Our Native Children Are Not Poverty Porn: 'If One Succeeds, a Hundred Are Coming After' (a Poem)

Take a moment in this holiday season to read some very wise and hopeful words from a very young poet.
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“We know how to survive. We are all put at the bottom of the food chain at birth and have every challenge put in front of us but yet we rise.” 

Ramone “Dave” McBride

Native kids from Indian Reservations are supposed to feel like victims. Right? And ESPECIALLY kids from the Pine Ridge Reservation—they don’t have a chance. I mean, that’s what Aaron Huey and Barbara Walters specials and even a lot of Natives who don’t believe in the power and specialness of our homelands tell us. Right?

Not necessarily.

I’ve been fortunate to work with/witness and admire many from this young generation of Natives who are just simply amazing. Many of those young women and men understand that there is a reason that our ancestors fought so hard to retain as much of our homelands as possible—they contain our stories, spiritualities and very DNA. Those young folks seem to know, intuitively, that our homes are worth fighting for and staying within.

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Those young Natives know that the very real dysfunction and hardship is just part of the story—there is also beauty, hope and spirituality. There is poverty. There is dysfunction. There is suicide. There are absolutely very real non-first world challenges that folks—Native or non-Native—who don’t spend much time on our reservations don’t understand.

But there is so much more—our homelands are powerful places.

Those Native youth are powerful people. They have the power of hope—the same power that our ancestors had. Our people were dying right before their eyes—they retained hope. Our people were being stolen from their parents—they retained hope.

“If one succeeds, a hundred are coming after.”

We are a hopeful people. Always have been.

In that vein, this is a poem that a young Lakota man named Ramone “Dave” McBride shared at the Lakota Nation Invitational’s 2nd Annual Poetry Slam. There was genius in the writing, the Lakota language bowl, and the basketball there—it was there by the pound. Whole bunch. This particular genius is a junior at Little Wound High School on the Pine Ridge Reservation—where the typical narrative says he’s supposed to be wallowing in misery and despair—and expresses a practical brilliance that really only comes from our communities.

MESSAGE: STOP FEELING SORRY FOR OUR KIDS!! TAKE THAT SYMPATHY TIME AND USE IT TO HELP CULTIVATE THEIR TALENTS INSTEAD!! We’ve got to get beyond feeling sorry for these kids and develop systems to prepare them to take over the world. There are philosophers, geniuses and world-beaters on our reservations, I promise—don’t feel sorry for them; spend time with them. Not just Dave—there are BUNCH of them out there. But WE have an obligation to help develop them—it’s our own damn fault if we don’t help them maximize their huge talents.

Chief Seattle Club, photo credit Deyo Esquivel

Please enjoy his poem. Happy holidays.

I SEE HOPE..

When I open my eyes & look around at my peers,

I see sadness & depression killing them softly.

So softly and slowly it's eating them like a disease.

But as I look closer & closer at them,
I see hope.

A dream they want to pursue, whether it is a short term or long term goal.
I can see them affecting & making an impact in the future.

People talk about how our generation is sad to see but we are not!

We are the meaning of hope.

Hope is looking at all of us straight in the eyes telling us to persevere,
to keep going without giving up.

I can see hundreds upon thousands of young, Indigenous, smart, & strong men & women with every characteristic to strive to excellence.

I can see them chasing their dreams as if they were chasing the buffalo like our ancestors once had.

I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and let me tell you it is bright!
So bright you can feel the motivational radiation flow through your body telling you to keep going.

But when you reach the end & think the light stops & disappears you notice you are the light, you are the finish line, you are the greatest because of you being unique, because you didn't give up,
Because you are hope..

I wrote this poem because of the motivation and inspiration my generation is lacking.

Being a young Indigenous teen has its very little pros followed by a whole lot of cons.

I live in a very unorganized, corrupting, and suicide-struck reservation where in every community, hope is lost.

Alcoholism, racism, sexism, poverty & many more stereotypical labels put fear & doubt into our eyes causing us to see not only ourselves but our tribe as being hopeless.

But I see children with dreams to go off & change the statistics and the myopic understanding which people see us as. Our voices are the minority speaking for those who see that light at the end of the tunnel but we hesitate to chase it.

Anything can be done.

I want my community, nation, & country to achieve hope. We all will pursue not only happiness but also greatness.

Hecetu welo (So be it).

Chief Seattle Club, photo credit Deyo Esquivel

Chief Seattle Club, photo credit Deyo Esquivel

Gyasi Ross
Blackfeet Nation/Suquamish Territories
Dad/Author/Attorney
www.cutbankcreekpress.com
Twitter: @BigIndianGyasi