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Support This Warrior's Right to Walk the Red Road

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I have been spending less time with my writing as of late as I have been prepping for a second round with the Veteran's Administration. In between research sessions, communications with the attorney and great news from family (congratulations Cousin Mia, much love to you) , I try to wind down by taking in the latest on the web. I like how this tool has created outlets for ideas and conversations from anyone with the will to express them. Granted, the bulk of what is out there is not so high minded but, there are some gems to be found in the muck.

I pay particular attention to the postings coming out of Indian country because I like hearing what people from other nations are talking about. Our youth have adopted this medium and I see that some are really making it their own. The honesty is overwhelming at times but, in a very good way. I haven't seen this kind of enthusiasm and creativity since I was a child in the Seventies. I guess that's why I feel like dancing again, as I did as a boy without any care in the world except the drum and keeping up with my great uncle. The young keep us all young.

I want to tell the story of a young man whose video I stumbled across on YouTube. Unfortunately, all I know of him is his honest and earnest video but, the positive spirit and attitude that he displays is enormous. You can view the video here and judge for yourself.

The young man's name, apparently is Magaska Cik'ada and he says that he is from the Lakota people. He seems to be an articulate, polite and industrious young warrior. He is trying to work to support himself while practicing his people's traditional ways. In other words, like many of us he is simply trying his best to simply be himself. He has chosen to roach his hair as an expression of his beliefs. This has proven to be a problem to two McDonald's franchises that refused to hire him due to his hair. One, according to the video, cited that the traditional religious practices of Indigenous Americans has no validity because there are no books behind the practices. I would submit the reality of birch scrolls, pictographs and petroglyphs as evidence to the contrary but I digress.

He states that he was over qualified for the positions and has culinary training. By his account, one interviewer was impressed enough to immediately initiate a second interview on the spot. The stumbling block came when the second interviewer mentioned that the roached hair would be a problem. I may be misinterpreting the video, but it seems that he altered his hair to comply with the corporation's policies and was still denied employment even though he seemed to be a good fit for the job.

He is taking it up with the EEOC and made the video to chronicle the frustration that sums up what it is to be Indian in this country. The right to practice traditional Indian religion has been law since 1978. When I danced with my great uncle Wild Pigeon at Shinnecock technically, we were breaking the law at the time. I was also indecently exposed but it's hard to prosecute a naked toddler, for some anyway. I hold that memory because it reminds me of what it is to be a free human being doing what was right. Following my elders, sharing my spirit with my people and Creator in full joy.

That is why I write this to lend my support to this young man. Please, take the time, give it a view and share it if you agree that Indian people are free to express their faith, no matter what it is. I sincerely wish this warrior great luck and gratitude for being the kind of warrior that we need today. I know how hard it can be to try to live traditionally in a world and country that does not see things the same way that I do. I want to see a generation that doesn't have to compromise or abandon their traditions after so many people fought for laws that were created to prevent such a thing.

To me, this issue goes beyond hair or fashion. Body adornment is a common Indigenous tradition and is included in many people's oral traditions. The fact that some of these practices have been appropriated for the sake of fashion should not preclude the sincere practice of body adornment as a part of some one's belief system. Especially a belief system that is expressly protected by a Federal law. I will do my best to follow this story and I ask that anyone connected, especially the blogger, contact me through the pages on my bio line so I can get some factual information.

Mark Rogers is a citizen of the Montaukett and Matinecock Nations located in Long Island, New York, where he is known as Toyupahs Cuyahnu (Crazy Turtle). He has served as a grassroots activist in the African American and Native communities and is a proud veteran NCO of the U.S. Army Reserves Medical Corps. He is presently working on a writing career and seeks to aid fellow veterans through his writing. See his Facebook page Toyupahs Cuyahnu/Mark Rogers for more of his writing.