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  • From the moment I moved back here to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation when I was seven my answer to, “What do you want to do when you grow up” was, “I want to leave.” Growing up I always heard elders say that all we had was this reservation and if we leave we will come back because everyone comes back. They would say it is difficult living in the real world and it’s hard for us Lakota people to survive out there. Hearing something like this at such a young age is discouraging and made me think, “What if this place is truly all I have?” This place full of people living in the past and of forgotten and abandoned dreams. I would sit and contemplate on what I wanted to be and each year it changed. I was set on being a teacher then on being an artist, but I grew tired of school and with me being an impatient perfectionist it didn’t seem to quite mix with art.

    It is years later and my high school career is at its end. Come May I will officially be done with high school and then I have one last summer here then my life outside will begin. I find my heart set on one thing and one thing only, becoming a professional photographer. I love the way a camera can capture a moment and how looking through a camera lens makes me see the beauty in things. I want to travel and see more than where I live. The thought of it is exciting and I have become so eager to experience what it feels like to live on my own.

    Throughout the years as I grew and gained more knowledge, it seemed as if so did the advice I was given by other elders. It went from you’ll come back to the reservation if you leave to you can survive out there, you need to because it is up to your generation to make a difference. The more I grew the more I was told that we’re able to change things and become something great and for this reason, I want to leave.

    I have thought a lot about what I will do once I leave and no matter what, this reservation will always be my home. I grew up here and my family is here, which is why I will come back. I find this place to be quite extraordinary because there are places here that are beautiful and the open country and wide spaces are what makes this place unique, you just have to know where to look. My culture is here, my identity is here and so I will find myself coming back, but only to visit, never to stay.
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