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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Indian Defined


Being Indian has always been in my blood.  When I traveled to India I was confronted with the idea of being Indian and how I was going to address myself.  Of course it was easy because the people of India were referring to me as a Red Indian.  I liked it but I feared for the people who cannot stand the names Red Skins, Indians or Fighting Sioux.  I went with the Red Indian because it described the continent I was from and made things easier than telling people I came from the Oglala Sioux or Oglala Lakota.  I really do not mind telling people information but sometimes it is easier to go along with their ideas.  I have been told my whole life I was Indian, sometimes it sounds like NDN.  I am trying to remember being called and Injun.  I am not sure but I use to root for John Wayne as a child but that may be I did not want the fake Injuns from killing the Duke.  It is hilarious to see a many people dressed up as Indians and if they were more like the Dances with Wolves Indians it would have been easier to wish for the death of the evil John Wayne characters. 

                Being Indian is easy because you just need to be yourself.  Unfortunately the United States has made it difficult to get a clear picture of who the American Indian is in real life.  I was told today I needed not be dependent on others and it was in my best interest to provide for myself.  I believe this is a root cause of a lot of destruction.  I worked in Minnesota and sometimes would have three or four jobs as I worked through college.  I had a job offer in 1994 and they brought me into their company and then came up with an offer, it was fifty thousand to start.  I was truly impressed with the offer but I had plans to return to Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.  I felt a calling on my life and I was sure I would not leave if I accepted a good job offer.  I was also being groomed for upper management in the corporation I was working for but I knew I would have to leave my employment.   I just turned thirty and I was full of life and it was a great time to come back to the Reservation with hope and determination.  I went from a upper middle class city to the poorest place in America.  Shannon County is the poorest place because of the population and the lack of trust in the Government.  Over the past forty years it has been in the top places of poverty. 

                So our little family moved back to poverty with the idea of serving the people.  At first it was surreal because we did not really work outside of our church.  We struggled through the first year and then my wife went to work as a teacher.  She did not for seven years and in the mean time I worked and we got along.  Since 1995 we have built a small coffee house and it has been successful for the most part but it has been very busy work.  We worked in tandem as we are really different in personality and tastes.  I like diet soda and she likes coffee.  I sometimes drink tea but mostly I drink diet soda but I have become a cook and my wife has always been the baker.  I have been able to thrive in both worlds but of course I need to be able to rely on myself.  It may be the personal responsibility I seem to hold because of my politics.  I have seen the results of the dependency created by the Government. 

                So the Indian has always been reliant on other Indians.  It is a good way of life if people reciprocate and everyone pulls their weight.  Having an understanding of the city life I have seen people rely on each other.  I was playing basketball in South Minneapolis one afternoon and I was playing pretty good that day and I finished up and there was an Indian who walked up to me and said, “You are a Matthews aren’t you?”  I told him I was and he told me he was my cousin from Pine Ridge.  He took me across the street and introduced me to a bunch of his friends.  He was bragging about me playing ball and I was smiling.  I met a household of Indians being Indians.  They were living in a big house and relying on each other.  I do not know how that worked out but I have seen others live the same way.  Being Indian is easy and I have always chosen to be more Indian than American.  But alas I am an American Indian by some people’s view.  When you travel Indians always find each other because we have similar lifeways and contexts.  I believe it is good to be Indian and that is how I will live.      

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