set of 100 push-ups. With good form (no cheating!!).
- Finally, I resolve to “be there” for three different sons being raised by single moms. There are FAR too many boys in Indian country being raised with no consistent male figure in their lives. I’m far from perfect—still, I will lend my time and energy to offer my very imperfect guidance and an occasional loud male voice to their lives.
I honestly feel like, if everyone did these few things, Indian country would be slightly better than it is right now. What are your resolutions?
Gyasi Ross is a member of the Blackfeet Nation and his family also belongs to the Suquamish Nation. He recently wrote a book called Don’t Know Much About Indians (but i wrote a book about us anyways). You can get it at www.dkmai.com . He also makes a bunch of silly youtube videos and you can see those at www.youtube.com/dkmaibook . Gyasi's email is firstname.lastname@example.org