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  • This photo epitomizes my story. I am a ‘mixed blood’ (‘Iyeska’). My great, great grandfather – a French trapper, married into an Indian family. The result is the Pourier name is common on the Pine Ridge. I was told once by an old rez jokester that, “You Pouriers are like cow manure—scattered all over the land, everywhere you look.” It was funny and I laughed, but it hasn’t always been funny to be Iyeska. It meant not being accepted in Indian country—being called an ‘apple Indian’ (red on the outside and white on the inside) and not being accepted in the white world either---being labled ‘Indian’ (or sometimes called ‘dirty Indian’ in earlier days). It caused a definite split in my very being – not knowing where I fit, not belonging to either. It has taken years to grow into who I am but today I know what my heart tells me and I am proud to be Indian.

    What is being Indian? I don’t believe it’s about blood degree, where you are from, whether or not you were raised in the traditional way, or whether or not you speak your tribal language. Separating those things out is a result of our history of oppression, and consequently taking on the oppressor’s role (lateral oppression or horizontal violence). It makes us want to label each other and assume stances of who is more Indian! It causes division, and lack of unity is another obstacle in moving forward.

    I couldn’t have said it better than this quote found on the internet :

    "Being Indian is an attitude, a state of mind, a way of being in harmony with all things and all beings. It is allowing the heart to be the distributor of energy on this planet; to allow feelings and sensitivities to determine where energy goes; bringing aliveness up from the Earth and from the Sky, putting it in and giving it out from the heart." ~ Brooke Medicine Eagle

    We have to face the truth of who we really are, to acknowledge our existence as is, before we can re-claim our true identity and heal the internal wounds that affect us all today.

    We ARE different and I think the key word in the quote is heart. We feel more deeply, thus the wounds of oppression are taking a long, long time to heal. It has been said in generational (historical) trauma presentations that we suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that manifests itself into alcoholism, poverty, etc., etc. and all the other ills and tragedies of the Lakota Nation that get splattered across headlines. It is as if we have remained caught in the various stages of grief, ie = denial, anger, bargaining, and depression. Many haven’t reached the stage of acceptance. Acceptance of who we are in the present, all that we can be – open to the realization that we can be Indian, living our Lakota values within our hearts and still learn the ways to successfully navigate in the white world. It just takes more courage, patience and stamina in returning to our true spiritual identity – “allowing the heart to be the distributor of energy on this planet; to allow feelings and sensitivities to determine where energy goes”

    There IS positive change on the reservation. There are those of us who are actively seeking avenues of healing, moving past the wounded and defective mentality, taking progressive action that will impact our future generations.
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