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Reason #243 Why the Thing About Skins Hates Christmas

Gyasi Ross reflects on poverty and the Christmas spirit
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It doesn’t matter if it was an Indian mom or not—being a broke single mom during Christmas sucks.

I remember the desperate look in her eyes—she forced the smile, meanwhile she was holding back tears.

She always wanted us to have anything that we wanted for Christmas. Single mother, bunch of kids, reservation life; how do you give your kids “anything” they want when 1) the dad doesn’t even pay child support, much less give anything extra for Christmas, and 2) you just got laid off from one of the few jobs available in this land of 75% unemployment?

You don’t. But you try. My mom, like most Indian moms, tried hard—somehow making Christmas a magical time with absolutely no money in her pocket but ridiculously long Christmas lists.

You see it every year: moms desperately exhausting their few resources to make their kids feel like “Christmas spirit” is more than simply savvy marketing—that it’s “special.” Moms trying to make their kids believe that Christmas is NOT just an excuse to get poor people to spend money that they don’t have on things that they don’t need.

Every year, Indian moms try to convince their kids that Christmas is a happy day; it is not simply a day that emphasizes the kids who don’t have anything because they have to see all the kids who have everything out with their toys, wearing their new clothes. Every year it’s the mom—not the deadbeat dad—who has to answer the question, “How come I didn’t get what I asked for?”

I hate seeing Indian moms stressed out during this time of the year; heck, I hate seeing moms of any color stressed out during this time of the year. It’s embarrassing—they want, so badly, to give; but they simply don’t have anything to give. It’s painful—all the ads and commercials and expectations and letters to Santa that simply illustrate just how broke you are. All these sales ads—supposedly cheap and good deals—but still way too much for these single moms. Santa gets all the credit, but Santa doesn’t feel any of this stress.

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Folks, enjoy Christmas. Please—celebrate the fruits of your labor and the fact that God (or whatever you call your higher power) has given you incredible blessings, if that is the case. Still, please acknowledge that not everybody is so fortunate and there are people who are literally hungry in this land of plenty, kids who are going to wake up on Christmas morning without a single present under the tree—assuming they have a tree, and single mothers who are feeling helpless, vulnerable and would appreciate a helping hand.

Let’s make sure that it truly is a Merry Christmas for everybody. Here are a few toy drives that work within Indian communities and will help make the season slightly more cheerful for somebody. Everybody deserves some help—not just Indian kids, but they are our first concern. These are just a few worthy toy drives—there’s a whole bunch more.

United Indians of All Tribes Foundation (Seattle-area) Please email Sylvia Sabon at

University of South Dakota Native American Law Student Alliance—contact Kim Benson at

Minneapolis American Indian Center
1530 E Franklin Ave
Minneapolis,MN 55404
(Arlana, 612-721-6631, ext. 202)

Rosebud Sioux Tribe
PO Box 430 (For UPS: 11 Legion Drive)
Rosebud, SD 57570

Missoula Indian Center
830 West Central,
Missoula MT 59801

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 He also makes a bunch of silly youtube videos and you can see those at