Growing up I never thought that my life was difficult or that it was different from most. I don’t think most children do. Life is just how it is and that’s all. I never knew envy or jealousy because everybody on the reservation was struggling. All my friends lived and told the same stories it seemed. It wasn’t until I moved to Flagstaff that I began to glimpse another world, began to read another collection of stories. Stories written with different words I had to look up. For the first time I had to work hard to relate to other kids. When I got to ASU I began to realize more fully that as an Indigenous person, I was part of a tiny population that made up a minuscule fraction of the global population. I began to read the novel that is humanity and saw my own people made up only footnotes here and there. I realized being Diné offered a perspective on life and human experience that was very different and unique in many respects. Only then did I realize that my childhood and upbringing were  indeed very difficult and not the norm. Only then did I know what it meant to want and to curse the blessings of others. To want my story to have a chapter  where I travel to the past and edit a few things. But as my college experience progressed I began to find the silver lining and stopped feeling sorry for myself. Often, when someone found out I was “native”, “American Indian”, or “a real life Indian”, I was bombarded with questions. I shared my story and my culture with people from all over the states and the world. I was happy to show students that Indigenous Peoples were still a part of the story. I laughed the first time someone told me “Wow! I thought you guys were all, like, extinct.” It wasn’t until later that the implications of that statement hit me, the notion that some people really did think that we existed only as antagonists in history books and western movies. After I heard that statement a few more times I stopped laughing, but I was not angry. Instead I made attempts to be an ambassador for my people and to introduce strangers to our small part of the world. Others told me I seemed an old soul or that I was wise beyond my years, like I’d been through a lot and knew what to do. I found myself offering advice to my friends and it actually seemed to help. I suppose that was because life showed me very early how real it could be, how cold and dark things could become, and I learned to build fires early. Other times people would tell me they were jealous of the culture I grew up in. They told me it seemed like I had a strong foundation to build on or to lay upon when I needed reprieve. That I had something truly my own handed down from an ancestry older than memory. I’d never framed my past in that way but I found it to be true. In that moment and forward I was grateful for my upbringing.

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Small Town Born

Detroit was a shock. Now I am a big city dweller and home is routine slow and a good place to go and rest. ~S~