About twenty five years ago, “Wanda” was admitted to a treatment center. While visiting her there, I told her why I hadn’t been coming around so much anymore. I told her I couldn’t keep watching the bad things going on. I couldn’t keep watching everyone hurting and dying. At the time, Wanda said she understood.
Wanda passed away seven years ago of a drug overdose. Her mother passed on from a drug overdose a couple years later as well. I hope others now understand, because the reason I wrote this book is the same as I told Wanda. I know it isn’t considered right to tell all the stories and to talk to people about things that happened in the family. At the same time, I also know that unless someone speaks up, nothing will ever change and family will keep on dying.
Roland and I tried to figure out what was causing all the pain and decided it had to do with the whole “victim / entitlement” mentality that’s pushed in Indian Country. Many children are raised to feel angry at society and unsafe with their own family and friends. Many adults lack responsibility and accountability. Lost is the traditional sense of community, taking care of each other, and creative problem solving.
Roland and I believed the current reservation system is hurting people much more than it is helping. Roland tried to change things by going to Washington DC and speaking to Congressmen. Some were open and listened to him. Others wouldn’t give him the time of day. It was interesting to notice that those who received the largest tribal government campaign contributions were least likely to listen to someone like Roland. Those ones would only listen to tribal leaders and no one else.
And through all the years we were doing this, many Caucasians kept telling us to leave everything alone and “don’t rock the boat.” People who have no idea what’s going on would say that Indian people are happy and that we are “racist” for trying to change things. Meanwhile, people back home kept dying.
So telling the story is the only thing that Roland and I could do. I began this book in 1997, so it has been 15 years in the making. I am sorry if there is anything in it that will cause pain. We need to tell the story so that others will know, and maybe some pressure will build on Congress to change things. We don’t want everyone’s grandkids to have to go through what everybody else has gone through, and I know that deep down, you have the same hope.
Roland and I did this because we love you.
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