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Agent of Change

By , University Park, PA
Since January 10th, I have been immersed into the cultural teaching of my ancestors.  I have the beautiful teaching and practices rooted deep inside me. These are the teaching of the Nakoda, White Clay, and Apsaalooke people of the northern plains.  These are the teachings of my mother, father, brothers, sisters, grandmas, and grandpas.  These are the Sundance’s, prayers, ceremonies, dances, sage, sweet-grass, pemmican, fasting, smudging, and the places that we call home.  These are the teachings that are taught by speaking, watching, and listening, not through text books, white boards, or in classrooms.  Hundreds of thousands of years after, these teaching and practices are still passed onto me.

When you look at me, you see brown eyes, tan skin, and long, brown hair, but I am more than just an American Indian.  I represent the people that came before me and the amount of fighting it took my great, great, grandfathers and grandmothers to get me here.  My ancestors are the reason that I am standing here before you today in AP English class.  It was massacres that were covered-up as battles and done out of greed for land and resources, while we were made to be viewed as the enemy.  It is not just me who speak out, but also the hundreds of thousands throughout the United State of America on what the U.S government have termed “reservations”.  

In elementary school, I was asked a question that surprised the heck out of me.  One school morning a boy came up to me and asked me what I was, and in little kid talk, that obviously meant “What ethnicity are you?”  “Native American” I replied, like I have so many other times.  Then he questioned me, “Oh, do you still live in a Teepee?” My little elementary school body was taken aback by this ignorant question, because before this I thought that everyone knew what I knew, the teaching, culture, and people.  Then I realized, and I still continue to realize, that we are nonexistent or forgotten to mainstream society.  The beautiful and rich culture is not acknowledged by mainstream culture.  I look in my history text book and see that there is nothing that describes the race of the American Indian.  There are the chapters of the African Americans, Mayans, Aztecs, Asians, Europeans, and so on, but rarely is there ever an American Indian chapter.  There is no description of the culture, government, practices, all the different tribes, reservations, dances, or art work. None of it is in my history text book, past or present.  So that explains my elementary school friends’ question, because he was never taught about my people, he never saw how we live today; he was ignorant like so many people today.  Is this what main stream culture has become?  Is this what all people, not only elementary school kids, think about my people?  How embarrassing to be so ignorant of the original people of this land. I felt bad for him because he was uneducated.

If we are a country of diverse people, then why is there still ignorant?  Why do American Indians still get asked questions like these? If we are to reach true equality in our society, it requires us to develop empathy for other groups of people in order to build tolerance and true diversity. I am here as an Agent of Change,  I advocate for myself and my nation, and with that I encourage everyone to come out of their comfort zone and learn about other cultures throughout the world.  My people’s story of injustice is not the only one out there, there are many more.  Although the injustice and ignorance is unfortunate, it matters that I am here, it matters that my people are here with me, preserving our culture that Europeans attempted to kill. We are still here. We exist as a strong people.  We are the evidence.  





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